From fighting the Duvalier dictatorship to pushing the U.S. government to grant legal status to Haitian immigrants, Carmelau Monestime earned the handle “the doyen of Haitian radio” in South Florida.
Monestime, Gepsie Metellus says, was a wise man, one who impressed with his passion for the Haitian community, his knowledge and his sartorial eloquence. “He was always dressed to the nines,” said Metellus, executive director of Sant La, Miami’s Haitian Neighborhood Center.
Monestime, a co-founder of Express Publicite Radio, a Creole-language radio show for 30 years on WMBM 1490-AM and first of its kind in South Florida, also launched Radio Collective Internationale on 99.1 FM, the first Haitian-owned and operated radio station. He died Jan. 16 at 84.
Monestime (no relation to Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Jean Monestime) was born April 6, 1931, in Gonaives, Haiti. He fled the Duvalier regime in Haiti for New York in 1964. There, he ran some of the first Haitian nightclubs in New York, such as the Flatbush Terrace in Brooklyn.
Seeking tropical climes, at his late wife Elvire’s urging, the couple moved to Miami in 1977, where he opened the Panorama Express Driving School. In 1978, Monestime joined college psychology student Pierre Mendes Alcindor and newscaster Ferdinand Forté to create Express Publicite Radio. “At that time, it was an explosion,” he told the Miami Herald in 2008.
“He was always at the forefront of significant community issues, whether it was the Haitian boat crisis or making sure our government would grant status to Haitians to make a new life in the U.S.,” Metellus said. “He represents a lasting and important legacy … and a model and example for us to emulate in how we move forward.”
He talked about a new day for Haiti, a Haiti that would be democratic and prosperous and that would value each of its citizens.
Gepsie Metellus, executive director Sant La, Haitian Neighborhood Center
Monestime is survived by his four children, six grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and two sisters. A community memorial will be 7 to 10 p.m. Friday at North Miami Senior High, 13110 NE Eighth Ave. The funeral is at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. James Catholic Church, 540 NW 132nd St., North Miami.
Howard Cohen: @HowardCohen