Archive for the ‘Archive’ Category

Sherley Davilmar and the Flatbush Community: “How Desensitized Are We?”

10.26.16

by Marie Antoine, HCX Fundraising Intern.

As a Lakou Nou artist-in-residence in the Flatbush community, Sherley Dalvimar organized a three-part workshop series created to raise awareness of social issues faced in the black community including gentrification, wellness and the assault on black bodies as it manifests in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Part One:

Part one of the series dealt with beauty, health and wellness in an interactive workshop that included a zumba, yoga and Haitian dance session as well as a panel discussion and hair styling demonstration. Children and adults alike learned to make their own hair and skin care products from natural sources they can find in their own cupboard. Attendees left the workshop with a wealth of information and resources to holistically address their beauty and wellness needs.

Part Two:

The following week Sherley invited a group of panelists who are activists and organizers in the Flatbush community to speak on gentrification in the neighborhood. The panelists included Imani of Equality4Flatbush, Mark Griffith, Executive Director of Brooklyn Movement Center, David Etiennne, an upcoming filmmaker, and Alicia Boyd, leader of Movement To Protect The People. Prior to this workshop, I was unaware of the complexities of gentrification in affected communities. I left with a comprehensive definition and illustration of this issue and became more aware of how it affects residents especially in Flatbush. The following are some of the causes leading to the displacement of native residents in a gentrified neighborhood:

  • Harassment by landlords- In one testimony during the event one landlord turned off a tenants’ gas “ They go a year without giving you gas” said Imani going on to explain how they blame it on other entities — `it’s the city’s fault its not our fault` you’ve got no gas of course you’re going to move, how could you live without gas” he continued.
  • Unreasonable rent hikes- Though many Flatbush residents live in rent stabilized apartments landlords still raise tenant’s rents. In these cases its important for tenants to know their rights. According to Boyd, if you live in a rent stabilized building in order to ensure you get a rent freeze choose a one year instead of a two year lease. Also residents have four years to dispute unlawful rent prices. For more information or for support in this process email Imani at info@equalityforflatbush.org
  • An increase of policing in their neighborhood – Adam Kritzer Director of “Good Funk Film” retells his experience with increasing police patrosl in his neighborhood “ you start to feel suspicious, even though you haven’t done anything wrong” he said. It is not only the residents that get harassed it is also local vendors and small business owners who experience hefty fines.
  • Surging prices in new businesses – One of the first signs noted by residents when a neighborhood is being gentrified is a the opening of a Starbucks in the area, but higher coffee prices isn’t the only thing residents have to deal with, attendees at the workshop mention that more expansive grocery and health food stores replace local affordable businesses.

These situations lead to an intimidating and unmanageable climate in the neighborhoods often forcing residents out of their homes and communities. Although this was a challenging topic to tackle, residents of the community learned many avenues to get involved. The activists brought in concrete examples of ways that their movement has been successful in pushing against gentrification and empowering residents of Flatbush to sustain their community.

Part Three:

“Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees” –Billie Holiday (excerpt from Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday)

The closing event of Davilmar’s residency was profoundly poetic.  It was an essential anecdote after the previous workshop. The introductory presentation dove right in to the subject with a reading of “Strange Fruit” a poem written by Abel Meeropol and was famously sung by Billie Holiday in 1939. It was the perfect manner to start the conversation on the topic of Black Bodies a timely subject in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, which protests against police brutality, and the unjust killing of Blacks in America and around the world. The event proceeded with a powerful workshop by Veroneque Ignace, founder of Resist.Restore, where she directed participants through a series of movements both individually and in partnerships in order to guide participants to tune in to the body and to use it to express one’s pain and joy.

The panel discussion that followed, helped the audience to reflect on ways we can reclaim our Black bodies by understanding the nature of trauma through learning how it is stored in the body and how it manifests outwardly; by learning ways to address trauma in order to stand steadfastly and empowered in a society that consistently feeds us images of broken and lifeless Black bodies. Lastly the discussion encouraged the audience to think of and speak on the many ways we endure and charge forward each day; we walk, we drum, we exercise, we dance, we show up everyday in our Black bodies charging forward towards positive change and constructive evolution. The last part of the workshop was a powerful Nago Dance performance by La Troupe Zetwal, confirming that we are warriors, we are healers, we are here and we are triumphant.

I thank Ms. Davilmar for taking us through this three-part journey where she chose talented, knowledgeable and compassionate panelists and presenters and consequently produced workshops that left participants feeling informed and empowered.

Posted in Archive, Events, HCX Programs, Lakou NOU | No Comments »

HCX Collaborations | Haïti en Folie

10.25.16

By Nathalie Jolivert, HCX Communications and Outreach Coordinator

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This past Sunday, October 23, 2016, Haiti Cultural Exchange collaborated with Festival Haiti en Folie and hosted a conference and book signing for authors Michel Soukar and Rodney Saint-Eloi at Brooklyn College. Fabienne Colas, founder of Haiti en Folie and Carèl Pèdre, radio host of Chokarella in Haiti gave a warm welcome to the attendees after which, the writer and poet Michèle Marcelin Voltaire moderated the conversation between the two guest speakers.

Michel Soukar, historian and journalist based in Port-au-Prince spoke about his career and how his exile from Haiti allowed him to take a step back, as an activist, to focus on the history of the country. Learning about the complex history of Haiti encouraged him to communicate political and societal change in compelling storytelling. Soukar’s bibliography includes “Cora Geffrard, which recounts the life and death of president Fabre Geffrard’s daughter who was killed at a young age and “La Prison des Jours, which follows his main character, Antoine Pierre Paul’s insurgence against the US army during the American occupation of Haiti. In December, Soukar will be part of a conference in Haiti highlighting this military occupation, as a difficult period with an ongoing impact.

Rodney Saint-Eloi, writer and editor based in Montreal spoke about the importance of memory for the Haitian people. In the presentation of his newly published novel “Passion Haiti”, he mentions that memory is important to preserve for it is by knowing our past that we can move forward with lessons learned. As an example, he mentioned that his recent novel gave hope to a reader who felt hopeless for the Southern cities of Haiti post-hurricane Matthew. By reading about the author’s native city of Cavaillon, the reader understood that this city would prevail, for there was a lot of history that could not be erased by a hurricane.

As editors and great promoters of Haitian literature, Michel Soukar and Rodney Saint-Eloi also took the time to pay homage to classic Haitian writers like René Dépestre, Marie-Vieux Chauvet and Jacques Roumain. They also highlighted the works of a growing number of women writers, as well as that of poets who publish in Creole.

The attendance was multi-generational and the questions covered many aspects of the literary scene of Haiti from budding writers trying to make a mark through their participation in fairs and literary events, to scholars who are concerned about the future of literature in Haiti and the access to published work by a wider Haitian audience, via education. The event ended with a long line of guests eager to have their questions answered as they got their newly purchased books signed by the authors.

Haiti Cultural Exchange was pleased to partner with Fabienne Colas and Haiti En Folie and look forward to continuing to partner with likeminded organizations to bring Haitian culture to the forefront of New York’s rich cultural landscape.

Posted in Archive, Events, HCX Collaborations, Literature, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Ann Pale | Café Conversation with Lakou NOU Artists

10.06.16

by Nathalie Jolivert, Communications and Outreach Coordinator at HCX.

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Lakou NOU is Haiti Cultural Exchange’s newest Artist in Residency program providing opportunities for artists to work in Brooklyn communities that are home to generations of Haitians and Haitian-Americans. The first four artists to participate in this program are true community activists who will be working in the neighborhoods of Crown Heights, Flatbush, East Flatbush and Canarsie. Their projects deal with urbanism, place-making, community-building, public health, and empowerment at a time in US history when the Afro-Caribbean people of Brooklyn need it most. HCX hosted its signature Ann Pale Café Conversation panel with the first cohort of Lakou NOU residents: Sabine Blaizin, Veroneque Ignace, & Okai Fleurimont. (Sherley Davilmar was unable to be present).

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Sabine Blaizin, a New York based DJ who spins Afro-Soul, combines sounds of the African and Afro-Caribbean diaspora. In her project based in Crown Heights, Blaizin will create a soundscape with stories she will collect from Haitian members in the community affected by gentrification. To collect those stories, Blaizin is very proactive in connecting with Crown Heights community leaders and attending neighborhood meetings relevant to her subject. On October 26th, she will be holding interviews at our office in Crown Heights with volunteer residents. Their stories will be recorded by StoryCorps and archived in the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.

Blaizin has performed with DJs in various cities in the US, Canada, Dakar, Mexico, Cuba and Haiti. In answering how it feels like to travel to different countries and coming back to the US with new material, she explains that she reaches a different level of connection with her crowd. Listening to her music mixing conversations, deep reflections and words of wisdom, one can already imagine how inspiring and challenging it may be for Blaizin to piece together sounds of grief, displacement, nostalgia and disappointment in Crown Heights. The feelings that are attached with the “Haitian flight” in Crown Heights can be assimilated to all the forced migrations people of black heritage experience. Gentrification is an ongoing occurrence in Crown Heights. It is bittersweet to foresee that the residents’ experience is ready to be archived for the memory of future generations. Blaizin’s project also brings an opportunity for those residents to reflect on their situation with an approach that might reveal new depths in their understanding of what gentrification means in their lives.

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Véronèque Ignace is a dancer and public-health professional who wants to heal through the power of dance. This has been an important goal for her since working on her thesis at Williams College. In a powerful video introduction of her thesis, she explains that the experience of Black students studying in predominantly white institutions can be traumatic and should be taken into account in their academic performance. The result is a dissertation and choreography in which her dancers interact with the audience and make them face this issue with movement.

How does her experience as a dancer and academician at Williams differ from her role as a healer in East Flatbush? “In East Flatbush my work is not a show” she responds. In East Flatbush, Ignace creates a platform and outlet for the youth to deal with emotions that are not always addressed. It is an opportunity for her to truly practice skills of dance therapy and respond to the youth’s reaction to violence in their neighborhood. “Some of them are afraid to leave their house” Ignace explains.

The title to Veroneque’s project is “#Trending” and she encourages the young Haitian-Americans of East Flatbush to express their feelings about the trending deaths in the Black community – Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, more recently Keith Scott… unfortunately, the list goes on. How not to feel overwhelmed? Dealing with the growing numbers is a challenge that Ignace is willing to tackle as the youth of East Flatbush grapple with the violence they witness in their community.

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Rodney ‘Okai’ Fleurimont, is a percussionist and MC who is interested in the importance and benefits of a healthy diet in a musician’s life. In recent experiences traveling with his music band, he realized that, beyond the fatigue of traveling through different time-zones, the meals his colleagues consumed had a direct correlation with their performances. Okai has previously taught at PS 189 in Brownsville Brooklyn as a Ti Atis teacher via HCX and his experiences leading workshops and various other initiatives, made him realize that there is a pressing need for the youth in the Black community to think about their diet. Issues of diabetes and obesity are prominent within the youth of the Black Community.

With his project in Canarsie, Okai will partner with various drummers, masters of Afro-Caribbean and West-African techniques, to teach students how to play the drums. Each session will begin with a class on exercise and diet. Okai’s goal is to inspire the Haitian-American youth to keep their passion for music alive by understanding that they need the physical strength to carry their musical instruments around and also to play for hours without collapsing. There are many other benefits in participating in Okai’s workshops. Discipline and team-work are the qualities he sees his students acquire as they learn how to play the drums. They understand that it takes great team-work and perfect coordination to carry out a nice melody.

Sherley Davilmar, who will be working in the community of Flatbush was unable to make it to the Ann Pale Café Conversation. However, she shared with us the workshops that she will be hosting in the upcoming weeks for her project. They will all take place at the Brooklyn Public Library on Linden Boulevard and will cover themes of “Health Beauty and Wellness”, “Gentrification” and “Black Bodies”. From Davilmar’s energetic performances during HCX’s Selebrasyon events, one can already expect that her work will be charged with great information for future performances.

The Ann Pale Café Conversation with the Lakou NOU artists was a great opportunity for us to learn about the progress of their work. Speaking to the audience was also initial research material for the artists in their projects. As interactive as their work is, it will be inspiring to see how their projects evolve in the upcoming months.

Check out the Facebook Album HERE.

Take a look at the calendar of upcoming programs HERE.

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

Pwezi ak Mizik Anba Tonèl 2016

10.03.16

pwezi-ank-mizik-anba-tonel
For the 6th edition of our annual literary event “Pwezi ak Mizik Anba Tonèl” we were pleased to host the legendary musician Boulo Valcourt and poets Jeanie Bogart and James Noël. Boulo Valcourt holds an important place in the Haitian music scene and culture. He participated in various music bands, including Ibo Combo and Caribbean Sextet, and is well known for his contribution to Haiti’s “twoubadou” music genre. Jeanie Bogart grew up in the Southern Haitian city of Les Cayes before moving to New York. As a Creole and French court interpreter, Bogart witnesses difficult court trials, yet her poetry is full of passion and love. James Noël, who joined us from Port-au-Prince, is a prolific poet whose career is widely celebrated. He is very active in the literary scene of Haiti and often participates in international literary events.

The evening started with an open-mic for poets in the audience, which was a fitting tone for this evening filled with impromptu performances, street dancing, and community residents from our Crown Heights neighborhood. They were followed by Boulo Valcourt whose lovely guitar set the mood for James Noël and Jeanie Bogart. Noël’s touching tribute to the late Haitian drummer Léonord Fortuné ‘Azor’ and Bogart’s passionate love lyrics motivated our guests to rush and buy copies of their anthologies after the show. It felt like the perfect end-of-summer event. In the final moments, Boulo Valcourt’s nostalgic sounds for the famous song “La Pèsonn O” had the crowd chanting together with the musician as they wished farewell to the warm season.

Please enjoy pictures of the performance below by Paul Corbanese:
https://www.facebook.com/paul.corbanese/media_set?set=a.1415123475182344.1073741829.100000541148602&type=3&pnref=story

Event covered by Adolf Azuphar on Rhythm Passport: http://www.rhythmpassport.com/articles-and-reviews/event-review/review-boulo-valcourt-five-myles-gallery-brooklyn-27th-august-2016/

Event covered by Tequila Minsky on Caribbean Life: http://www.caribbeanlifenews.com/stories/2016/9/2016-09-02-tm-haitian-sidewalk-soiree-cl.html?utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=misclinks&utm_source=newsbar&utm_content=intra

James Noël’s books :
Anthologie de la Poésie Haïtienne
Intranqu’îllités
Le Pyromane Adolescent
Un jour… tes pantoufles

Jeanie Bogart’s books :
Sa m pral kite dèyè
Dènye rèl- DVD

Posted in An n' Pale, Archive, Arts, Dance, Events, HCX Programs, Music, Poetry, Uncategorized | No Comments »

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