On today’s episode, Fritznel Octave (49) joins us from Kissimme Florida. A veteran journalist, activist and author, he shares his journey as a Haitian native. Born in Haiti,he moved to the USA 20 years ago. We talk about life and culture in Florida. Todd talks about SCUBA diving in Florida. Fritznel shares his story growing up in Haiti and how the culture differs from other cultures. Community and love is the glue of the Haitian people.
He was born in a small village in remote Haiti and describes how neighbors used to watch each other’s back and support the community. He describes how this has changed over the years. Both his parents are still alive and together (66 years) and recounts the blessing this is in his life. Family is huge for him – he is the 3rd born of 8 sisters and 4 brothers. He shares his love of family and how it provided loving connections throughout his childhood and life. He maintains contact with all his relatives and cherishes the love they share together.
God is first, family second, then work – the three things Fritznel keeps in mind in everything he does. We discuss differences in American and Haitian society. An optimist, he believes there is much more good than bad in the world. He shares how Haiti is viewed and sometimes misunderstood. The beauty of the culture is simplicity and meeting basic needs. It’s life quality over quantity, Fritznel explains. Music was a huge part of his childhood memories. His family would pray, sing and dance together, enjoying all sorts of music – just being happy together.
Todd asks if there are white people in Haiti. Less than 1%, Fritznel believes. He describes the mulleto (mixed race) person in Haitian culture relative to Haiti winning their independence in 1804. He shares that success has nothing to do with race, but instead effort and personal achievement. Faith is a huge part of everything he does in life and shares that people in Haiti are very religious (Catholic, followed by Protestant). Fritznel shares that the beauty of Haiti far overshadows the dangers people think of.
Fritznel shares that he has never experienced racism in his life as a person of color. Todd believes this is refreshing and unique. Fritznel shares that racism is a mindset gained over time through perception – and becomes a way of life, if not carefully kept in check. We discuss how racism can be eliminated through education and keeping a balanced mind. We grow and learn through our differences and the presence of God in life. Fritznel shares that he believes that social media and other distractions move us away from old-school values and experiences.
We discuss the Haitian Slave Revolution in 1492 and the power of unity among the people who fought and won this important historic battle against forced labor, slavery, and other terrible conditions imposed by the colonists invading the already populated area. The slaves rebelled, organized, and defeated the colonists trying to change their way of life and enslave them. Todd shares that he is a direct ancestor of Napoleon Bonaparte (who invaded Haiti in the revolution). The final battle was waged in 1803 against the Napoleonic French Army and the slaves won their freedom. Fritznel shares how this experience shaped Haitian culture over time.
We wrap up talking about cultural differences with smoking, drugs, marijuana, and music. Haiti is a melting pot of different cultures, which contributes to it’s rich diversity and cultural experience. Fritznel recently published a book “Haiti: Between Pestilence and Hope” which explores the culture in a real and raw way from his personal experience. Todd talks about his cousin Carolle Jean Murat, who is also an activist for the Haitian people. Haitians believe in community and group support. God is the key.