The office of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez agreed to the demand of some Haitian organizations and activists to keep former Haitian president Michel Martelly from participating in local Flag Day celebrations. For security reasons, the office suspended a May 21 event in which Martelly was scheduled to perform.
In a letter to Mayor Suarez dated May 13, six signatories representing several community organizations and activists demanded that Martelly be declared persona non grata in Miami. They alleged that Martelly is “responsible for violent crimes” committed in Haiti and has ties to gangs there.
“We are quite satisfied with that decision,” said Roger Biamby, one of the petitioners representing David International Foundation. “However we are still waiting for Martelly to be declared persona non grata.”
The mayor’s office has delegated Christine King, Commissioner of District Five (which encompasses Little Haiti) to follow up on the May 13 demand.
“The City hall and the Miami Police Department have shown great cooperation on this matter,” Biamby said. He acknowledges it will be delicate to get an answer to the part of the letter that mentions persona non grata.
“In fact, it could take on a legal aspect,” Biamby said. “A citizen of a country cannot be declared persona non grata, [so] one must be sure that Martelly is not an American citizen.”
For years, Miami’s Haitian community has sought to prevent Martelly from performing in the area.“The Haitian people can no longer live with the unacceptable,’ said Tony Jean Thénor, chairman of Veye Yo, an almost four-decade-old Little Haiti-based organization that is among the six signatories.
Haitian Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States around May 18, Haitian Flag Day, with music, dance, food, artistic performances and other fanfare. In Miami, the Little Haiti Cultural Center hosted several events from May 18 to May 21.
A picture of the former president, known best by his stage persona “Sweet Micky” appeared on a promotional poster for a May 21 event at the Cultural Center, along with his children’s group and artists Bedjine and Kadilak.
“Some of us were surprised to see Martelly being part of the program in the poster,” said Rose Blaise, who sells handbags at events. “This is too much. With everything that’s going on, he has the audacity to perform in the name of the country.”
Others involved in the festivities echoed the sentiment.
“It is great to be able to blend the arts, but not just with anybody,” Simone Audant, representing Kay Atizan said. “I am mortified.”
Recently, Montreal, New York, and the Dominican Republic declared Martelly persona non grata, which means a person who is unacceptable or unwelcome in a country for things they have said or done.
In Miami, among the petitioners hoping to add the city to the list of destinations rejecting Martelly, are business owners Arsene Omega and Tony Wadson, Dr. Larry Pierre of the Center for Haitian Studies, Veye Yo, and longtime community activist Farah Juste.
The Haitian groups had planned a demonstration in front of the Center on May 21, but it was called off after the Mayor’s office acted in response to their letter.
Miami’s police chief and other city officials were copied on the letter to Suarez.
An earlier version of this updated article was published on the website of The Haitian Times.