To say that Jacques Despinosse is only a politician doesn’t nearly capture his considerable worth to our Haitian American communities in South Florida and elsewhere in these United States. We can’t say the following about 99% of our politicians: even when Jacques Despinosse lost an election, he ends up being a winner.
Jacques has lost the last two races he entered into: against former Mayor Andre Pierre in 2011 and Philippe Bien-Aimé this year in his bid to reclaim his North Miami City Council seat he vacated a few years back. Maybe Jacques, unlike another veteran politician Philippe Dérose, doesn’t quite know when to retire or leave office.
I was surprised when he entered the race to face incumbent Mayor Andre Pierre who was riding a wave of popular support almost unparalleled in the history of North Miami Haitian community. He was equally wrong when he kept bashing Andre Pierre. No Haitian American should publicly wish jail time for one of our politicians even if this person seems to have betrayed the public trust. Just let justice system run its course!
I was also surprised when Philippe Bien-Aimé trounced Jacques Despinosse for this seat on the North Miami Council. I didn’t see this coming. Maybe Jacques has lost his huge community equity. Maybe Mr. Bien-Aimé – with his war chest - cornered so well the Haitian radio that he couldn’t have lost.
This is what this community is getting itself into: I can now recall one of Bien-Aimé’s statements that he would look carefully at the city’s expenses as if this city has an expenditure problem. In fact, it’s the contrary: this city doesn’t spend enough on social programs for the poor and children. So much for clear-eyed, transformational leadership! Jacques Despinosse is a pioneer and community builder. This article is a small token of appreciation for someone who has the “courage of his conviction”, for someone who can forcefully promote his position when he was in the minority – the minority of one, if I may say.
In the Early 80’s this “community” was pushing a militant political line that was critical of the discriminatory policies of the United States against our emerging community and the tight embrace of a Duvalier regime that was murdering and impoverishing its people and the peasantry, in particular.
The ultimate goal was to return home and create the condition for the overthrow of the Duvalier regime and the building of this new country. Jacques was thinking about something else: the need for many of us to become citizens, register to vote and use their vote to advance community interests. His Haitian American political club was created to do just that.
Our political intolerance didn’t apply to Jacques: we disagreed with him, couldn’t understand his “I am home” motto, and we were impatiently waiting for him to come to his senses. Still, what mattered to many of us, was that as long as Jacques attended the
Friday and Saturday political meetings and marched with us to demand justice, then all was well. It turned out that Jacques was the prophet among us. He thought “this thing” better than all of us. He understood the project to fight for the immigration rights of this community but the end goal was to build the political muscle to create a better Haitian community right here in America. To be fair to him: he never believed we had to forget totally about our people back home.
Jacques is the father, the “conceptualizer” of this process that gave us dozens of Haitian American elected officials in this country. Jacques may lose an election but he has almost singlehandedly won the war of positioning this community to create- if it dares to dream - a society steeped on justice and equality for all.
Thanks, Jacques for having fought the right fight!