Last week, StoryCorps Door-to-Door traveled exactly half a mile to arrive at Dwa Fanm, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for the rights of Haitian women in the United States and Haiti. Through education, advocacy, and direct service, Dwa Fanm strives to protect the human rights of the women they serve. The mission of StoryCorps is to record and preserve the lives of people living in the United States. What better place to do this work than in StoryCorps’ own back yard in Brooklyn, NY?
When I reached out to Margarette Tropnas, the executive director of Dwa Fanm, about the organization participating in a recording day, I had no idea that Margarette had such a compelling story of her own to share. Almost two months after my original inquiry, I had the pleasure of Facilitating a conversation between Margarette and her teenage daughter, Melissa.
Margarette was born in Haiti, and as a teenager traveled to the United States with an English-speaking guide. At the time, Margarette did not know English, and when she arrived, fitting in at school was difficult.
When I first came here, I was in junior high school, and it was tough because I was Haitian. They called me ‘Frenchie.’ I vividly remember my junior high school year because there was a time when these kids were running after us, and my sister was ready to defend her little sister. After she left, I was kind of sad, but I learned to speak English very fast. I was in a non-English speaking class, and I was asking questions. So I started raising my hand, making a fool out of myself, but within a year, I spoke English. Two years later, I had an article in the yearbook.
From those humble beginnings, Margarette has gone on to become a wife, a mother, and an active member of her church’s outreach ministry and has taken on the the exciting and challenging role as Dwa Fanm’s executive director, helping to better the lives of other Haitian women. StoryCorps gives special thanks to the Dwa Fanm staff, participants, and especially Margarette for sharing their stories with us.