This article was originally posted in The Haitian Times, a community news outlet for Haitian Americans in New York.
LONG ISLAND — As thousands of residents await power restoration from the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) — which said in a statement released, Nov. 12, that 99 percent of customers’ electricity will be restored — one recently elected official has been trying to assist her frustrated neighbors, though she has yet to be sworn in office. Michaelle Solages, from Nassau County’s 22nd district, became the first person of Haitian descent elected to the New York State Assembly on Nov. 6. Solages is the sister of Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages, elected to his seat last year.
Reports estimated that by Monday morning, two weeks after Superstorm Sandy and several days after a snowstorm, more than 69,000 homes and businesses serviced by LIPA still didn’t have electricity. Though officials from the utility agency say power will be restored for most customers today, they couldn’t give a concise timeline to restore power to 55,000 buildings in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, along with the hard-hit Rockaways.
“It’s bittersweet because I’m taking calls from members of my community who don’t have power, who don’t have gas and are in the cold,” Solages said. “We can’t really celebrate this victory until 100 percent of my county has power.”
Though planning for a formal celebration in her district has been put on hold, supporters from the broader community recognized Solages for her work; she was hailed as a Haitian changemaker to watch by The Haitian Roundtable on Saturday, Nov. 10. During a fete held at the Alliance Francaise in Manhattan, over 150 Haitian-American professionals gathered to honor 25 high-achievers and five leaders to watch from the organization’s 1804 List.
“It’s very exciting to see that people in the community are noticing your work, ” Solages said. “I took a big step in my career, to run for office. And now I’m going to take an even bigger step to serve my community, to bring economic development in our area.”
This was Solages’ first bid for public office. The former photojournalist considered a run when the newly created district (after redistricting) offered a chance to vie for an open seat.
Solages joined an impressive group of New York immigrants who completed successful bids for office in the state legislature, and in Congress. Voices of NY reported on the Chinese, Korean and Albanian communities’ political milestones in last Tuesday’s elections.
Chinese-Americans helped send Grace Meng to Congress, where she will represent Queens as the first Asian-American from New York. Fellow borough resident and now Assemblyman-elect Ron Kim became the first Korean-American to be elected in New York State. In the Bronx, Mark Gjonaj also reached the State Assembly as the first Albanian-American to be elected in New York.
Assemblywoman Meng, a Democrat of Taiwanese descent, received over 67 percent of the vote and will represent Congressional District 6, which is around 40 percent Asian-American and includes Flushing and Forest Hills. Her victory was hailed as historic for Asians and important for women in elected office.
And for many in the Haitian community, Solages’ milestone is significant.
“It’s important to have representation on the state level,” Josue Pierre said. Pierre, based in Brooklyn, managed State Commitewoman Rodneyse Bichotte’s campaign and made an unsuccessful bid for male district leader earlier this fall. “It’s about time Haitians in New York have a voice on that level, as Haitians in Florida and Massachusetts do… And when I had a chance to meet Michaelle on her brother’s campaign, it was clear that she was the MVP on that team.”