Sunday, February 9, 2014

I Want the World to See Haiti as I Do, says Jimmy Jean-Louis

I think about Haiti every day. It is where my roots lie and my old memories live. Haiti is where I lived as a boy before I left for Europe with my family to start a new life far from everything I had ever known and loved. That experience taught me a way to see the world, and to understand how the world sees Haiti.

As a boy growing up in France, and later working as a model and actor, I learned about popular perceptions of my country—chronically corrosive politics, insecurity, corruption, the poorest place in the Western Hemisphere. Rather than alienate me, learning these perceptions gave me the strength to speak out and find meaningful ways to change how people see my homeland.

Changing The Way Haiti Is Perceived

In 2006, I landed the role of “The Haitian” on the NBC television series “Heroes.” This opportunity pushed me to accept and embrace the responsibility of representing Haiti and the culture of my homeland. The impact was unexpected as suddenly, and perhaps for the first time in a long time, the world could juxtapose the words Haiti and heroes in the same sentence. In 2012, I was cast as Toussaint Louverture in a film that told the story of Haiti’s greatest hero and leader of the Haitian Revolution whose military genius and political shrewdness transformed an entire society of slaves into the world’s first independent black nation.

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