“Mon drapeau po po
Mon joli petit drapeau
C'est Dessalines qui l'a créé
mon joli petit drapeau
C'est Catherine Flon qui l'a cousu
Mon joli petit drapeau!”
School children all over Haiti know this song by heart, once a year singing it with loudly with pride as their march through their neighborhoods, waving their tissue paper flags of red and blue high in the air. It is the 18th of May, Haiti’s Flag Day. The story goes that the first Haitian flag was created on this day in 1803 leading the people in their struggle to overthrow their oppressionists and become independent. Less than a year later they celebrated their victory. The flag has changed a little since then. The black bar was made blue, and their beautifully embroidered national emblem was added to the middle on a white rectangle. Through their changes the flag still brought up the same emotions at its sight and held the strength of its meaning. Through the last two centuries Haitians have celebrated their independence, their freedom, and their heritage that is reflected in their flag on this day, Dis-huit Mai.
This morning at Toddler House the kids were antsy with anticipation. They had been practicing their song in school in preparation and yesterday evening sang it over and over trying to get the littlest ones to be able to follow along. It took about an hour to be ready to go. Gwo Mama and Joselaine dressed them each in red or blue t-shirts. Se Clarna and Nadine passed out flags. Judith and Endy tried to get everyone to line up in two perfect lines of red and blue. Nadege coaxed Linda and Peterson back to where they belonged. Estelle started to pound out a beat… the singing began… then the singing stopped, a false start! Another few minutes passed as the kids fall out of line, too anxious to stand still, Nadine, Nana, and Joselaine try to line them back up as Estelle, Gwo Mama, and Nadege decide what order of songs to sing. THEN one, two, three, we’re off. Right….left…right..left.. right, left, right…. marching in place, flags UP, drum beating, voices strong the kids headed out. We marched up the yard, out the gate, down the hill, around curve, and through the neighborhood. Kids and adults alike heard the parade and came out to see, but they didn’t stand on the sidelines and watch, no they joined right in. Soon our parade was over 100 kids and adults alike, marching strong and singing in unity with pride not just about the red and blue they waved above their heads but their history, their nation, and their people. We arrived at the bottom of our street and turned around to head back up. We were treated to a rendition of the Haitian National anthem as the neighbors escorted our parade of little ones back to the Toddler House. Inside the gate, the singing continued as we marched back and forth in the yard singing songs the youngest would know and could participate in. As the last song was sung the kids moved down to the end of the yard and on a 150 red and blue balloons rained down on them, Disney kingdom style:). The kids would have played forever, the energy levels not waning, but once their stomachs growled their eyes got heavy and all settled in for a long hard afternoon nap. One great Flag Day with memories I hope they will take with them wherever there go. A heritage to be proud of.
Posted on Wed, May 18, 2011