The rush of Haitian immigrants to the US started in the 1970s and 80s. Also known as “The Haitian Diaspora”, thousands of Haitian immigrants migrated to the east coast, making big cities such as Miami, Boston, New York and Philadelphia their new home. It is estimated that over 500,000 Haitians migrated to the US from the 1970s to 2000s. Since then, the population has grown to over 1 million with the help of a growing population of first-generation Haitian Americans. Marcelle Delphonse migrated to North Miami, “Little Haiti” to be exact, in the 1980s. She left her family in Haiti to look for better opportunities in America. It is common for immigrants to travel alone to a new country, and once they have secured the basic needs for survival, other members of the family make the journey over. Marcelle’s daughter would be the first of many to make the trip to Miami. Marie was only a teenager when she arrived. Shortly after arriving, she gave birth to a little boy named Fedney Paul Delphonse. I traveled to Memphis, TN to meet up with him in person. Fedney and I have a big/little brother relationship. As he puts it, “A lot of years of you shaking your head and me getting on your nerves.” Over the last several years we had numerous talks about life outside of the Gates (Golden Gate, FL), from making millions, to starting family traditions from broken homes. However, I never took the time to ask the difficult questions to learn his story until this interview.
Humble beginnings or a silver spoon? “Definitely humble beginnings. Coming from a family that migrated from Haiti… First generation Haitian American… My grandmother came here in the 80s and my mom stayed in Haiti until she was 19, then had me. Just coming from that type of environment alone is a challenge. It takes you awhile to get it up. You’re not used to the culture, you don’t speak the language… it’s a disadvantage. It was definitely humble beginnings in North Miami.” Being a first-generation immigrant is difficult in many aspects. Different culture, language, social norms, the list goes on. However, humble beginnings can be the solid foundation for a golden future. I am also a first-generation Haitian American. My father migrated from Haiti to Naples, FL in the late 80s.
Due to my mother being American, I was privileged to have an established family system. Most of my American family lived in Golden Gate. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandma and grandpa, you name it and I had it. This made life much easier in the sense that I did not have to be integrated into society. However, it came some with big sacrifices. I don’t speak Creole, I know the bare minimum about Haitian culture, traditions, food and our rich history, but I am grateful I had a zoklo (hitting your knuckles very hard against someone’s head) free childhood. When did you move to the Gates? “I moved to Golden Gate (Naples) in the 4Th grade. Before then, I had left Miami and moved to Haiti. My mom received a job offer in Naples. That was a blessing. They offered full benefits, which was big. Then she called my uncle up, ‘hey I have decent job to be able to provide’, and to send me back. So, I came to Naples, FL. Lake Park Elementary.“ All cities change as time passes. Golden Gate is no different. From my elementary school years until middle school, there was a rivalry. Not the one that involves scoreboards, shot clocks, and referees. The “Yanks vs Haitians” is something I remember clearly. Yanks (black Americans) and Haitians would fight or display a strong hatred for one another. With me being half Haitian and half American, I didn’t really find myself on either side. The Americans made fun of me for being Haitian (mostly family), and the Haitians didn’t accept me because I didn’t speak Creole and didn’t know my culture.
Respectfully, things have changed drastically. It went from ‘Haitians eat cats’ to ‘I want some cat too’. Griot is a traditional dish that has become a known symbol for Haitian cuisine in America. Was it a struggle being raised by a single mother? “Yes, it was a struggle, but I didn’t notice it was a struggle until I grew up, and I looked back on how I grew up. I thought everyone was living like that. Everyone was living in a single parent household. Everyone was doing what they could to survive. It was normal to me while I was in that environment. When I stepped out of that box is when I noticed the whole time I was in that struggle. But…that’s what it is.” Being raised by a single mother was more than a struggle, it was spontaneous, uncomfortable, fruitful, cultural, and of course painful. The time we spent battling our everyday struggles created a bond like no other. At a young age I knew we weren’t living the “American Dream”. I remember being asked if I was happy about my soon-to-be little sister. To my family’s surprise I said, “No, sometimes we barely have enough food to feed ourselves.” I was no older than 8 at the time. Things got a little awkward because they didn’t think I was able to comprehend that certain actions would affect my future. I missed out on a carefree childhood. Instead of worrying about being picked for kickball, I was worried about the eviction notice on the door. Did your childhood have mental consequences? “Yes, a single parent household alone can have big consequences on someone’s mental health. Seeing people react and acting in certain ways that’s not in your favor hurts your trust. You stop believing in people and valuing others. It does play a big role but with age you get over it and mature.” Mental health is something that has grown over the years, but there is still a stigma in the black communities. Just based on what Fedney stated, “with age you get over it and mature”, you can see kids have to find ways to cope with the traumas of their childhood. I would be an advocate of their ways of coping if they were healthy and didn’t cause harm. However, that’s not the case. I have met multiple people that self-harm. Self-harm can range from excessive drinking and smoking, abusing drugs, and cutting, to having unprotected sex causlly . My coping mechanism was fishing. All my problems go away once I pick up my fishing pole. Of course, fishing didn’t fix everything. I had to have discipline, and teach myself while unteaching myself bad habits or thoughts I acquired as a child.
What motivated you to make it out of the Gates? “It was my sophomore year, and I got kicked off all the sports teams because of my grades. Coach Smith pulled me to the side and told me I could make it in football and I had nothing to lose. The crazy thing about the Golden Gate others always see the potential in you. They say ‘you can do this, and you can do that’, and it’s hard to see. Basically, I had nothing to lose. So, I’ll believe in this guy even though I don’t believe in myself. Believing in his thoughts was better than believing in me if that makes sense.” Golden Gate is not some crime infested city that is run by the lawless, but it’s not all sunshine either. Drugs, violence, and police brutality are alive and thriving. I’ve seen someone get shot and almost been on the receiving end as well. Sneaking out of your girlfriend’s house at 3am with a hoodey on might not be the best idea (I’ll take a bullet for the pu***). The lifestyle in the Gates has never really bothered me. I was a product of my environment, so I grew to love and the appreciate every aspect of it. I just knew there had to be more to life than partying every weekend, smoking weed, selling drugs and chasing girls. I am not knocking anyone for the lifestyle they live; to each their own. I just wanted to see what life had to offer outside of the Gates. Do you feel you were cheated, or life was unfair? “I don’t feel like life was unfair. I just look at it like god rolled the dice and I didn’t hit that lucky number 7. But at the end of the game, I ended up winning. I think it was a blessing. Being able to look at the world from a different view. Because a lot of people can’t relate or look at the world they way you look at it. It humbles you and makes you work harder.” The rules of life are quite unusual. You can do everything right, be kind and caring, take care of the planet, donate to charities and pray three times but that doesn’t stop hard times from coming. Some people blame karma, and other people curse god. I just look at it as a learning opportunity. Over the years I’ve learned to enjoy the process, and not the end result. Yes, the end result matters, but enjoying the process makes the hardship and failures easier to bounce back from. How did our relationship build to what it is now? “Oh man, a lot of years of you shaking your head and me getting on your nerves. At a very early stage I noticed you’re really calm and collected,and that’s something I’m not used to in Florida. You know Florida boys are kinda crazy, energetic and talk crazy. When you see someone that’s different, you kinda want to see what’s up with them. I have a lot of memories of when I was a freshman in high school. You don’t really talk a lot, you just move a certain way that made my respect grow for you.“ Fedney, aka Squidward, and I got introduced to each other from his older brother Weednel. Naturally, I saw him as a little brother, even though he is 6’2” and 240 lbs. In the beginning, sports and girls brought us closer. As the years went on, our passion for creating a family-based community and generational wealth would make our bond stronger. A story we always bring up from time to time, is when I helped him get a girl. It was my junior or senior year of high school and I was at the movies (shout out to Hollywood 20). As I was leaving I noticed a pretty girl, so I politely asked for her name. Of course, she probably thought I was interested in her, but I sent Fedney her name and told him to look her up on Facebook. The rest was history or something like that.
What’s your definition of a real friend? “Somebody that will always, no matter what, tell you the truth. Even if it’s not the popular truth. A real friend will tell you exactly what it is and be honest with you. They’re your friend, not for benefits, simply because they care about you and want to see you win. A real friend wouldn’t lie to you.” Real friends shouldn’t lie. I agree with this to a certain degree. It’s sad to say, but the truth is not absolute. The truth changes with information, perspective, and a few other things. Being blunt and telling your friends what you think the truth is might not go so well. You must speak their language while telling them the truth. It’s not my favorite, but sugar coating the truth is one option. Or you can ask the right questions and let them connect the dots. Learning how to properly communicate with your friends is a must when dealing with touchy subjects. I have one rule when it comes to lying. If you’re going to lie, only lie to protect, never lie to destroy someone’s image or to make yourself look better. What was the hardest obstacle that you faced while growing up? “Growing up, the hardest obstacle is kinda just finding yourself. Figuring out what type of person you are. What do you stand for and what are you willing to lose? What happens is we all go through it and start doing things out of character. We might get into some illegal activity or you’ll do something you thought you would never do. I think finding yourself was the hardest thing for me. Once you find yourself, you have to be willing to lose friends, because a lot of your friends still haven’t found themselves.“ Finding yourself is a difficult task no matter the environment you grew up in. Society has so many ways of influencing a person to do, or say things that was out of their character. Living in an unstable household can exacerbate the life-long journey of finding who you are. Humans are creatures of habit. We learn behaviors from watching those around us. With the lack of role models in your life, you might look outside your home. Now the guy w
DRAFTJS_BLOCK_KEY:s3ctWhat was the hardest obstacle that you faced while growing up?
ho lives up the street up with the Chevy on 24s with candy paint becomes your role model. Growing up, I didn’t have a particular person I looked up to as a man. Every person I knew had behaviors or habits that I didn’t want to be associated with. like physical abuse, selfishness, or they were manipulative. I have slowly become the man I want to be remembered as. There is still a lot I have to work on, but slow progress is better than no progress. Fedney and I have been friends for over ten years. Some of the memories we have created together lead to court dates and thousands of dollars of bail money, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Being raised by a single mother, we share a similar story of hardship and struggle. Fortunately, we have turned a bad roll into a winning hand. Being raised by a single mother or single father doesn’t mean your life is doomed. There is just a chance you will face obstacles others have never thought about.
I’ll end with some advice that Fedney gave for any young kid playing football in the Gates. I think this applies to anyone that comes from an unstable environment, boy or girl. “Football (sports) doesn’t last forever. Use football to put your family in a better position. A lot of kids growing up only see NFL or NFL. They don’t see they can become a doctor from a football scholarship. You can use that full ride scholarship to your advantage. The world is yours. “ Before or After Which came first war or peace? Was there peace and then came war, Or will there be peace after war? Maybe peace is just an illusion, Or it’s a myth such as Bigfoot. We have all heard of peace but Tell me if you have seen her? Tell me of all the peaceful things we Have conquered with our weapons in Hand and pride held high. Tell me about The great beginnings after the bloodshed Let’s talk about the peaceful funerals. Where mothers and fathers lay their Sons and daughters to rest. While the Grass grows from tears of taken Memories. I think peace was once the way of life. Before homicide lost its scientific name And became a household name. Before Money turned family time into profit. Before women were bitches, homosexuals Were fags, Muslims were terrorists, blacks Were niggers, and men..... before men were Cowards. Before rape was a grey area, human trafficking Was an industry, nomads were immigrants, but Most of all before we learned how to hate Ourselves. For peace to thrive in the world you must end The war within you. May peace be upon you.