Saturday, May 1, 2021

What "Zoe" REALLY Means As An Informal Referent For Haitians & Where Did That Referent Come From?

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a three part pancocojams series about the word "Zoe" as an infomal referent for Haitians. 

This post presents excerpts from several online sources about the word "Zoe" as an informal referent for Haitians.

Click for Part II of this pancocojams series. Part II showcases the official YouTube video of Black Dada's 2008 record "Imma Zoe". That pancocojams post also presents some biographical information about Black Dada and includes selected comments from that YouTube video's discussion thread. Many of those comments include the informal Haitian referent "Zoe".

Click Part III of this pancocojams post presents information about Brooklyn's annual West Indiand Day Parade. This post also showcases a YouTube video of the 2019 Brooklyn, New York's West Indian Labor Day parade that features a Haitian music truck and a huge crowd of paraders. Selected comments from several discussion threads of YouTube videos that focus on Haitian paraders during the Brooklyn West Indian Labor Day parade are also included in this post. Many of those comments include the word "Zoe" as a referent for Haitians.

The Addendum to Part III presents information about Haitian Rara processions, as Rara has greatly influenced the way that Haitians participate in the anual Brooklyn, New York West Indian Day Parade. 

The content of this post is presented for linguistic and socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

I'm not of Haitian descent, and therefore I'm not a Zoe. Also, I've never been to Miami, Florida or any other part of Florida where the "Zoe" referent for Haitians was coined. Also, I'm not aware if I've ever met anyone who is from Haiti or who is of Haitian descent, although it's very likely that some African Americans I know or have met have some Haitian ancestry. 

I didn't know that "Zoe" is a referent for Haitians until I happened upon that word used that way yesterday (May 1, 2021) while reading some YouTube discussion threads about Haitian konpa music. 

My search for information about that use of the word "Zoe" eventually led me to a YouTube video of Black Dada's  2008 song "Imma Zoe". That video is showcased in Part II of this pancocojams series. As a result of that video, I now know that, when it is used as a referent for Haitians, the word "Zoe" is pronounced to rhyme with the English word "toe".

I'm still not clear if "Zoe" refers only to Haitian Americans or Haitians regardless of where they live/d. I also am not clear as to whether "Zoe" is a referent that is actually used now or was ever used in Haiti. (It seems clear that that referent originated in Miami, Florida as a result of its use by the Zoe Pound gang). That said, while "Zoe" as a referent for Haitians can be credited to the Zoe Pound gang, the use of that term as a self-referent and as a group referent doesn't have to have anything to do with the Zoe Pound gang. The descriptions of the Zoe Pound gang are given without any comments from me. I'm sure that there are people who disagree with these descriptions. (Note that the article excerpts that are featured in this pancocojams post give different dates for when the Zoe Pound gang was founded.)

These excerpts are given in no particular order. 

Numbers are given for referencing purposes only.

Additions and corrections are welcome about the referent "Zoe" and about "Zoe Pound", including when and why that gang was started.


Excerpt #1

[Pancocojams Editor's Note: comments sometimes include profanity and sexually explicit referents. Those comments aren't given in this excerpt, but are on the pages of this discussion. The numbers given for these comments in this pancocojams post don't correspond to the numbers the comments have in that discussion.] 

1. Posted byu/Docto_ace, 2020
"Why do Haitian people call themselves zoe?


I hear that word a lot when Haitian people be talking to each other. what does it mean?"

2. YoMojoMoe, 2020
"Zoe means bone in Creole. Bones are tough and hard to break, similar to Haitian people. Tough and hard to break"

3. ProfessionalCouchPot, 2020
"It’s a pride thing that started with Zoe Pound in Florida. The Zoes came up from Haitians to protect Haitians. Eventually the name stuck when the Zs started making noise."

Zoe is an anglicized version of zo which means bone in Kreyol.

But if they speaking straight Kreyol they could literally be referring to bones.

L’Union Fait La Force 😤🇭🇹"
Google translate from French to English

"Unity Makes Strength 😤🇭🇹"

Excerpt #2:
From Zoe Pound Miami[No date given or author credited;  retrieved on May 1, 2021]
"The Zoe Pound, originally from the Little Haiti area of Miami, Florida, is a Haitian gang born in 1992. Many of its affiliates considered it to be a social initiative aimed at protecting young Haitians from other ethnic groups. In reality, its members almost immediately began dealing with the sourcing and distribution of narcotics, quickly turning the gang into a drug cartel.

As the years went by, the Zoe Pound also began accepting an increased number of members. At some point, roughly 25,000 people had sworn allegiance to the gang in Miami alone.  Throughout the nation, more than 50,000 individuals wore the gang’s colors and collaborated with the gang in some way.

According to former members, national pride has always played a major role in defining the association’s modus operandi and way of life. Some would tell of colorful spectacles taking place outside of schools and other important buildings throughout the Greater Miami area.  Decorated with Haitian flags and lavish accessories, vehicles would parade in front of exits, give out candies and subtly conduct recruiting campaigns”…

Excerpt #3
From,History,easy%20money%20committing%20criminal%20acts. [No date given or author credited;  retrieved on May 1, 2021]
"Zoe Pound was founded in the 1980s in the Little Haiti section of Miami, Florida by a small group of Haitian immigrant youths who were tired of being attacked by mainly African Americans and a small amount of Hispanics. It started as a way for the Haitian youths to protect themselves from African Americans but turned into something much larger. Zoe Pound is currently one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in the East Coast. However the inception of the gang served as a pivotal factor in promoting Haitian pride among South Florida's youth. In fact prior to the introduction of Zoe Pound into the American fiber, many Haitian-American youth denied their heritage in fear of persecution. Zoe Pound would put on grande spectacles at various High Schools in the Greater Miami area just as school was letting out. These spectacles consisted of leagues of old school Chevys also known as "Dunks" (covered with candy paint, with oversized rims and bearing massive Haitian flags). These events were somewhat legendary and in many ways displayed the kind of pride that Haitians everywhere should have in themselves and their heritage. Before long Haitian youths all over South Florida started wearing Haitian bandanas with pride. Due to the extreme secrecy of the organization, not much is known about the groups chapters outside of the United States (Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, France, United Kingdom, West Africa, Brazil, Belize, and Canada) but great strides by law enforcement has been keeping the gangs main chapter in Miami, Florida in control post 2002, although MPD hints the group is still very active in and around South Florida including Miami.

There is a rumor that has circulated around media circles for years, before any rap artist can shoot a video in Miami, they must get permission from the Zoe Pound. Several musicians have shouted out Zoe Pound in songs and music video including Lil Wayne, 50 cent, Tony Yayo, Gorilla Zoe, Rick Ross, Trick Daddy, Cam'ron, Pitbull, DJ Whoo Kid, Pastor Troy, Diddy, T.I., Jim Jones, Eminem, Jha Jha, Wyclef, Nu Jersey Devil, Young Jeezy, Lil Boosie, French Montana, 1017 Brick Squad, Young Money, Rum Squad,Haitian Fresh, Shawty Lo, Lupe Fiasco, Lil Durk, Future, and others."

Excerpt #4
by ♫ Highway to Hell ♫ December 22, 2009
" Zoe Pound

A very ruthless gang that originates with Haitians immigrants. It became an official recognized gang of killers around 1994-1995. They mostly reside in south Florida along with other foreign countries. They carry the symbol of the Haitian flag with them along with their Haitian pride. It is said that some Zoe Pound gang members use Voodoo to take people out. The word Zoe by itself means somebody that is of Haitian decent. A Zoe Pound gangster interviewed on the History Channel’s Gangland stated that there was Haitians with a pound of drugs and that's how the name Zoe Pound came about. Originally Zoe Pound was not a Haitian movement, but a "lick" (way to make easy money). Many Zoe Pound Members do not view themselves as gang members, but view themselves as a group standing up for their Haitian people. Many of them also believe that it is foolish to go around throwing up gang signs, and gang tattoos are not mandatory – most likely to keep their operations as secret as possible. The only colors they represent are the colors of their Haitian flag.

Past Zoe Pound activities have included: armed robbery, piracy, drug trafficking, and murder."

Excerpt #5
by KirbyM915 September 08, 2006
"zoe boy

A zoe boy is a real Haitian boy. If you are a Zoe boy, you dont take nothing from nobody, you work to earn your respect, you stay on your feet at all times, and you are more than proud to be Haitian. Everywhere you go, you show people your pride. Your first impression should always be that I am Haitian and I love it. You should never let anybody take your pride away from you. You should stand tall and represent your country anytime, anyplace, and anyhow. You should always think that your flag is the number one flag in the world. Let people know that we were the First Black Independent, and that every other black race comes after you!

Dat kid Kirby's a REAL Zoe Boy!"

Excerpt #6
From "In Little Haiti, Barbecue Is Part of History"

Bon Gout BBQ, in Miami, continues a culinary tradition and taps into the experience of Haitians in America.

By Dinkinish O’Connor, July 16, 2019

"MIAMI — Haitian restaurants bloomed here in the 1990s and 2000s as their reputations grew for serving ambrosial rice and bean platters at cheap prices.


Jean (B.J.) Lucel, an owner of Bon Gout BBQ in Little Haiti, was 5 when he emigrated from Port-au-Prince in 1986. “There were Haitian ‘jump days,’ when certain schools would jump Haitians. People were running and fighting,” said Mr. Lucel, 37.

Zoe Pound, a Haitian gang — Zoe derives from zo, the Haitian Creole word for bone — is said to have emerged in the ‘90s as a reaction to those attacks. (Some Haitian-Americans refer to one another as Zoe, even if they’re not affiliated with the gang.)

Eventually, some of the people ridiculing Haitians became customers at the local restaurants. “You may not like Haitians,” said Mr. Lucel, “but you can’t deny our food.”


Pride runs deep in this culture set between two red, white and blue flags, even as Haitian-Americans feel their dignity is repeatedly challenged. President Trump, for one, last year used a vulgar epithet to describe Haiti and some African nations.

Is there healing in the sacred barbecue pit? As Mr. Lucel talked hopefully about Miami’s cultural unity, and how far Miami has come from those Haitian jump days, I pondered the Zoe references throughout the menu."...

This concludes Part I of this three part pancocojams series.

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