A meditation on Arts & Culture and my time at HCX – by Tassiana Larochelle, Fundraising Intern

“Self-doubt is probably one of the stages of acclimation in a new culture. It’s a staple for most artists… 

As immigrant artists, for whom so much has been sacrificed, so many dreams have been deferred, we already doubt so much. It might have been simpler, safer to have become the more helpful doctors, lawyers, engineers our parents wanted us to be. When our worlds are literally crumbling we tell ourselves how right they may have been, our elders, about our passive careers as distant witnesses.

Who do we think we are?”

Edwidge Danticat, Creating Dangerously, The Immigrant Artist at Work

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I had left a career in publishing after being reduced to tears in a movie theatre, watching Raoul Peck’s Fatal Assistance. I truly felt I had found my purpose and Haiti Cultural Exchange (HCX) seemed the perfect place to dive in. To be frank, I was unsure of what I could contribute to an arts organization. I have always had a political mind and wondered what benefits or role Haiti Cultural Exchange played apart from some adorning fluffy, lofty ideals that didn’t necessarily contribute to the struggle of my own people to affect change. Had I made the right decision? Should I have just gone to Law school? Surely that would have been more practical. Yet, like plunging into a calm and deep lake, the HCX experience would stir a quiet, profound, and very real change in me.

In working with HCX, I quietly observed the emotional rigor that went into organizing and bringing the community together. From Director Régine M. Roumain‘s agonizing over programming, to Programs and Outreach Coordinator, Jessica Tong‘s energetic zeal for getting the word out about our organization and events, to Development Manager Erika Pettersen‘s steely determination for gathering resources to keep those programs funded. I realized that they themselves were artists, each of them containing within, that characteristic discipline, sacrifice, and dedication that binds them to the work.

So, why HCX? Because it holds a space not only for artists to determine their own narratives but in placing these artists in non-artistic environments, they create a space for participants to recognize the more creative aspects of themselves. Thus recognizing themselves, their lives and circumstances in completely new contexts. It is a strategic use of arts & culture for people to understand their own power which is so vital on the road to policy shifts.

Why HCX? Because in light of the recent mass deportation attempts by its government to “socially cleanse” the Dominican Republic of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent, my own response to the injustice has shifted. I think of Yelaine Rodriguez, who in the last year, contacted HCX to support a show gathering 27 artist of both Haitian and Dominican heritage, that would explore the strained relationship between the two countries resulting in the “La Lucha” exhibit of earlier this year. I think of the people who came to see that exhibit and how they stood united against the efforts of pro-deportation Dominican protestors who tried to ruin the exhibit. I see the threat of creativity, I see the danger it poses, and I understand art as strategy, a practice, a lifestyle. I understand the individual and collective duty it has towards community. My reaction had shifted without my knowledge from anger to compassion in the critical sense.

Why HCX? Because, with every An’ n Pale, every Selebrasyon!, every Haiti Film Fest, Mizik Ayiti!, HCX said to me, to us, “Here’s what reality could mean; we could all be together in a different way, where there really is room to celebrate all of our cultures and appreciate our differences instead of fearing them. Where your story glamorous or fractured can be explored and reflected with dignity and respect.”

I have lived this practice, this reality, every week with co-workers and fellow interns of different and similar backgrounds. I have been in conversation with wondrous and magical thinkers who challenged me to be less obtuse, to appreciate the intrinsic value of culture, history, opinions, dialogue, collaboration, positivity, creativity, and integrity— all nouns, coincidently, that form part of HCX’s mission statement. Though I leave in my capacity as an intern/staff member — I am now and will remain an ambassador for HCX and its mission.

 

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 8th, 2015 at 6:30 pm and is filed under Archive, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.