Members of Brooklyn’s Haitian community cheered officials as they unveiled a new street sign in honor of a native forefather at the corner of Rogers and Newkirk avenues on Saturday.
The newly co-named Jean-Jacques Dessalines Boulevard — which includes some 30 blocks of Rogers Avenue between Farragut Road and Eastern Parkway — is a fitting tribute to the former slave who rose to lead his country to victory in the Haitian Revolution and then serve as the first ruler of an independent Haiti, according to a local Hatian-American who attended the ceremony.
“I’m happy to see Jean-Jacques Dessalines honored in this way,” said Jeffrey Pluviose. “People will see his name and research him to find out who he was. This is a very powerful moment.”
The sign’s unveiling came weeks after the city formally designated parts of Ditmas Park, Flatbush, East Flatbush, and Midwood — including some blocks of the newly co-named street — as the Little Haiti Cultural and Business District, and months after another nearby road, Nostrand Avenue between Newkirk and Flatbush avenues as Toussaint L’Ouverture Boulevard, was jointly named for another prominent Haitian revolutionary, Toussaint L’Ouverture,
Some critics objected to Council’s decision to dedicate the Central Brooklyn street to Dessalines, claiming a tribute to the military officer turned emperor — who notoriously ordered the beheading of all French people remaining in Haiti after its native population overthrew the colonial power in 1804 — contradicts efforts to remove monuments that celebrated other controversial historical figures.
But those detractors are simply attempting to diminish Dessalines’s reputation as a Haitian who fought against slavery and colonization, Pluviose argued.
“It’s not comparable,” he said. “He had the courage to stand up to the evils of humanity at that time, and to be the man to free his people from enslavement. I don’t see how you can be against that.”