Factors That Contribute to the Educational Success of Haitian-American Women

Haiti is an island rich in history, art, and culture. Yet the island and its people are often perceived negatively because of the country‘s third world status and its devastating political dilemmas. As one writer stated, whenever Haiti is mentioned in the news, the phrase ―the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere‖ usually follows. ―These seven words represent a classic example of something absolutely true and absolutely meaningless at the same time‖ (Danticat, 2001, p. 57). That phrase has exasperated Haitian-Americans because it ignores Haiti‘s many positives such as its arts, its music, and its Afro-Euro-American culture. ―It denies the humanity of Haitians, the capacity to survive, to overcome, even to triumph over this poverty‖ (Danticat, 2001, p. 57). What is more, this negative impression tends to follow all Haitians no matter where they go around the world. Thus, instead of staying focused on the negatives, there is a need to focus more on the achievements and positive contributions that the people originally from this island has produced.

Throughout the years, Haitian-American people have made an incredible impact on society. For example, William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois, who is of Haitian descent, was an American civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, sociologist, historian, author, and editor. In 1895 he became the first Black person to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University (Lewis, 2008).

There are Haitian-American women who have followed in his footsteps and who made a difference in their lives and the lives of others. For example, Dr. Carole M. Berotte Joseph, who was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, came to the U.S. in 1957 and was the first Haitian-American woman president of Massachusetts Bay Community College (Zephir, 2004). She joined an elite and select group of just 49 African-American women nationwide serving as college and university presidents. African-American women comprise only 1.4% of all college presidents (Zephir, 2004). She earned her Bachelor‘s Degree in Spanish and Education from the York College of the City University of New York, a Master‘s degree in Bilingual Education from Fordham University, and a Ph.D. in Bilingual Education and Sociolinguistics from New York University (Zephir, 2004). She is multilingual and speaks French, Spanish, English, and Haitian Creole (Zephir, 2004).