Archive for the ‘An n’ Pale’ Category

Resist & Restore. Lavi Miyò, A Work in Progress – by Jessica Tong, Programs and Outreach Coordinator

02.19.16

intro lavi miyo 1
moderators Lavi Miyo 3

This An n’ Pale took place on Friday, January 29th, 2016 at FiveMyles Gallery and was moderated by Jessica St. Vil & Shalomisrael Diggs of Kanu Dance Theater.

Section I. Birth/Naissance
“Everything has a beginning.  Everything must begin somewhere.  In vodou, life begins anew when a person engages in serious self-reflection ultimately leading them to devoting themselves to others, to prayer, to charity, to community, and to defending all of those things”

Section II. Life/Vie
“Everyday we face the trials and tribulations and through movement we each tell our individual stories.  The beauty is that there are commonalities in our struggle and the processes through which we achieve potential success.  That is the definition of community resistance.”

Section III. Death/Mort
“Although afro-traditions provide us with many beautiful things, they too are affected by the institutions that target the lives of black people daily.  Resistance and Resilience are not synonymous for being at PEACE.”

Section IV. Life-After/Au-delà
“Despite the things that exist to knock us down, we will live as long as living is possible.  Afro-traditions will remain relevant as long as there is a god, people to keep faith, and something to be liberated from.”

Click here to view photos from the event!

birth drumers lavi miyo pic

False Prophets, a poem – by Olivier Joseph

False prophets you are a paradox:
Preach harmonies but sing chaos
Promote peace but bring catastrophe

You, false prophets, make it so damn hard to be black in America.
But to carry Haiti’s story is no simple task but a privilege we gladly accept

You, false prophets, make it so damn hard to be black in America.
But to carry Haiti’s story is no simple task but a privilege we gladly accept

Things are changing.
Haiti is alive and fighting.

Fighting to open doors to reconnect with the broken history we left in 1804.
Because as beautiful as life is it is not without flaw.
So resist and restore to make our presence known, even if the world thinks us gone

Its fighting because we are the new generation of life reborn (here) to right your wrong.

Performers include:
Naomi Faith Fields
Olivier Joseph
Laurel O’Conner
Marla Robertson
Lenl Russel

Photo’s taken by:
Richard Louissaint
Keylah Mellon
Tequila Minsky
Claire J. Saintil-Van Goodman

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Gina Athena Ulysse Makes the Case for Why Haiti Needs New Narratives – by Manolia Charlotin

10.19.15

Gina Ulysse w:bookOn Saturday, September 19, as part of the Brooklyn Book Festival, Haiti Cultural Exchange hosted the formidable anthropologist and performance artist, Gina Athena Ulysse, to launch her book tour of the recently published Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle at the Brooklyn Public Library.

The event was a homecoming of sorts. When she migrated to New York City in 1978, her family passed the Brooklyn Public Library on the way to her grandmother’s house.

“Lakou Brooklyn, I’m right here!” Ulysse proclaims excitedly in her opening remarks.

Then she took the audience on a journey, from her Rock n’ Roll dreams to becoming a leading public scholar in the Haitian diaspora. Growing up in the 80s, a difficult time to be Haitian in the U.S., Ulysse had a goal — and she was defiant to the gender expectations set by her parents.

“It was the 1980s. I was an oddball. I loved Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, Cyndi Lauper, Eurythmics, U2 and the Rolling Stones. I was dreaming of becoming a rock star. My father wanted me to do the dishes…

Since I wasn’t averse to other chores, I asked why. ‘You’re a girl,’ he said. ‘So?’ I said back. ‘Your mother does the dishes,’ he said. ‘I am not your wife, I replied. ‘We don’t have a contract. And even she shouldn’t have to do your dishes.’

This, of course, made us enemies for weeks. Such answers were typical of me. They made me very un-Haitian and eventually marked me as the one who can’t keep her mouth shut and doesn’t care about the consequences of talking back. Click! Silence is a structure of power. Click!”

In the midst of laughter from the auditorium, Ulysse wraps her reading of this first essay.

“I became an academic; the next best thing,” she deadpans.

She became an academic to explain Haiti to people. But as a Haitian-American navigating the challenging terrain of learning a new culture, a new way to be in a new world, Ulysse had to define her identity on her terms.

“Haiti was my point of departure… and Haitians, have always been plural to me.”

This perspective would prove to be useful, and many times necessary, in her academic and media interventions.

“I was adamant about this book being in three languages because it needs to be accessible.”

Why Haiti Needs New Narratives opens with an essay published in Huffington Post (the day before the earthquake) about a major Hollywood movie.

“Avatar is not just another white-man-save-the-day movie. As a black woman and a cultural anthropologist born in Haiti, I had doubts about the depiction of race in the film…

The movements, setting, altar, offerings. Communion with nature. All beings are interconnected. The NaVi do not distinguish between themselves and their environment. We came back to the tree.

In Haitian Vodou ecology, trees have always been sacred. They are significant in rituals as they are inhabited by spirits. Rapid deforestation of the island has impacted worship. In overpopulated urban settings, practitioners are living in what one scholar recently referred to as ‘post-tree Vodou.’

…New age spirituality with its purported openness may incorporate some African based religious practices especially from Latin America, but (Haitian) Vodou remains stigmatized therein especially in interfaith circles. Although a growing number of initiates are whites, few multi-denominational churches dare to acknowledge it. Cultural specificities aside, Vodou shares core features spirits, nature, ceremonies and offerings — with other mystical religions. Avatar is a reminder of the hierarchy within alternative religions.”

But her analysis didn’t stop there.

“The clash of cultures and races is an easy way for moviemakers to explore personal transformation. In too many films, dark bodies have systematically been the catalyst for white salvation. Avatar forces us to confront these contradictions as we wait for the epic film that has yet to be made — one that tells the natives-meets-white-men story from their perspective.”

And that is the core of Ulysse’s argument for new and diverse narratives.

From there, the book delves into the aftermath of the earthquake, including inadequate distribution of aid, inhumane conditions suffered in makeshift tent encampments, violence against women, tumultuous elections and an insightful analysis of the corporate media’s negative portrayal of survivors.

“One of the reasons I’m interested in representation is… Haitians do speak for themselves.

She closes with the final essay in the book, “Loving Haiti Beyond the Mystique.”

“I grew up in a country that most of the world degrades and continues to dismiss because it is broken.

…When Haiti attempted to piece itself together two centuries ago, many among those in power at home and abroad took calculated steps to ensure that it would remain shattered. All of my life, I have lived various aspects of the shame of this heritage. I have also been continually reminded I was born in a small place that is devalued and is trampled upon precisely because of its weaknesses. I persevere holding on to knowing my little country dared. It dared to step out of line. It dared to stand up for itself. It dared to try to define itself. It dared.

In the last decade, while struggling to redefine myself in the all-too-hierarchical-world that is the academy, where you are only as good as the person you are better than, I have fought to dare, and not accept labels that were being thrown at me or etched onto me for others need me to fit into a category to be comfortable with me. I resist, insisting that Haiti needs new narratives to explicate its myriad contradictions.”

Click here to take a look at photos from the event.

This An n’ Pale | Café Conversation is a part of our Fall-Winter Season Programming: Revolisyon/Revolution.

For more information on upcoming events, visit: http://haiticulturalx.org/revolisyon

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A Little Meditation on Revolution and Liberty – A thematic statement by Gina Athena Ulysse

09.17.15

Gina w-Revolisyon logoOver the course of the 2015-2016 season, HCX will present a series of public programs around the theme Revolution/Liberty to foreground the revolutionary spirit of Haitian people and their continuous quest for liberty and autonomy. Through our signature An n’ Pale | Café Conversations, public forums, workshops, performances, and film screenings we seek to educate and engage diverse audiences while presenting original programming that showcase the multifaceted ways that artists, dancers, filmmakers, musicians, raconteurs and writers are deploying the concepts of revolution and liberty.

Our season-opening guest, author, scholar and performance artist, Gina Athena Ulysse, was gracious enough to write this piece for Haiti Cultural Exchange.  Read it and share!

A Little Meditation on Revolution and Liberty

If there were two words most emblematic of Haiti and Haitians, revolution and liberty would be my choices. One is our rightful claim to glory, a glory still denied, as pursuit of the other remains quite elusive. Overused terminologies, archaic narratives born of socially limited gazes ascribed to us, continue to fail to capture complexities that have always been ours. Revolution and liberty are not just part of our foundational scripts— a fundamental factor of global history, which ultimately forged reordering of humanity #1804— they are also a persistent common thread in our dailyness, expressive practices, which are in constant states of renewal. For us as a nation, a people diverse, an unevenly positioned part of a growing and overstretched diaspora lòt bò dlo, revolution and liberty have been discursive and practical blueprints integral to how we see, make and remake ourselves and our differences. Indeed, we can boldly assert that we hold near monopoly to unmatched creative survivalism. Yet, while we bled and gained our freedom from slavery, we certainly cannot claim to have ever possessed full liberty. The unfinished business of the revolution is a universal quest for blackness, a relic with too often fatal impact on a massive scale that is felt and lived every single moment of every day by one too many. We have become too intimate with struggle that has taken form in economic enslavement, occupations, dictatorships, exile, statelessness, faux performances of democracy, and torment. Indeed, we endure turbulent times inside and outside our borders and diasporas. These oppressive restrictions demand alerted and open consciousness, inventive and critical responses, strategies, and dedicated action. We have never been reducible to our conditions. We hold promise to achieving self-possession, pou nou vin mèt-tèt nou. It is in every breath that comes out of bodies pondering aspirations determined to tap into that revolutionary spirit to envision and chart new paths to fuller liberation.

On with our rasanblaj!

– Gina Athena Ulysse

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An n’ Pale | A talk with up and coming actress Natalie Paul by Jessica Tong, Programs & Outreach Coordinator

04.23.15

Natalie Paul Post

Born in Brooklyn, NY and raised between NYC and Haiti, Natalie has always had an interest in acting.  With the support of her parents, she received her undergraduate degree from Yale University and an MFA from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Acting Program.

The evening started off with a screening of Everything Absolutely, a short film written, directed, and staring Natalie.  Part of her final student project at NYU, the film tells the story of a day in the life of a young woman living in Brooklyn.  It depicts the silly, neurotic thoughts and tendencies of the mind and was Natalie’s first experience as both director and actor.  Speaking on the debut of her second short film Sweet Tea at Haiti Film Fest 2015, Natalie expressed how much she enjoyed being able to take a step back and explore a career in writing and directing:  “It’s very important not to edit yourself when it comes to new opportunities. Put out what you have!”

In 2014, Natalie was offered the opportunity to play the iconic role of Juliet in Romeo & Juliet at the Classical Theater of Harlem, receiving raving reviews on her performance. The actress then nabbed a role on the HBO hit series Boardwalk Empire as Beatrice Carson, a character based on the life of Eunice Carter, the first Black female District Attorney.  “Being on HBO is incredible!” said Natalie explaining the effect of the role on her acting career.  “As an actor, these things take time to build and HBO was a dream!  After all, I grew up in the HBO era where it was the network to watch.”  Continuing the momentum, Natalie will star in the upcoming HBO series Show Me A Hero, set to debut this fall.  Based on a true story, the mini-series takes place during the late 80’s and early 90’s in Yonkers, NY where she plays Doreen Henderson, a woman whose life is affected by the housing crisis.

The actress also volunteers her time at Hope on a String, a free school focused on teaching Performing Arts in Haiti, as her way of showing gratitude to her country and countrymen.

Closing the night off with some final words, Natalie shared some advice for those looking to break into the acting scene. “Being an actor is tough, but in that first breakthrough, you realize that someone else didn’t get that role. You have to come highly recommended.”

Beautiful and talented, Natalie Paul showed utter humility considering all she has accomplished and we in turn were pleased to have her participate in our An n’ Pale. No doubt you’ll be hearing much more about this gifted artist very soon!

This An n’ Pale | Café Conversation took place Thursday, April 23rd, 2015.

Click here to view photos from the event.

 

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