HCX Community Postings
Here's where you can find useful resources throughout our community.
written by guest author Marie Antoine.
HCX kicked off Black History month with the closing reception and artist talk of the visual arts exhibition Ayiti Toma: The Genesis. The event was hosted at the Haitian owned Tapas Wine Bar and Lounge, 33 Lafayette. The lounge provided a cozy and inviting atmosphere which allowed attendees to attentively absorb the fierce storytelling, history and intricate layers of Haitian liberation as it continues to unfold. Conceptualized and curated by Mahalia Stines a multidisciplinary artist based in Brooklyn and featured two other Haitian women artists: Monique Serres, a realist painter who asserts that the value of art lies in its message and therefore she thoughtfully uses technique including allegory, facial expression or color and form to evoke meaning; and Nathalie Jolivert, a New York based artist whose artwork is influenced by urbanism, environmental issues and human relationships.
Each of the women submitted very contrasting pieces, yet the messages of Haitian triumphs, defeats and aspirations were present in each of their works. Stines’ quilted piece Ayiti Toma: Genesis depicts the birth of Haiti starting from Langinen (the Motherland) to the declaration of Independence in 1804. She also stated during the talk, that the piece is a work in progress holding space for developments in the nation’s plight to achieve liberation. Stines is a natural and captivating storyteller, her quilt includes details that bring to life the various states of anguish that the ancestors lived through; from the atrocious and cramped spaces of the slave ships to the fiery scenes of the bloodshed during the rebellion.Fittingly the opening of the exhibit took place on January 1st commemorating Haiti’s 214th year of independence and the show ended in February during the celebration of Black history month in the United States. Timing was not the only well-thought out facet of the show, Stines’ was intentional in every aspect of creating Ayiti Toma. Firstly she only featured female artists. She did so in order to address that although women played crucial roles in the Haitian revolution they are not given the necessary recognition that is warranted.
From my perspective, the most poignant scene from Stines’ narrative of her quilt is when she told of the slaves’ gazing up at the stars when they were given an opportunity to move from the constricted space they occupied to allow blood to circulate in their bodies. To imagine the ancestors gazing up at the stars triggered a peculiar emotion within me. Often times history can be difficult to grasp, especially a history that is so full of atrocities, covering a long span of time and that affected a huge population. It is easy to focus only on the facts and the dates when studying history and in doing so it makes it possible to disconnect from the reality of historical events on human life, therefore incorporating small details that capture the humanity in history is crucial. I was pleased that Stines presented such a comprehensive retelling of the genesis of Ayiti Toma.
Similarly Serres’ piece of a woman living in a tent city in Port-Au-Prince (PAP) after the earthquake in 2010 was also impactful in the way it portrayed one reality of those who were affected. During the talk Serres stated that she had not been back to Haiti after the earthquake, a fact that surprised me because of the layers of truth she conjured up while creating her piece. At first glance it was apparent that Serres did not paint a subject in despair, in fact the woman in the painting looks dignified in her bright yellow shirt and red dangly earrings which match the bag she is holding in her hand. Deliberately so on the artist’s part, the woman’s presence captured my attention first. However when my eyes started averting to the collapsed presidential palace in the backdrop and then to the American rice laying on the ground inches from her foot I started to get a different picture. Furthermore as the spectator, I do not know if she has been living in that tent a few weeks to a year or more, so it becomes clear why it is necessary that this woman keeps her head up. This attitude of not giving into despair but instead trying to rise above is how Haitians were accorded the term resilient.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary resilient means being able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. Starting with slavery, through the revolution and the following years of political and environmental issues; Haitians are in a consistent state of recovery. However the consistency of the unrest does not allow for full recovery. Instead Haitians have become a depository for the negative impacts of the persistent assault on Haitian land, Haitian bodies and Haitian psyche. The result is what Nathalie Jolivert touches on in many of her works, which portray the urban landscape and live figures of Port-Au-Prince.
During the talk, one of the attendees noticed that the human figures in Jolivert’s art do not have eyes. Her answer — it symbolizes the invisibility that the masses in PAP embody. She explains further by describing the scene in the tap-taps (a form of public transportation in Haiti) where there is seldom eye contact; she also describes the nameless merchant women who are only classified by the products that they sale e.g the charcoal vendor or the fritay vendor. She paints the figures without eyes in order to stimulate conversation as an attempt to give voice to the reality of the implicit and marginalized aches of the masses in PAP. And also of the distress linked to the poor infrastructure and landscape of the city. One of her strengths as an artist is that Jolivert is not politically correct, therefore she does not dilute the truth of her observations and experiences of living in Haiti.
I left Ayiti Toma: Genesis more knowledgeable of Haitian history than when I walked in. I left inspired by the audacity of Haitian blood. And I left motivated by these three women creatives who are making sure their voices are heard deliberately, passionately and with authority.
About the Author, Marie Antoine
Marie Antoine is a Haitian born holistic counselor and
aspiring entrepreneur based in Brooklyn,NY.
Her ultimate goal is to use her education
and experience in social work to work in community building in Haiti.
Call for Submissions for the Haiti Film Fest taking place May 11-14, 2017.
Deadline: February 10th.
More information here: bit.ly/HFFsubmit
Okai is a percussionist and vocalist in several bands that are based in Brooklyn, all representing the music of the African Diaspora. As a lead vocalist and percussionist of Brown Rice Family, StringsNSkins and Underground Horns Okai is often on the road travelling to perform gigs all over the country and internationally.
As a Lakou Nou Artist in Residency in Canarsie, Okai created a workshop that incorporated his passion for drumming and his conscious eating lifestyle. This session took place on Saturday, November 5th at the Brooklyn Theater Arts, South Shore High School.
In 2012 Okai started to adopt a more conscious diet. He explained that making changes such as eating less meat, consuming less dairy, becoming more conscious of his sugar intake made a huge difference. He also began studying product labels more often and stayed away from ingredients he was unsure of or that were obviously detrimental when consumed. Reading labels and doing research on ingredients also helped him to be a more conscious consumer because he started paying more attention to the companies he was supporting, he began to invest more in companies with a shared mission.
Okai has noticed a transformation in his wellbeing since making these changes “ I started noticing that I had more energy, more awareness, I dreamt better and I had better thoughts” he stated. Inspired by the positive results he achieved by making this change, he now aims to share this message with other musicians. Accordingly as an artist in residence, in our Lakou Nou Artist Residency program in Canarsie, he incorporated a health segment in his workshop. He invited Anthony a drummer and health specialist practicing in Queens, NY. During his segment, Anthony reiterated a lot of what Okai himself had learned on his health conscious journey including cutting out a lot of pasta, processed foods and items that used a lot of white flour.
Another unique aspect of this workshop is that it brought together both beginners and professional drummers. Okai’s Rhythm Exchange workshop featured three master drummers of Colombian, Puerto Rican, and Haitian background, which allowed for drummers of all levels to learn a new rhythm. Attendees learned Afro-Columbian drumming from Cumbia rhythms originated from the days of slavery in the late 17th century. We learned of the bass drum (tambora) a double -sided drum used to produce the deep bass rhythms; the Tambor Alegre a secondary mid-drum known used for backup rhythm and the small drum (lamador), which also provides the back beat. Afterwards Will Tucker presented Puerto Rican Bumba rhythm featuring the drumming style Leró used as accompaniment for dancers. Finally Jean May Brignol gave us a snippet of Ibo, Nago and Yanvalou rhythms from Afro Haitian drumming.
Okai’s workshop gave participants an opportunity to hear and experience how similar and connected Afro-Caribbean culture is, while also hearing the different tones that make the expression from each country unique and distinctive.
See photos of the event HERE!
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 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.
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:
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.
“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.