Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Konbit Kreyol

It’s a cold Wednesday night and the Danny Lows Restaurant, a popular a Haitian restaurant in Deerfield Beach, is packed to capacity. Chairs are crammed in every which way. Over 40 people sit talking while at least 10 more are standing, hoping to grab the first available seat.

A few of them wear shirts with a picture of the Haitian flag in front and the words “KONBIT KREYOL” printed across the back.

They all know each other. A stranger walking into this gathering would likely describe it as a big family dinner. Laughter is abundant. Everyone has something to say and they all want to say it at once.

This is “Share a plate night,” an annual event sponsored by Konbit Kreyol, the Haitian – and largest – club at Florida Atlantic University. With their vivid conversations, the members add color to Danny Lows.

“Share a plate is an event that gives the members of Konbit Kreyol the opportunity to get together and go to a Haitian restaurant and share a plate with another member,” says Roberto Roy, the administrative controller for the club who is also a finance and international business major. “It’s a way for the members to bond with each other and get to know each other better. We eat, we drink, we get loud and we have fun. It’s a great time.”

The event this night is a fun one, but at the previous week’s meeting the issues were more serious.

“I’m very upset that they didn’t play any Haitian music at the recent Caribbean Student Association Conference. They could have played at least five minutes of Haitian music because we are also a part of the Caribbean,” shouts a young man at the back of the room.

That gathering was an open forum where members expressed how they felt about the recent CSA conference held in Tallahassee that over 50 members attended.

Konbit Kreyol officially has 110 members including some alumni.

“When I attended my first Konbit Kreyol meeting they had about 10 members,” recalls five-year member Roy. “We averaged anywhere between five to 20 people at each of our meetings and that [were] in 2000.”

Roy, who lived in Haiti for his first 16 years, found out about Konbit Kreyol at FAU orientation.

“The most memorable moment I’ve had as a member was the first social meeting,” Roy recalls. “At that meeting I met one of my closest friends, Boby Pascal, who is now the president of Konbit Kreyol. After looking for some familiarity and my own people around FAU, I went to that first meeting and since that meeting I have not been able to leave.”

Many Konbit Kreyol members became involved with the group after searching for people with a compatible background.

“Konbit Kreyol is a fun club,” says four-year member and Haitian native Sophia Phanor. “We get to learn about our country and to come together as a family.

“After moving to America, I noticed sometimes that people would discriminate against me for being Haitian,” Phanor says. “I never let that faze me or put me down because I know where I came from and I’m proud of where I came from.”

Judith Guillaume, who has been a member for five months, says that she saw the club as an opportunity to be around those who share her heritage. “I like that we are like a big family in the club, everyone gets along,” she explains.

President Boby Pascal notes how much the club has grown. “I remember back in 2000 when I came, there was hardly any members. We have done more things in the community with our work with high schools and businesses,” he says. “We are always living up to our motto which is, ‘Working Together to Make a Difference.’ ”

Konbit Kreyol’s “constitution” states that its mission is, “To promote Haitian culture while providing service to the community and encouraging intellectual enrichment through a close union amongst diversified peers.”

Pascal also adds that the purpose of the organization is to promote Haitian culture and to bring together all the Haitian students at FAU.

“When we came here we left behind our history and our culture and we want to educate everyone about the Haitian culture and what we are about,” he says.

According to the club’s Website, “The organization was founded in 1989 by a group of students at Miami-Dade Community College to help Haitian-American students achieve higher standards culturally, mentally and intellectually by differentiating facts from fiction through communication.”

“Around 1989 they founded Konbit Kreyol at Florida Atlantic University,” says Pascal. “The word ‘Konbit,’ which originates from Africa, means a gathering to either discuss, promote, unify and harvest the results of the group at large. When the word ‘Konbit’ is placed with the word ‘Kreyol,’ which is from a mixture of the African and French, it then means a social gathering where all the Kreyol people get together,” explains Pascal.

Roy notes that the American flag also is featured on the club’s shirts to bridge the gap between the club members and the rest of the students at FAU.

“Education is a topic covered frequently at Konbit Kreyol meetings,” says Roy. “The desire to go back to Haiti and educate others is shared by most members.

“Also we try to educate others here in America, about our culture and our language and really try to change their perspective about what they use to think about Haitians,” Roy adds. “We try to show them that we are very intelligent and progressive people who might have some issues, but we just are great people and there is no reason for them to think of us the way that some of them do.”

Konbit Kreyol tackles sensitive subjects such as discrimination, politics and AIDS, said Pascal. They also discuss ways to teach others about the Haitian culture.

As its membership and visibility grows, Konbit Kreyol is becoming a fixture on the FAU campus.

“Because Konbit Kreyol is the biggest club on campus and because we have a lot of eyes on us, people are looking at what we do and don’t do. The hardest challenge that Konbit Kreyol faces is trying to impress Student Government so that they can see that we deserve what we get from them,” says Pascal.

Judging from their statements the members are impressed.

“I’ve really grown to love the club,” says two-year member Peterson Guerrier. “It’s a great club I really love the family atmosphere.”

Treasurer Charmaine Raymond says, “We are a big family and every one gets along. We are always hanging out together and that I love.”

Phanor adds, “I think besides it being fun, it is educational. Many people before joining the club didn’t know anything about the Haitian culture and now they do. I used to live on campus and it was like I had something else to do besides going to class and hanging out with friends. You get to do something fun, but at the same time you get to help your country and also educate others about your country.”

Most members would like to see the club grow even more.

“I hope to see growth. Getting more members involved, not only Haitians, but other people involved within the club,” says Raymond.

Konbit Kreyol meets every Wednesday during the fall and spring semesters at 4 p.m. in the Palmetto Room at the University Center on the Boca Raton Campus.

“Konbit Kreyol is a wonderful organization that is very diverse. About 25 percent of our members are not from Haitian descent and a lot of our members are African Americans,” Roy says. “The club is open and the members are wonderful and kind and they welcome anybody and I promise it will be worth your while.”

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