Written by WWCode HQ
The following is an interview with Michele Aupont, the Partnerships Project Manager for Women Who Code, in which she discusses her heritage, what it means to her, and her experiences moving to and growing up in the United States.
Tell us a bit about your Caribbean background?
My name is Michele C. Aupont, and I was born on the beautiful island of Haiti. Haiti is such a diverse place. There are people of different ethnicities including African, Polish, Jewish, Arabic, East Indian, German, Spanish, and French to name a few. Haiti is known for its wonderful and welcoming people, breathtaking beaches, and crystal blue waters.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Long Island, NY.
How has your Caribbean heritage influenced you?
I come from a country that was the first independent black nation in the western hemisphere. We fought for and gained our independence from France. We defeated Napoleon’s army and went on to train Simon Bolivar and Latin American fighters to free Grand Columbia. Our independence day is January 1, 1804. Haitians are strong and resilient people. I learned to continuously fight for what I want and believe in. Giving up is not a part of my vocabulary because living with purpose is the foundation of all that I do. I was taught to never give up and always to work hard — just like my ancestors.
What was it like when you first came to the United States and established yourself?
When I came to the United States, I thought I was coming on vacation. It wasn’t until I was here that I learned I wasn’t going back home. I was crushed. I felt like I was stripped from all that I ever knew. I left so many of my family and friends and didn’t know that I wasn’t going to be able to see them again. It was a bit traumatizing. My family moved from Haiti to Long Island. I was bullied and didn’t feel welcomed there. I remember when I first heard the saying “America is a melting pot.” But, I was made to feel like I didn’t belong and would need to pretend to be someone else in order to fit in. To me, that is not the true definition of a melting pot. Everyone should be accepted, regardless of where they come from or their social status. But, I was determined to succeed. So, I worked hard and eventually made America home.
How does your Caribbean heritage influence your work?
Haitians are inclusive people who believe in freedom and equality. I am fortunate to say that I am working for an organization that shares my values and believes in the importance of and works for diversity, especially in a field that is pretty male-dominated. We have so many chapters around the globe, represented in 122 countries which gives everyone the opportunity to succeed in engineering. We work to support women and grow their numbers in the field. Bringing so many people from around the globe together with this purpose is so important. We work every day to make the world a better and more inclusive place. To me, that’s a melting pot.
What does National Caribbean American Heritage Month mean to you?
National Caribbean American Heritage Month gives me a sense of pride. There are so many people in this country who are of Caribbean descent. Whether we are new to the US or have been here for generations, we contribute so much to this country. Even our first woman Vice President has Jamaican heritage. This month is a reminder that America is a mixture of many different cultures and histories that need to be celebrated. It’s a time for people who don’t know about who we are to learn. I think that’s wonderful!
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Did you know that Haitians fought for America’s independence from the British? We fought in the War of 1812. We fought to free enslaved Black Americans. Louisiana also has a strong Haitian heritage, though many people don’t know this history. I would like for people to learn about the history of Caribbean people and the different cultures. Try our food! Listen to our music! That may not give you an entire understanding, but it will give you a feel for who we are.