Leaders of Long Island's Haitian community were left stunned, pained and fearful for what comes next after the assassination of the island nation's president.
The killing of President Jovenel Moïse early Wednesday by a group of heavily armed assailants was just the latest in a long list of disasters — both natural and human-made — that have weighed down her native country, according to Mimi Pierre Johnson, founder of Elmont Cultural Center Inc.
Moïse's death could underscore for younger Haitians, wherever they live, that the troubles plaguing the country go far beyond corruption, she said.
According to the U.S. Census, about 26,350 Haitians live on Long Island.
"All of the problems, what was already there, are now compounded with an assassination where for this generation of Haitians and those who are there, that hasn’t happened," said Johnson, who is the former president of the Haitian-American Political Action Committee. "They haven’t experienced that. They haven’t experience having a president that has been assassinated."
Nassau County Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Lawrence), said he plans to have a prayer vigil this week for Haiti. Solages, whose parents were born in Haiti, said he had planned to go visit the country this summer but is unsure when he will go.
"With the latest violence and political turmoil many people are giving up and they’re saying ‘hey, we don’t want to go back,’ " Solages said. "Not me."
For his sister, State Assemb. Michaelle C. Solages (D-Elmont), the death of Moïse was "heartbreaking and traumatic," as the country, the first Black-led republic when it declared its independence from France in 1804, continues to rebuild and redevelop after earthquakes, hurricanes and decades of political turmoil.
"Haiti is going through a constitutional crisis and there’s political unrest, there is instability, there’s famine," Solages said. "There’s a spike in COVID-19. Haiti needs leadership at this point and there needs to be some sort of political stability and that political stability needs to be led by the Haitian people and it needs to be revolved around the Haitian people."
Maryse Emmanuel-Garcy, co-founder of the Haitian American Family of Long Island Inc., a nonprofit in Freeport, said she doesn’t know what comes next because "every time we have hope something happens."
"Within the last year and more there was instability but I don’t believe Jovenel is the cause of it all," she said. "When you’re living away from the country and most of the time we hear most of the negative things and we still have a positive view of the Haiti in our hearts, so there’s a lot of sadness and shock. We just don’t know."