A New Voice For Haiti: The Nicole Claude Show Creates Opportunities to Unite the Caribbean Community in the Midwest
Nicole Claude – Team Heartland T2, Q3
It’s Saturday afternoon in late June. A single mom gets in her Chevy in Addison, IL, a suburb 20 miles west of Chicago, and begins a new journey.
“On my way, driving to the city, I saw many fathers on their bikes with their children. Some of the parks are closed for activities and there are block parties where families can gather and experience the special weekend,” said Nicole Claude.
It is Father’s Day 2009 – a day to celebrate family and where we come from. Claude realizes, “Since I immigrated here 35 years ago, I have not been in touch with my dad, Murat Claude.”
The irony is not lost on her. Claude is on her way to the radio studio for the premier of “The Nicole Claude Show,” an hour-long program that aims to bring the Haitian and Caribbean communities in the Midwest together.
The program is acting on a theme of separation found in many immigrants’ lives. It is a place to give people a voice – in “English, Creole, French, and Spanish and, of course, the language of love,” Claude tells her listeners.
Claude and her co-host Victor Gulley talk about current events in Haiti, news that makes a difference, as well as events in Chicago for the Haitian community. Each week there is a guest and the topics range from Love, Health and fitness, to Wealth and financial fitness. The radio show came about as part of Claude’s participation in Landmark Education’s Team Management and Leadership Program.
The Haitian Consulate in Chicago estimates there are as many as 22,000 Haitians in the Chicago area. Community leaders estimate the numbers to be as high as 35,000.
“What’s missing is for us to have a voice,” said Claude. “One thing that is specific to the Haitian culture is speaking French and Creole.”
If you go to Florida and New York, everyone in the Haitian community still speaks their native languages, but not in the Midwest. “It’s not something we experience. We move here and lose our language. Our presence is silent in the Midwest.”
Claude was born in Port au Prince, Haiti, also known as “La Perle Des Antilles” (the pearl of the Antilles). She came to Chicago in 1974 as a teenager with her brother Ronald, joining her mother and oldest brother Jean, who immigrated to the US first.
Claude reconnected with her “terra natale” or native country on a trip in 1990. “The most memorable moment was standing in a most beautiful turquoise sea and admiring its color and vast ‘etendue’, it appears that time stood still,” said Claude. “The laughter, dances and speaking the native language, Creole, still echoes in my mind and this moment remains alive today many years later.”
So each Saturday from 9 pm to 10 pm on WSBC Access Radio Chicago, 1240 AM, Claude takes to the airwaves to unify the Haitian and Caribbean communities. “We are building multicultural opportunities, a network of people.”
Among its regular contributors are love expert Bruce Hart and medical correspondent Mary Bess Zouvas. Claude’s professional experience is in critical care nursing, occupational health and health management, so it’s no surprise health is a primary focus of the show. Marcia Lane, the executive director of the Haiti Nursing Foundation, was a recent guest.
Claude sees physical fitness and health directly tied to wealth. “Mostly we talk about health and the wealth is missing.” This is especially true in Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
“I’m taking on speaking about financial fitness,” said Claude. “Haitians are always excited, we always want to start businesses. But in Chicago we have not been successful in maintaining successful businesses, like restaurants.”
Claude lamented about not being able to get traditional Haitian cuisine in Chicago, like mais moulu – a type of corn meal served with red beans or avocado.
While she may not be able to recreate the aromas and tastes of Haiti on the radio, Claude can bring the sound of the Caribbean to Chicago listeners. The show features music from the islands including recordings made by Gulley for his theater production.
On Gulley’s recording, Nicole’s sultry, inspired voice drifts across a background of musical infinities crooning, “Love is my papa calling me ‘pipirite chantant’ [a small singing bird], love is my mom telling me that I am ‘potelé’ [healthy], love is my second mom, love is my brother Jean sending me a trousseau of clothes from the USA, love is my brother Ronald cooking for me…”
Through the love of her homeland and a commitment to her culture, Nicole Claude is giving the Haitian community an opportunity to connect with each other and its heritage. She plans to connect with her own heritage by traveling to Haiti to find out about her father and to broadcast from the island.
One of the challenges in connecting the community is actually hearing her voice over a wide area. “There are a lot of stations in Evanston [a suburb just north of Chicago] but the frequency is not strong enough to hear in my town [in the western suburbs]. My show is not able to reach everyone,” said Claude.
Her goal is to build a team of investors and vendors to create and operate a 24-hour/7-days a week radio station in Chicago dedicated to Caribbean issues that can be heard all over the Midwest.
“The future is a Caribbean voice, a Haitian voice that can be heard in Chicago,” said Claude.
For more information, or to purchase T-shirts and recordings, visit the show’s website at thenicoleclaudeshow.com/.
Written & Edited by Steve Schapiro