Williams and Bichotte.
The New York City Council voted today to approve a proposal from Council Member Jumaane D. Williams that will co-name a section of Rogers Avenue in Flatbush for Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the first leader of an independent Haiti.
Jean-Jacques Dessalines Boulevard will span Rogers Avenue from Farragut Road to Eastern Parkway, within the Little Haiti Business and Cultural District. Last month, the New York City Council ceremonially designated a section of Flatbush as Little Haiti in recognition of the profound impact and continued presence of Haitian culture in the area.
The newly co-named Jean-Jacques Dessalines Boulevard will be set just a few blocks from Toussaint L’Overture Boulevard, which is located on Nostrand Avenue between Glenwood Rd. and Flatbush Ave.
The two Haitian leaders are celebrated in Haitian-American culture for their roles in establishing a free and independent Haiti. On May 18th of this year, Haitian Flag Day, Council Member Williams joined Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte and other elected officials and advocates to unveil a new sign for Toussaint L’Overture Boulevard and announce the planned co-naming for Dessalines.
L’Overture and Dessalines are two celebrated leaders of the Haitian Revolution.
As the legislation reads: “Jean-Jacques Dessalines is one of the founding fathers of Haiti, having taken charge of the Haitian Revolution and leading them to victory in defeating the French Napoleon Army in 1804…The Haitian Revolution became the first slave revolt in modern history to result in an independent nation.”
Dessalines was declared Emperor of Haiti in 1804 and advocated many progressive policies during his time leading Haiti, and today remains a very popular symbol of Haitian nationalism.
Brooklyn is home to the largest percentage of foreign-born Haitian residents in New York State, with more than 40% of the foreign-born population residing in Flatbush. According to 2015 data by the Migration Policy Institute, Brooklyn had the second highest concentration of Haitians in the United States with an estimated 156,000 Haitian Americans residing in New York City.
“Jean-Jacques Dessalines was a revolutionary who fought for his people and overthrew an oppressive regime who brutally enslaved and persecuted the Haitian people,” Council Member Williams said. “This revolutionary spirit, to fight for independence and against oppression, burns bright in Haitian Culture today. Haiti and its proud people are an intrinsic part of my district and it is only right to honor that spirit with this co-naming. I thank Assembly Member Bichotte for her fierce advocacy on this issue, as well as Little Haiti BK and the Haitian community I am proud to represent. I would also like to thank Speaker Johnson and Council staff, Majority Leader Cumbo, Council Members Eugene and Grodenchik, and my other colleagues on the Council for their support.”
Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, representing the largest population of Haitians in New York state, said: “As one of the leaders of the first successful slave rebellion to result in the first Black republic and second country after the United States in the Western Hemisphere, Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ remarkable leadership impacted countries around the world in gaining their independence, and strengthened the United States by leading to the Louisiana Purchase which doubled its size. We are grateful that the City Council has recognized Dessalines’ contributions not only to the Haitian community but to all of New York City and the United States. City Council’s passing of the Rogers Avenue street co-naming to Jean-Jacques Dessalines Blvd will allow the community to proudly acknowledge and remember Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ contributions to Haitian and American history, as well as spark interest in learning about his influence as a leader.”