Spreading the Word on Haiti Via a Flea Market

Constant Bernard started the Haiti 155 nonprofit to strengthen the bond between Haiti and the U.S. (Photo via Amsterdam News)

Constant Bernard started the Haiti 155 nonprofit to strengthen the bond between Haiti and the U.S. (Photo via Amsterdam News)

For one vendor at the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene, there’s more to the stand’s vintage handbags and sunglasses than meets the eye.

When not running the booth, or at his job at a French high-end eyewear store, Constant Bernard, along with his brother Lionel, heads Haiti 155, a nonprofit founded after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to “bridge a cultural gap between Haitians and Americans,” reports Tamerra Griffin for the Amsterdam News.

Haiti 155 is named after the address of the Bernard brothers’ home in Port-au-Prince. They were in Haiti when the earthquake hit.

“Imagine where we are standing right now,” Bernard said, “and all of a sudden, it’s shaking. The house we were staying at was shaking like leaves, like a tree in a storm. I was in a chair. I tried to get up and I fell back in, and I’m looking at the ceiling. But what went through my mind was, ‘Oh, today is my son’s birthday.’ I said, ‘Oh, I promised my son I’m gonna play with him when I get back, so I’m not gonna die today.’ That’s what went through my mind, just like that.”

The earthquake registered in Constant an urge to educate and make people aware of his native country – something he does every weekend at the flea market.

“Being at the flea market for my organization is a great platform for promotion,” he said. “You know, that’s why I have a banner here, and every customer that comes here, I give them a business card for the organization.” He added that he also conducts fundraisers, like selling stuffed animals and donating the proceeds to his organization, at his flea market tent.

Haiti 155 works to tighten the bond between the island and the U.S. in an effort to drive social and economic change and self-sufficiency, says its website. As Constant tells Amsterdam News, it’s also about spreading the underlying message of getting involved.

“Besides having the not-for-profit empowering the community in Haiti, also, I want other young Haitians and other people from the African diaspora to decide, ‘Hey, I can learn from these guys. I can go back to my country and help out.’”

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