Archive for the ‘An n’ Pale’ Category

Archive: FOKAL and Parc de Martissant : An Urban Success Written by Joel Dreyfuss


FOKAL and Parc de Martissant : An Urban Success

By Joel Dreyfuss

Photo by Yvens Rumbold & Lucie Couet of FOKAL

Photo by Yvens Rumbold & Lucie Couet of FOKAL

How do you create a green space in an overpopulated city with a severe shortage of infrastructure? The leadership of FOKAL offered an answer that could be characterized as both unusual and refreshing at an event hosted by Haiti Cultural Exchange at Brooklyn Borough Hall on November 18, 2013. FOKAL , a national foundation that has worked in Haiti since 1995, defines its focus as creating agents of change through children, youth, civil society and the marginalized. The acronym stands for fondasyon konesens ak libète.

Michèle Pierre-Louis, FOKAL’s president and a former Haitian prime minister, Lorraine Mangonès, the executive director, and Thierry Chérizard, chargé de mission, presented a progress report on the foundation’s effort to create the first intentional green space in Port-au-Prince. The session was moderated by New York-based architect Rodney Leon, who recently won the competition to design a memorial to the slave trade at the headquarters of the United Nations.

The FOKAL team explained that it was asked by the Haitian government to develop and manage Le Parc de Martissant, which encompasses 17 hectares (42 acres) of land in a ZAC (zone d’aménagement concerté), an urban development zone of 30,000 residents in a poor neighborhood of the city. The park is anchored in the south of the city by the historic Habitation Leclerc, presumably the property at one time of Napoleon’s sister, Pauline Bonaparte. The property more recently belonged to African-American dance anthropologist Katherine Dunham, who ran an inn and a school of Haitian dance. The property also had brief international renown in the 1970s as a resort and playground for the rich and famous.

FOKAL has instituted programs in waste collection for the zone and health care for local residents. A visually-appealing new community center on the grounds has been named for Dunham and a botanical garden of medicinal plants has also been created. FOKAL has been granting academic scholarships to the best students in the zone since 2008 and more than 100 students now have their tuition paid by the foundation.

FOKAL has developed a process of regular consultations with local residents, who make great use of the park. Pierre-Louis says the project has received strong support from President Martelly, who has expanded the property beyond its original boundaries and urged FOKAL to develop a training program in environmental sciences. She also says the park has been embraced and protected by its community; one example: the grounds were left intact after the earthquake although nearly every open space in Port-au-Prince was invaded by squatters.

However, Pierre-Louis also indicated that FOKAL is seeking an exit strategy from Le Parc de Martissant. She is hopeful that the site can begin generating some revenue and move toward sustainability. FOKAL is looking for support in the Haitian Diaspora for a project that is real, succeeding and very visible.

View photos from HCX Public Forum | Martissant Park on November 18th at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

The FOKAL Website: In English or In French

Le Parc de Martissant Website

Contact Joel Dreyfuss at

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Archive: An n’ Pale with Storyteller Charlot Lucien, October 27, 2013



A l’Orale, by Jocelyn McCalla

The ability to tell stories without sacrificing the minute details and the nuance that bring characters and situations to life is a rare gift. Charlot Lucien’s keen observations of life in Haiti and the Diaspora were brought vividly to the fore this afternoon at the latest An n’ Pale conversation held by Haiti Cultural Exchange. For this performance, Lucien teamed up with Marc Mathelier on the acoustic guitar. We followed Mme Lefranc through her trials and tribulations in Cambridge, experienced the wisdom on Sonson Moun Fou and many other characters… stories meant to delight yet to inform action… great stories that build community and that deserve a broader audience. Lucien has three CDs of storytelling under his belt… at $12 each, they make a wonderful holiday gift. Check out his website: Tell him J. sent you.

via Richard Louissaint

HCX carries Charlot’s books and CDs at our Boutik, 558 St. Johns Place.  Call us at 347-565-4429 to schedule a visit!

Check out some pictures of the evening, courtesy of Richard Louissaint. 


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Archive: HCX Collaboration | Salon d’Haïti: A Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend Event




It took a few minutes for the crowd to quiet down on September 21, 2013 as Régine M. Roumain, Executive Director of Haiti Cultural Exchange (HCX), stepped to the podium to introduce herself and welcome everyone to the event. After all, it was clear that people were excited. They were gathered at FiveMyles Gallery in Crown Heights for Salon D ‘Haïti, a special Bookend Event leading up to the official Brooklyn Book Festival, featuring two special guests: Elsie Augustave (author of The Roving Tree) and Edwidge Danticat (author of Claire of the Sea Light). The afternoon began with individual conversations with each author, moderated by Alice Backer, editor of Kiskeácity Daily, a daily edition of articles, blog posts and media by bloggers and journalists of Haitian descent. Alice delved right in, asking Elsie if she had all Haitians in mind when writing The Roving Tree. It seemed in Alice’s opinion that the life of Elsie’s main character Iris could easily serve as a metaphor for the experience of Haitians living abroad. Not surprisingly, Elsie’s response was reminiscent of the presence that she seemed to exude naturally: reflective, poised and well-collected. She explained that she drew from, not just her own experiences, but also from those of the people around her. She stressed that the Haitian experience is so varied in so many ways, from the different types of prejudices lived by Haitians, all the way to some of the younger generation of Haitians who know so little of the language or the culture, and who seem to shy away from it. Every question was met with an equally in-depth and insightful response. She engaged the audience with her thoughts on Haitian folklore and how it heavily influenced her prose. People were riveted by her quiet, yet powerful, recounting of being so haunted by the story she had to tell, comprised of years of sleepless nights and characters popping up unexpectedly. When Alice asked, “What did it take? What did it take to write such a compelling [debut] novel?”, Elsie kindly yet emphatically reminded the crowd of one of the most important traits one must have in order to achieve anything: “A lot of determination and more determination and more determination.”  The excerpt that Elsie chose to read spoke not only to this determination, but also to a commitment to create a story that is wholly thought-provoking while allowing readers the space to insert a piece of themselves into a narrative that so closely mirrors their own experience.

The afternoon continued with Edwidge Danticat, a woman whose bevy of accomplishments and long-standing reputation in the literary community as one of the most talented Haitian-American authors, barely need an introduction. To hear Edwidge speak is to get a glimpse inside a mind that is so keen and so aware, that you can’t help but get completely drawn into her words. Alice began by asking Edwidge why she chose to write about a fictional town. The crowd broke out in laughter as Edwidge confessed that, when one writes about a real place, people will ultimately ask, “O, kote sa??” or “Kote mache a??” — “Where is that??” or “Where’s the market??” — invariably questioning the accuracy of her story. She continued to answer questions just as seamlessly, weaving the crowd in and out of her thoughts on: the sense of timelessness she feels whenever she visits Haiti and how she incorporated that into her new novel; the way in which she pokes fun at herself in referencing the discomfort of the Haitian Djaspora (Diaspora); and the idea of some things existing simultaneously, like Life and Death in her new novel Claire of the Sea Light, a cycle that truly never ends. Eventually Edwidge was posed with, “Why? Why write such an unconventional novel?” to which she unabashedly replied, “You have to ultimately write what’s important to you.” It was clear from the quiet murmur that quickly spread through the crowd that for many, her words had hit close to home, and struck a nerve. “Passion”, she stated. “We all should do what we do with the most passion in our hearts.” Her words, far from sounding preachy, instead came off with a sincerity and humility that is often so rare when it comes to those with as much influence and staying power as Edwidge. As she went on to quietly read an excerpt from her new novel, Claire of the Sea Light, the crowd was silent, drinking in her words and taking in every sound, as if they were starkly aware of the fleeting nature of the moment.

The event ended with a Q&A session followed by a book signing, during which audience members asked thoughtful questions and were able to engage more directly with Elsie and Edwidge. Long after applause had died down and long lines to meet Elsie and Edwidge had dwindled, people still lingered, to chat, to catch up and to meet other kindred spirits. This was a testament to the profound impact that HCX continues to have on the community– by allowing community members the opportunity to engage with Haitian artists and change makers on a very real and intimate level.

By Wynnie Lamour, HCX supporter and founder of the Haitian Creole Institute of NY

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Archive: An n’ Pale | Café Conversation with musician and archivist Georges Vilson, An n’ Pale|Café Conversations


Georges Vilson


After a brief summer hiatus, An n’ Pale returned in September with Haitian musician and archivist of traditional folk and Vodou music, Georges Vilson.  Georges grew up in a family which valued Haitian culture and its musical traditions. His mother ignited his passion by immersing him in a magical world of music, replete with Creole lullabies, traditional folk, and classical and religious hymns. Early on, she recognized his musical gift and nurtured his vocal and musical talents. His latest work, KANDELAB 101: Notated Haitian Folks and Vodou Songs Volume 1, along with a 4 CD box set, is the culmination of years of work to ensure that these songs are preserved for future generations.

The conversation was led by Executive Director, Régine M. Roumain who inquired about George’s influences, the process of collecting and archiving hundreds of songs, the stigmatization of Vodou, and the role that the Diaspora should play in helping to maintain our cultural traditions.

Speaking to the climate of folk music in Haiti, Vilson described his interaction with youth in Port-au-Prince and how little they knew of these cultural treasures.  Vilson has invested himself in making sure that this music is archived and available for younger generations to learn and he often travels to conduct workshops on the subject.

Georges described his attempt to capture some of the nuances in Haitian Vodou music that are tied to specific regions of Haiti — his journey to Fonds des Blancs where he had to wait until night had fallen for the townsfolk to share their stories, meeting with ougans in the lakous all over the country. He also described his work to bring these songs and stories to children in Haiti.

The conversation was followed by questions and comments from the audience – what is the impact of negative perceptions of Vodou in Port-au-Prince, a city often considered the country’s cultural center? Will Vodou traditions be lost?  How do we work to ensure that they are preserved? Does one have to practice and believe in order to appreciate?

In his responses, we could see the sort of side-smiling laugh of a knowing man. Vodou is not going anywhere, Georges said. And he’s right, the culture and beliefs will be carried on as long as the drum beats.

The conversation was lively and could have gone on for hours… but, the music was calling us.  What followed was a 30 minute set of Ibo, Nago, & Rara rhythms with Georges on vocals, Chico Boyer on bass, and Jean Mary Brignol on drums.  Dancing ensued and a good time was had by all.

Thank you Georges!

KANDELAB 101 is available for purchase at the HCX Boutik, 558 St. Johns Place in Brooklyn.  Call 347-565-4429 to make an appointment to visit.

Check out some photos from the evening here!  

Thank you to photographers Tequila Minsky & Jocelyn McCalla.

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