Archive for the ‘Lakou NOU’ Category

Lakay se Lakay “Home Sweet Home”| Lakou NOU presentation by Sabine Blaizin

02.27.17

As a Lakou NOU artist in residence, Sabine Blaizin, DJ and community organizer, worked in the neighborhood of Crown Heights and focused on the impact of gentrification on its Haitian-American community.

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For the first part of her project, Sabine collaborated with Storycorps, an organization that broadcasts stories recorded between two participants as they interview each other. Those stories are then archived at the Library of Congress and made accessible to the public. Sabine reached out to current and past residents of Crown-Heights whom she hosted at Haiti Cultural Exchange with Storycorps, over Haitian tea and hors d’oeuvres generously donated by Grandchamps Restaurant.

The second part of Sabine’s project was an installation at FiveMyles Gallery in which she deconstructed elements of a traditional lakou to create an experimental atmosphere around the projection of pictures and sounds from the interviews recorded with Storycorps.

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An ephemeral cube made out of white draping, same as the garment worn by women during Vodoun ceremonies, served as the sacred space in which Sabine projected the stories of her interviewees. As you entered the cube, you could see colorful ribbons hanging from above, on strings woven through the wooden grid of the gallery’s ceiling. Within the cube, Mahalia Stines, a Brooklyn-based Vodoun priestess and long-time HCX collaborator, drew an intricate Erzulie Freda vèvè with pink cornmeal that contrasted well with the grey floor of FiveMyles gallery. Next to it, Sabine also placed a table adorned with objects usually found on Vodoun altars.

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On the day of this event, guests trickled into the gallery as Okai, another Lakou NOU artist in residence, played his drums. They ventured into the white space, absorbed the stories of Crown-Heights’ rapid gentrification and together seemed to apprehend and mourn the disappearance of Haitian culture exhibited within the cube.

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#Trending by Veroneque Ignace, Lakou NOU artist-in-residence

12.13.16

by Nathalie Jolivert, Communications and Outreach Coordinator

For her project as a Lakou NOU artist-in-residence, Veroneque Ignace, dancer and public health worker, reached out to youth at Erasmus High School in Flatbush and engaged them in discussions designed to help them express their feelings about violence experienced in their communities. Veroneque worked with 5 students over the course of two months, which resulted in the final presentation on Saturday November 12, at Brooklyn Fête in East Flatbush, incorporating dance, spoken word, live music and video.

Veroneque’s project “#Trending” seeks to to provide creative mechanisms to those who experience trauma due to violence in their neighborhoods. The title of her project shines light on the growing numbers of deaths in the black community as they get reported via the media. Veroneque’s long-term project kicked off with this first presentation and will essentially continue to provide creative tools to her students and her clients in their healing process. With this first presentation at Brooklyn Fête, Veroneque reaches out to a young population that the US must remember as the future of this country. Quite appropriately, in a solo within the dance performance, one of her senior dancers from Kriyòl Dance Collective performed with a simple black hoodie as homage to Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old African-American high-school student who was shot by a police officer in 2012 and whose tragic death became an important marker of police brutality in the US.

See below a video clip of Veroneque’s performance:

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Lakou Nou Artist Residency: Okai’s Drumming Exchange and Wellness workshop in Canarsie

11.21.16

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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