Carl Juste could not silence his inner voice calling him to become a photographer.
For the past three decades, Juste has traveled the world using photography to tell meaningful stories and shed light on the struggles of Haitians in the United States and abroad.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami Herald photojournalist, Juste has been working diligently to advocate for the Haitian community’s diverse voices by capturing images that bridge the gap between opposing views and bridge gaps of understanding.
“My camera is my weapon of choice,” Juste said. “When I make an image, people really stop and look at it. It allows me to amplify my voice and the voices of other people.”
Juste recently spoke at FIU to discuss the struggles of Haitians experiencing racial, social, political and economic oppression.
The lecture, “Documenting Haiti: Realities and Representations,” was part of the Haitian Summer Institute, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary. Sponsored by the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center, the Haitian Summer Institute is a six-week program designed for anyone interested in learning basic Haitian Creole and also for students who wish to continue their language training at the intermediate and advanced levels.
“For over 20 years, LACC has been committed to investing in and promoting Haitian Studies and Haitian Creole language training,” said Frank Mora, director of LACC, a part of the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs. “The Haitian Summer Institute has been the center of that effort and is a cornerstone of the Haitian Studies Program of Excellence at FIU.”
The institute offers students intensive language training courses, the lecture series and an optional two-week study abroad trip to Haiti, designed to expose students to its culture and allow them to experience Haitian Creole in Haiti.
“The institute is the only one of its kind in the U.S., and we consistently attract a diverse group of students, scholars and professionals from across the globe,” Mora said.
During his lecture, Juste showed a preview of his project, “Havana and Haiti: Two Cultures, One Community,” a visual narrative that concentrates on the common themes of both Cuban and Haitians through essays and photography, highlighting the two communities’ shared experiences.
“My book is about celebrating these two cultures,” he said. “I stay as true to the message as much as I can. For me, it’s very important to communicate and expand the truth. Pictures have power to change the world but they aren’t responsible for the change.”
After fleeing his homeland of Haiti under threat of persecution, Juste and his family settled in Miami’s Haitian community in the 1970s. From his experiences living in Miami, Juste, who was born to Cuban and Haitian parents, said that both communities have more in common than most people understand.
“The story of Haiti and Cuba isn’t just for them but it’s for the world,” he said. “Both cultures have influences in art, dance and even science. You have this narrative that those identities are contained by boundaries, but they’re not. Their influences are global, and it’s about time that people understand that they’re not small and poor countries, but rich places.”
Since becoming a photographer, Juste loves capturing Miami’s diversity.
“A lot of my work stems from here,” Juste said. “I think what makes Miami so unique is the way all these cultures and various languages blend. It … also offers immigrants a place close to their birthplace.”
Juste hopes that students who participate in the Haitian Summer Institute and attend the lectures can be advocates for Haitians.
“Become an ambassador and look beyond,” Juste said. “Be advocates for Haitians because they’re human and because they look like you and value the things you value. That’s what I’ve been trying to do for 30 years and it’s a beautiful struggle.”
The final lecture of this year’s series,“Creole Identity and Solidarity: A Constant Struggle,” will feature Rodny Estéus, a founding member of the Haitian Creole Academy of the Republic of Haiti, and will be hosted on Monday, July 17.
To learn more about the Haitian Summer Institute, click here.