MIAMI, Florida – Miami Dade’s Office of Community Advocacy joins the community as they mourn the death of prominent Haitian leader and human rights advocate Jean-Robert Lafortune who died on Oct. 15, 2019 after a long, chronic illness at the age of 63.
“I am saddened by Mr. LaFortune’s passing. He dedicated his life to being the voice of the disenfranchised and low-income people,” Miami-Dade County Commissioner Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson said. “He had the ability to work with the diverse communities which make up our County and he always tried to reach understanding and cooperation among them.”
Jean-Robert Lafortune was born in Haiti, but due to President François Duvalier’s dictatorship, he was forced to move from Haiti to Costa Rica where he lived for a year as a political asylee. He studied philosophy and math at the I”nstituto Formacion Prodesional del Magisterio” in San Jose. Later he immigrated to the United States in 1980 and attended Miami Dade College and Florida International University, earning a graduate degree in Public Administration and International Development Education. After serving as the Assistant Director at Ideal Vocational School for seven years, Lafortune spent most of his professional years working for Miami-Dade County Government. He held positions as a community organizer and the Citizen Participation Division Director.
“Lafortune was locally and nationally known for his hard work towards improving the quality of life of our County residents, as well as his long-term advocacy for immigrants’ rights,” said Commissioner Jean Monestime. “It has been an honor for me to have served as a member under his leadership as Chairman of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition; he will be greatly missed as his service to the community is irreplaceable.”
Lafortune was appointed by then Congresswoman Carrie P. Meek to head a major initiative to help get residency status for 50,000 Haitian nationals in the United States. He was a key figure generating a groundswell to get the Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act, HRIFA, passed by the United States Congress in 1998. Lafortune worked collaboratively with both Democrat and Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Congress in order for HRIFA to pass.
In the Presidential elections of 2013, when he suspected that the Florida elections were heading for a meltdown, Lafortune, under the advisement of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition sent communications to then Florida Governor Rick Scott to extend the elections days to allow every eligible Floridian to vote.
Also, in 2013, he received a Miami-Dade County Public Schools proclamation referring to him as a hero for the volunteer work that he had performed to uplift the Haitian Community in South Florida and the nation. He was also recognized by Florida Senator Bill Nelson for making a profound difference in his community and the State of Florida.
In 2003, he was recognized by the Miami Dade County United Way as being 10 professionals who had made profound impact in South Florida. He also received several awards and recognitions. In 2003, he was named Social Worker of the Year by the Miami-Dade County Social Workers Association. In 2002, he was named Employee of the Year by the Community Action Agency. In 2000, he was recognized by the 2000 Census for his relentless efforts to get Haitians counted as he held multiple free of charge workshops and training to help low-income residents fill out the Census forms properly.
Lafortune held lectures at several universities in the State of Florida, New Jersey, and the Caribbean to brief scholars on the Haiti problematic. He advised U.S Policymakers on issues related to Haitian Migration and Haiti Policies that impact the State of Florida.
His wake will take place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 25 at Fulford United Methodist Church, 1960 NW 164th Street, North Miami Beach, FL 33162. The funeral services will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26 at Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church, 110 NE 62nd Street, Miami, FL 33138. The final resting place will be at noon on Oct. 26 at Fred hunters Hollywood Memorial Gardens. The repast is at 2 p.m. on Oct. 26 at Courtyard Marriott, 400 Gulf Stream Way, Dania, FL 33004.