Judith Clerjeune

Judith Clerjeune

I was born in Fond-Des-Blanc, a small town on the southern coast of Haiti. My early days were painted with vibrant colors and the comforting sounds of the sea. My community was at the heart of everything, where names were familiar and connections ran deep. 

In the summer of 2004, my father got the opportunity to come study in the states and was lucky and blessed to be able to bring us along and have our family remain together. On August 6, 2004, we boarded a plane bound for Atlanta, Georgia, where a  family friend welcomed us. The experience was a whirlwind of emotions — my first flight, a foreign language, and my father only knowing a few English words. It’s a memory that’s both hazy and vivid, an integral part of my narrative and immigrant experience.

Today, Nashville is my home. Over 12 years, I’ve witnessed the growth and challenges of the Haitian community, striving to find our place in this evolving city. As the Campaign and Advocacy Director for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), I’m dedicated to ensuring immigrants and refugees have a voice in shaping our future. 

While my advocacy for immigrants is unwavering, freedom to thrive eludes us. Immigrant communities work tirelessly, yet visible and invisible barriers persist. Exploitation, discrimination, and systemic injustices weigh heavily. Thriving remains a collective goal and is only achievable through dismantling these barriers. Oftentimes people are driven out of their home countries by violence or political instability. Immigrants who come seeking asylum are held in limbo for years, not knowing what the future holds. Others work tirelessly, capitalism exploiting every ounce of their energy, unable to meet the vision and hope they had when they came to this country. 

I yearn for the day when we are able to thrive in a society where we are not persecuted due to religion, gender, or whatever it may be. I believe there are moments of joy, growth, and progression throughout. However, I think across the board, we can’t say we are thriving until we are all actually able to have our basic needs met and have the safety all humans deserve. 

Thriving isn’t just personal success — it’s collective well-being. It’s a web of interconnected lives where one person’s freedom contributes to the prosperity of the broader community. We thrive when we all do. It’s fighting for a better world and a better community, driven by a deep love for ourselves and each other.

If there’s one thing I want people to know about immigrants, it’s our passion. From all backgrounds, we share a fervor for a better life — for our families, children, and the pursuit of freedom and equality. Our stories are woven with determination, bound by the aspiration for a brighter future. The experiences of my community, as well as the stories of other immigrant communities, always sit close to my heart.