On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, news outlet created to inform Haitian community

Live on air on Nov. 1, 2019, in the Salisbury studio Donna Hanlin, left, sits with Mivida Domercant, center, and Frederick Briggs, chief academic officer for Wicomico County public schools. ( Lucas Gonzalez//The Daily Times via AP)
Live on air on Nov. 1, 2019, in the Salisbury studio Donna Hanlin, left, sits with Mivida Domercant, center, and Frederick Briggs, chief academic officer for Wicomico County public schools. ( Lucas Gonzalez//The Daily Times via AP) (Lucas Gonzalez/AP)

SALISBURY, Md. (AP) — From the outside, suite 502 of One Plaza East in Salisbury looks like any other office space.

But for some residents of the community on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the small operation is their primary source of information about the community.


Wozo Marketing Group, a Salisbury-based multimedia business and marketing agency, produces content geared toward the Haitian community, a large minority group in Wicomico County.

Unlike other local news outlets, Wozo delivers the news both in English and in Haitian Creole, one of the official languages of Haiti.

According to 2017 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 1,967 people reporting Haitian ancestry who live in Salisbury. That number grew from about 963 since 2010, data show.

Mivida Domercant, office director for Wozo, said linguistic and cultural barriers make settling in the U.S. a daunting experience for many.

"When they first come to the states ... they don't know what to do or they are afraid," she said. "With this show, I can help people in the community."

Wozo Co-founder and CEO Roosevelt Pierre said the company was established after he emigrated from Haiti in 2005. When he arrived in Salisbury, he realized there were no local media outlets that distributed news in a language most Haitians could understand.

Since many Haitian locals don't speak English or have an advanced education, according to Pierre, they cannot consume English language media, leaving them clueless as to what's happening in the community.

"Wozo Marketing Group is an agency that we built to help our community," Pierre said. "We, as people who have (an) education, are here to help them out."

As a show host for Radio Tele Wozo — the company's broadcast service — Domercant educates viewers on public issues and American customs. Wozo also covers politics, religion, finance and other topics.

The idea for Domercant's program, "Tranzisyon Show," came to her as she was writing a travel guide to assist newly settled immigrants. The desire to help others, which inspired the show, continues to motivate her each day, she said.

"I always want to share my knowledge," she said. "I think this is the main reason why I do that kind of show."

In a recent episode, Domercant welcomed representatives from the Wicomico County Board of Education to the studio.

Superintendent Donna Hanlin and Chief Academic Officer Frederick Briggs answered questions about the board's function, navigating the educational system and issues involving the district and schools at large.

Hanlin commended Wozo's efforts and emphasized the importance of being connected with the Haitian community, which she described as "a growing segment of our school population."


"Sometimes we make assumptions that our community understands and knows what our daily business is here," Hanlin said. "A big takeaway was not to take anything for granted, not to make those assumptions and the importance of communicating the very basics about what's our purpose as a school system and learning better ways to communicate."

When Wozo isn't live streaming, the company provides marketing consultation and other services to promote success within the Haitian community.

Fritz Jeudy, Wozo co-founder and Radio Tele Wozo chief marketing officer, said his department aims to connect with other ethnic groups so the company can serve them as well.

"We want this TV station to be for everyone — not exclusively for Haitian people," Jeudy said.

In addition to educating the community, Jeudy said Wozo seeks to make people more open to unfamiliar cultures.

Jeudy recalls reading a book that read, "success works together with an open mind." To him, that means to thrive in today's world, people should work with one another.

When people open their minds and allow others in, Jeudy believes they will be stronger together. That mindset is perhaps best verbalized through Wozo Marketing Group's company motto: "Nou pliye men nou pap janm kase," which roughly translates to "we bend but we will never break."

Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., http://www.delmarvanow.com/