For hyphenated Americans, it’s not uncommon to feel a tug between the United States and the land of their parents’ birth and heritage. For Haitian-Americans, the 2010 earthquake and the foreign NGO army that followed took that tug and magnified it several times over. In what may be an under-appreciated reversal of decades of exodus by their parents and grandparents before them, many young American-born Haitians are “returning” to help develop the country. Among them, American-born Nickson Toussaint, a 28-year-old entrepreneur and “fan of nationalism”—that is, the one inspired by Haitian revolutionaries Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Since 2011, Toussaint and his wife have invested $150,000 to help develop a virgin 2.5 acre beachfront property into Azur Resort & Spa. The time for a renaissance in Haiti is now, and he says, his generation is the one to bring it.
How did the earthquake affect you?
I had a pastor tell me once that, “You will ultimately find your purpose in what burdens you.” The global depiction and negative perception of our Haitian people have always been heavy on my heart. [And when the earthquake happened] I was shocked by the death and destruction. I had just returned from Haiti a few months prior and wrote a journal entry describing it as a nation in desperate need of a period of progressive growth. I saw [the earthquake] as an opportunity for the country to rise out of its ashes, as well as for the diaspora to return and change the game. I wanted to take a part of that resurrection. The more I began exploring tourism, the more I realized there was a large opportunity to rebrand the perception of the country. via – COLORLINES