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Designer & Activist Santia McKoy Honors the Haitian Heroines of the Canal

Writer/Editor-In-Chief: Jamee Beth Livingston

Santia McKoy & Haitian heroines cover 37 Magazine.

To order a copy of this issue in print please click here.

As a Haitian American, Santia McKoy showcases her profound connection to her homeland and her appreciation for its beauty, culture and people in her acclaimed designs. Born and raised in Haiti, her journey into the world of fashion has been marked by creating meaningful creations that transcend mere clothing. They have become expressions of activism and impassioned commitment to her community. Through her work she reveals the beauty and diversity that exists within Haiti’s borders. “It’s important I use my platform to shed light on deeply important issues that affect my country. Being able to bring these designs to life and share them with the world to raise awareness is an opportunity that I cherish deeply. It is both an honor and responsibility.”

Through the intricately designed gown she handcrafted titled Kanal Rezistans, L’Union Fait La Force (Channel of Resistance, Unity is Strength) Santia symbolizes the path towards a more promising future for Haiti. The one-of-kind piece is a heartfelt tribute to Haiti, the canal and the inspiring Haitian heroines. The controversial canal construction is steeped in historical conflict that has left a profound impact on Haiti’s history and people. The conflict in question is the long-standing canal dispute between Haiti and its neighbor, Dominican Republic. This conflict, rooted in territorial and political disagreements, has cast a shadow over the relationship between these two nations for many years. The roots of this conflict can be traced back to the early days of Haiti’s independence.

Despite insurmountable challenges, Haitian ancestors triumphed in the Haitian Revolution, permanently abolishing slavery. Following the successful slave rebellion that led to Haiti’s declaration as the first sovereign Black Republic in 1804, the young nation faced the challenges of nation-building and international recognition. One of the major issues that emerged was the dispute over a shared canal on the Dajabón Massacre River in Ouanaminthe, which separates the two countries. Today, the people of Haiti are taking part in another revolution.

Kanal la pap kanpe (the canal won’t stop). Santia McKoy for 37 Magazine.

The canal project is an initiative with the goal of revitalizing agriculture by providing water to the Maribaroux plain. The irrigation is necessary to combat the drought in their inland area. The construction and control of this canal in Northern Haiti has become a contentious issue. It has lead to a series of negotiations, tensions and armed conflicts between the two nations and the closure of Dominican Republic’s border on September 15th, 2023 by President Luis Abinader. Since the border’s closure, there has been a halt in the trading activities between the two countries. The country is facing a dire situation. The danger of starvation looms over half of its population due to a significant 25% of its imports reliant on the Dominican Republic.

The path forward revolves around the Haitian people themselves. Adopting the motto on Haiti’s coat of arms, L’Union Fait La Force (Unity is Strength), an outpouring of Haitian solidarity and pride has been demonstrated. Thousands of Haitians have gathered around the river to championing the workers and the canal’s excavation. With the smell of wet soil and mud lingering in the air, the people have taken matters into their own hands, quite literally. It is more than the building of a canal; it’s a movement. Haitians from around the world have joined forces, pooling their resources and generating tens of thousands of dollars to aid in the canal’s development. While some individuals engage in manual labor, others contribute tools, equipment and supplies. Haitians residing overseas raise and remit funds to assist people in sustaining their work.

Sania’s activism demonstrates the power of fashion as a means of raising awareness and inspiring positive change. Her design pays homage to the canal kings and queens and the enduring spirit of Haiti. The piece is a work of art that embodies the resilience of a nation that has faced its fair share of challenges and emerged stronger with each passing day. The gown carries a powerful message of unity, serving as a symbol of hope and perseverance in the face of adversity. “It represents the values of liberty, peace, reconciliation, respect, resistance and victory. Values that have been at the heart of Haiti’s history and struggle for independence.” It is a reminder that even in the midst of conflict, there is beauty to be found, and a resilient spirit that endures.

Santia McKoy for 37 Magazine

The gown is a stunning display of patriotism highlighting the vibrant colors of the Haitian flag and the Haiti coat of arms. Adorned with a striking image of Haitians in solidarity flows down the front of the dress like a cascading canal. The letters KPK are emblazoned on the back, serving as a reminder of the empowering mission of Kanal La Pap Kanpe. The faces of four extraordinary female heroes grace the gown, paying tribute to their essential roles in the canal’s development and their unwavering commitment to Haiti. Dr. Bertrhude Albert, Anie Alerte, Wideline Pierre and Milouse Sylfrard are celebrated for their contributions to empowering Haiti. Their strength and determination serves as a testament to the unbreakable spirit of Haitian women throughout history.

Dr. Bertrhude Albert is a Haitian American historian and educator dedicated to fighting for the liberation of Haitian people. She has a Ph.D in Agricultural Education from the University of Florida and runs a Fort Lauderdale based non-profit, P4H Global, that she founded to train teachers across Haiti. “This time we are not fighting to break shackles that bind our hands and feet, but rather the shackles that bind our minds, and prohibit us from developing.”

When it comes to advocating for the fight of the canal and Haitians at the border, Wideline Pierre is undoubtedly one of the strongest voices as spokesperson for the canal committee. Wideline is an architect and the former Departmental Director of the Northeast Ministry of Environment. “The farmers began work on the canal August 30th with the civil society of Ouanaminthe providing its solidarity on September 6th. The main canal is to be built over a length of 2.6 KM that will to transport water to the Maribaroux plain facing droughts.”

Santia McKoy
Santia McKoy for 37 Magazine.

Milouse Sylfrard is one of the women who have been working tirelessly in the trenches of the canal; hands covered in dirt and calloused from the manual labor. With over ten years of experience as a professional mason bricklayer, she has been working alongside Haitian men and women in building the canal to bring about change. The gown features a picture of her confidently holding her trowel, symbolizing the certainty of the construction’s completion. “The situation of our country is critical. We have to put our bare hands to work to get the canal done so that our country has food.”

Singer Anie Alerte is one of the Haitian artists who has been vocal about the irrigation canal, using her voice to champion the cause of the workers involved in the construction. She recently visited the workers at the canal and called them her hero. During her visit, in cooperation with Michel Hilaire of CISC Canada, she donated 1 million goud in equipment and three months of food for the workers.⁠

Security measures for the canal and safeguards for the personnel working there are equally crucial. Haitians support the dedicated citizens who are resisting to surrender, working diligently and refusing to quit. They view this movement as a patriotic act that deserves ongoing aid and supervision. Brigade of Surveillance of Protected Areas (BSAP Agents) are stationed on both the Dominican and Haitian sides of the island and have faced many challenges to ensure smooth operations.

Santia McKoy
Santia McKoy for 37 Magazine.

By incorporating elements of her country’s culture and history into her creations, Santia is able to showcase the rich cultural tapestry of Haiti. As the island of Haiti observes Battle of Vertières Day, we are reminded of the indomitable spirit of a nation that has overcome countless obstacles throughout its storied history. November 18, 1803 marked the initial occasion of a slave army orchestrating a triumphant revolution in the history of mankind. The Battle of Vertières holds a special place in the hearts of Haitians as they remember the sacrifices of their ancestors and celebrate their hard-fought freedom.

Santia’s dedication to her homeland is evident in her art and advocacy, recognizing the opportunity she has to stand up for her country. In the face of historical and contemporary challenges, the active participation of remarkable women like Dr. Bertrhude Albert, Anie Alerte, Wideline Pierre, Milouse Sylfrard and Santia McKoy are essential to rekindle hope in this nation. Their work honors the past, raises awareness of critical Haiti issues and inspires positive change for the future. Their activism reaffirms that Haiti is, and will forever be, a resilient nation that is prepared to tackle any obstacles on its path forward.

Fashion has always been a powerful form of self-expression and it can also be a platform for social change. Santia partnered with Ernst Ministry to provide assistance to Haiti via a fashion show. The proceeds from the event were dedicated to the canal, offering tangible support to a cause that holds immense significance for the Haitian people. This collective effort is a testament to the determination of the Haitian community, both at home and abroad. “Together we hope to make a real impact on the lives of those affected by the ongoing canal dispute.”

To view Santia McKoy’s full fashion collection, visit

To order a copy of this issue in print please click here.

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Further reading on our sister magazine, Breakaway Magazine. Haitian Designer Santia McKoy Is Raising Awareness of the Haiti Crisis.


Written by 37 Magazine

37 Magazine writes thought-provoking stories that transcend boundaries, providing transformative viewpoints on change and progress. Through an international readership of millions, every story empowers readers interested in gaining a wider outlook on life through diverse voices.

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