Se Joe — who collectively has more than 70,000 followers on his social media channels — is a funny man with a mission: to help Haiti. Featured is a photo gallery of the YouTube celebrity.
By Chris Azzopardi
Se Joe — who collectively has more than 70,000 followers on his social media channels — is a funny man with a mission: to help Haiti. In this conversation with the YouTuber and Haitian diaspora celebrity — « the Haitian Eddie Murphy, » as he calls himself — Se Joe talks about how the past, present and future of Haiti is no laughing matter.
Q: You were born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but raised in Haiti. Why were you raised there and not in America?
A: Better education. My mom wanted us to know who we are as black people, as Haitians and as human beings. She thought Haiti was the right place because that’s where she grew up.
Q: How often do you get back to Haiti?
A: At least every year. Actually, I just got back from Haiti in December; I was shooting a documentary for Emeline Michel. But I come back every year. I don’t spend Christmas or New Years in America.
Q: How has Haiti changed since your childhood?
A: Haiti has definitely changed. I was born in 1987, so I grew up during a time of turmoil. A lot did change; however, we’re in 2016 and I should not be saying, « Haiti is better now because we have more electricity. » That’s not what I should be proud of in 2016. Right now I should be saying, « Wow. Haiti has changed so much because they just built 130 schools in the country, they just built the 66th hospital, we just got our 13th fire station, we just built a big solar electricity plant that powers the whole entire Caribbean. »
Q: What kind of contributions do you make to Haiti?
A: My contributions are self-made. I don’t believe in organizations that say they’re going to benefit Haiti and all that bullcrap. If I’m doing something charitable, I do it simply because I want to. When I go to Haiti, nobody knows. I’m not looking for a pat on the back. It’s my duty as a Haitian citizen to do what I need to do, period.
Q: What reactions do you get from older generations of Haitians when it comes to your version of Creole, which you call « Creglish »?
A: You can’t please everybody, but honestly, I do it for my generation. I don’t care about the generation that came before me because I hate their way of thinking. The way they were brought up that is not conducive to my generation. French was the language that showed you were educated then, and speaking Creole, to them, was like speaking slang. My generation doesn’t see it like that. A language is just a mode of communication, so we embrace Creole.
Q: Why is it important for you to speak to this generation?
A: When I grew up there were a lot of things I didn’t like, so I didn’t want my generation to grow up making the same mistakes. I want Haiti to be better. I want Haiti to change. That’s why I speak to this generation the way I do.