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A Tribute To Marie Lily Cerat

Rep. Edolphus Towns

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Madam Speaker, I rise today in recognition of Marie Lily Cerat, for her service to the Brooklyn community, commitment to education and promotion of Haitian language and culture.

Marie Lily Cerat came to the United States in 1981, and made Brooklyn, New York her adopted home away from her native Haiti. She has been an educator with the New York Public education system for over eighteen years. At present, she works as a Resource Specialist with the Haitian Bilingual/ESL Technical Assistance Center (HABETAC) at Brooklyn College where she is responsible for planning and conducting professional development sessions for teachers working with Haitian English language learners in the public schools and Haitian parents. She is co-founder and Advisory Board member of Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees (HWHR), a thriving and respected community-based organization in Brooklyn. The organization was created by Ms. Cerat and Ninaj Raoul, in 1992, after the two returned from working with the U.S. Department of Justice as a Haitian Creole language specialist in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They assisted in translation and other human services with the Haitians housed on the U.S. base after the 1991 coup d'etat against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti. At its beginning, HWHR provided English as a Second Language (ESL) and adult Literacy programs, but its services have since extended to advocating on behalf of Haitian refugees and immigrants, defending worker exploitation, and lobbying against anti-immigrant policy.

Cerat has huge interest in literature, writing and the arts, and is a doctoral student in the French Doctoral program at the CUNY Graduate Center where she will pursue a specialization in francophone literature and international human rights. She holds a master's degree in English/Creative Writing from the City College of New York and a bachelor's degree from the College for Human Services. The respect and promotion of Haitian language and culture, human and girls/women rights are among some of the issues she is most passionate about.

In 1997, she published a West African folktale, Do Toti), The Turtle's Back, in Haitian Creole for children. She has written a commentary for National Public Radio, which was aired in 2001 as part of the Racism Conference in South Africa. Over the years, she has contributed writing to a publication on Haiti by the Network of Educators on the Americas (NECA), two biographical essays on Vodou are part of the 1998/2005 Ten Speed Press book, Vodou: Visions and Voices by the photographer Phyllis Galembo. She is a regular contributor to Haiti Liberte, a weekly Haitian newspaper in New York. Most recently, one of her short stories was selected to appear in an upcoming (2010) anthology by the Haitian-American writer/editor Edwidge Danticat. Marie Lily Cerat is currently at work on a novel, In the Light of Shooting Stars.

Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join me in recognizing Marie Lily Cerat.