November 6, 2018
By Desiree Hartman, Vital Village Network
The original version of this post by was published in Vital Village's Blog and can be accessed here.
On September 8th 2018, Haitian-Americans United, Inc. (HAU) and partners hosted the 6th Annual Conference on the State of Haitian Americans in Massachusetts: A Commitment to Measurable Community Actions for a Lasting Legacy in Mattapan.
Vital Village Community Champion and Improvement Advisor, Smith Lamothe, and 11 other HAU leaders organized and led 74 community members through an interactive conference highlighting the expertise of the community and engaging all people in action-oriented solutions-finding approaches.
Smith has been actively involved with HAU in their work to improve the quality of life for Haitians and Haitian-Americans through education, community empowerment and cultural development, using an approach where participation and unity are strongly favored.
Smith stepped into an HAU leadership role to coordinate the conference and identified this as an opportunity for Vital Village to partner with HAU. As a VVN team, Smith applied collective organizing skills in the design, mobilization, and execution of the conference, Renée Boynton-Jarrett (founding Director) presented alongside a wealth of local leaders throughout the day, and Desi Hartman (Community Partnerships Program Coordinator) helped to coordinate a team of volunteers to assist with registration, note taking, and general support for the conference.
Lively discussion from conference activities generated actionable items for the community to tackle together:
Haitian-American Cultural Center: establishing and mapping out existing community resources and assets to support it
Temporary Protective Status: review of the Civil Action lawsuit (Civil Action: N.. 18-10340) to prevent the cancellation of TPS
Higher Education: embracing multiple forms including vocational tracks and work experience
Community Organizing: strategies to increase capacity for collaboration and coordinated efforts
Community Empowerment and Growth: strategies with a specific emphasis on political advocacy, engagement in the political processes, and exploring community investment strategies
Social and Emotional Wellbeing: review of the impact of parent-child separation on health and the importance of trauma-informed policies and reducing stigma around mental health
Participants left the day inspired and ready to take action. Now, HAU leaders are organizing a retreat to further mobilize community members.
Following Smith's leadership and partnering with HAU for the conference is one example of how Vital Village aims to build institutional capacity and increase civic engagement. Learn more about our Theory of Change, here!
Vital Village Network has been a part of a national learning community, SCALE, organized by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). SCALE has helped provide opportunities for local leaders, such as Smith, to become certified Improvement Advisors and to incorporate ‘community of solutions skills’ in our local work, such as emphasizing collaborative leadership and equity when partnering with HAU.