Archive for the ‘An n’ Pale’ Category

Archive: An n’ Pale | Café Conversation with Emeline Michel



The iconic Emeline Michel joined HCX for our An n’ Pale| Café Conversation on a rainy December evening where over 80 guests gathered to hear about her life’s work. Emeline was calm and composed, exuding an air of familiarity and friendliness as Executive Director Régine M. Roumain and the audience posed questions about her progression from church choir singer to international Haitian songstress.

Describing an early life full of music, Emeline recounted the transition from singing in her local church to hearing herself on the radio. The audience seemed particularly interested in how Emeline understood herself as a celebrity in Haiti and its Diaspora while attaining such cross-over appeal.

“[You must] understand what you owe when you have a mind.” Emeline, in one profound moment offered her opinion on the source of her dynamism as a performer, citing the importance and power of what we put out there, particularly when one has the added weight of celebrity.

This is something Emeline most definitely abides by. As the conversation continued, she described the numerous projects that she has become involved in during her career. Two of these include using the arts to foster creativity for incarcerated women and at-risk youth.

Emeline was asked about her own path to success as not only a Haitian musician, but a female one at that. She understood her family’s support was critical to her achievements, as well opportunities to study and obtain the training she needed as a musician. Emeline’s advice to emerging musicians? Do the footwork, find out who is on the music scene, and understand who you are as a musician. “You don’t sing because it’s pretty, you sing because there’s something burning inside you.”

One distinctive marker of Michel’s career is her continued support of young and emerging artists entering the performing arts scene in Haiti. Michel has been working with a group of men and women through workshops at FOKAL and allowing these talented young vocalists to open for her concerts in Haiti. This presented another important aspect of building a career as a Haitian musician – sharing the limelight as a way to bring us all up together.

At the end of the conversation and animated Q & A session, Emeline graced us all with a few songs including her hit “Mèsi Lavi” from her latest album Quintessence and a touching tribute to the late leader and activist Nelson Mandela, “Beni Yo,” accompanied by the internationally-acclaimed guitarist Makarios Césair.

Purchase Emeline’s latest CD Quintessence on Itunes or Amazon.

Take a look at a few photos from the evening here.

Posted in An n' Pale, Archive, Events, HCX Programs, Music, Public Forums | No Comments »

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

Posted in An n' Pale, Archive, Events, HCX Collaborations, HCX Programs, Public Forums, Uncategorized | No Comments »

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. 


Posted in An n' Pale, Archive, Events, HCX Programs, Literature, Public Forums, Theater | No Comments »

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

Posted in An n' Pale, Archive, Events, HCX Collaborations, HCX Programs, Literature, Public Forums, Weekend | No Comments »

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