By Pierre Richard Arty
He is driving on Church Avenue in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York, during the busiest time of the day. It is late afternoon, rush hour to millions of Brooklynites heading home after a long day’s work. He is one of several TapTap drivers, often-uninsured individuals who have taken upon them the responsibility to answer the need for a quick – and hopefully safe –transportation for the hundreds of people trying to get home after exiting from various subway stations. They are heading to a place where the inhabitants look like they do, speak the same language, cook and eat food that reaffirms who they are after being with outsiders for most of their day.
These days, the inhabitants are mostly West Indian, coming from various Caribbean islands such as Haiti, Trinidad, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Barbados. They even hail from places in Central America and South America, such as Panama and Guyana, respectively. But it wasn’t always like this. Immigrants made up of Jews and Italians populated this area during the post-World War II period. In the 1960’s, African Americans were the dominant group. Now, these inhabitants, made up of mostly those from the Caribbean, are struggling to get home to be with their families.
He also knows that the buses that carry them home never arrive promptly. And even if they do, they are often overcrowded with strangers standing closer to one another than they would like to be, especially after a long day’s work. With these thoughts in mind, he is encouraged by the fact that he is performing a very important function. He knows that he does not have the license to do this and the police frequently stop his fellow TapTap drivers after their cars are filled with passengers. But no amount of summonses has been able to stop these drivers from fulfilling their roles. Besides, it was good money. Why should the city make that money?
He has two children and a wife that he left almost four years ago in Cap-Haitien, a large city in the north coast of Haiti. He works hard so that he can save enough money to bring them to America. The pictures of his children, a girl 6 and the boy 7, are taped onto the dashboard of his car. He thinks of them throughout the day, but especially at night as he tries to sleep in the little apartment on Beverly Road that he shares with several of his cousins from Trou-Du-Nord, a town northeast of Cap-Haitien.