Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

HCX to Haiti, 2015



In January 2015, HCX traveled to Haiti with a small group of people who were experiencing the country for the first time.  It was quite an experience!

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Click here to read more about what HCX Executive Director, Régine M. Roumain, had to say about the trip.
Click here to view photos of our trip!

Posted in Archive, Arts, Dance, HCX Programs, Literature, Music, Photography, Poetry, Theater, Uncategorized, Visual Art | No Comments »

Ti Atis | Introducing Teaching Artist Okai Fleurimont – by Jessica Tong, Communications and Outreach Intern


Haiti Cultural ExchangeAs we say goodbye to Maxine Montilus, our previous Ti Atis teaching artist, HCX is happy to introduce Okai Fleurimont who will be teaching a 10-week arts residency, Discovering the Music of the African Diaspora, at PS 189 The Bilingual Center.  Held in collaboration with HAUP’s after-school program for middle-school students, the HCX Ti Atis program provides youth of all ages an opportunity to connect with Haiti’s cultural heritage.

Okai has always been involved in giving back to his community through his work with organizations such as Hospital Audience Incorporated (HAI),, and Hip Hop Saves Lives.  Teaching children how to write lyrics, produce a beat, and through percussion lessons, Okai provides opportunities for youth to share their ideas and foster their creative development.

During this arts residency, children will discover the music of the African diaspora including: Blues & Jazz from New Orleans, Hip Hop and Salsa from New York, Reggae from Jamaica, Samba from Brazil, and Rara from Haiti.  Okai will use instruments, audio, video, rap and poetry to help his students gain better knowledge of how the music of the past has developed into the music of the present.  Using percussion instruments, participants start to understand the dynamic nature of music from the African diaspora, examine key influences and struggles, and begin to understand how culture and globalization interact in our daily lives and within music.  HCX is pleased to welcome Okai!

Posted in Arts, Dance, Music, Poetry, Ti Atis, Youth Programs | No Comments »

An n’ Pale | Café Conversation with Frankétienne


10612558_10152672471916830_8084676283551669964_nThe high hum of voices in the room gave away the excitement of the crowd. Everywhere you looked, people were deeply engrossed in conversation, having some heated debate, or laughing over a glass of wine. A quick scan of the room revealed that all available seats were full and any remaining wall space, or other standing room, was taken. It was clear that everyone gathered at FiveMyles gallery on the evening of September 19, 2014 for Haiti Cultural Exchange’s (HCX) An n Pale Conversation Series was eagerly awaiting the guest of honor that night: Franketienne. Haiti’s literary powerhouse was in town to promote the release of the English language version of his first full-length novel, “Ready to Burst”. On this night, Franketienne was to be accompanied by Kaiama Glover, the Associate Professor at Barnard who translated “Ready to Burst” from the French, and author Madison Smartt Bell. Following an introduction by HCX Executive Director Régine M. Roumain, Bell, who was to interpret from the Haitian Creole, and Glover, who was to interpret from the French, dived right in to a conversation with Franketienne.

As Franketienne began to answer questions (“Tell us more about the novel”, “How did you come to invent the literary genre of spiralism”, “What was it like to live through the Duvalier dictatorships and to protest through your literature?) one thing was immediately clear: there is deliberateness to his character that resonates strongly with people. Each word spoken, just as in his literature, is carefully chosen and hand-picked to provide the strongest impact possible. The respect and reverence that hung in the air was palpable as Franketienne described his work, as he related his thoughts on the matters of the world, as he reminded us that there is no one solution to Haiti’s problems, and as he shared his desire to engage as much as possible with the Haitian people as he could. As Franck seamlessly wove in and out of French and Haitian Creole, Bell and Glover interpreted accordingly. “True wealth is in spirituality,” he stated. The crowd murmured in agreement. “Without chaos there is death,” he insisted. “The world belongs to us all,” he boldly exclaimed. Applause often ensued as each statement proved to be even more daring than the last.

As the evening wore on, the energy of the crowd became increasingly more heightened. Being a man of the people, an artist for the people, Franketienne insisted on including the people in the conversation. In his eyes, his existence now is focused entirely in pawòl, or Kreyòl for “speech”. His goal is to engage with the people, to speak with the people, to share with the people. In this spirit, audience members began not just to ask questions but also to offer their opinions and commentary on everything from the current state of affairs in Haiti to the importance of protesting the injustices that are happening on a global scale to imparting their own wisdom regarding the role of the Haitian diaspora in Haiti’s future. Some people spoke from their seats and still others made their way to the front of the room, as if their mere proximity to Franketienne would imbue them with the very spirit of his genius. Franketienne welcomed them all. He openly acknowledged every speaker. Be they critic or fan, long-winded questions or not, Franketienne interacted with them all in such an intimately genuine way that it was obvious why he continues to be held in such great regard by so many, both in the world of literature but also in the everyday, commonplace life of all Haitians.

The evening ended with Franck reading an excerpt from Mûr a Crever and Glover reading the corresponding English passage from Ready to Burst. Franketienne reminded the crowd why he is considered one of the founding fathers of contemporary Haitian literature. Drawing from his background in theater, Franck’s reading was poignant, jarring and impactful. For those who could understand the French, he drew them in with the words, and even those who could not understand could feel the weight of the sounds of the words leaving his mouth. Glover’s English translation of the French left many wanting to hear more, wanting to immerse themselves more completely in the work of a man who has, for decades, lived and loved Haiti and its people so much that he has built an entire life of art around it. The readings were followed by a book signing, that went well beyond the intended end time of 9:00 but this was of no consequence, both to those who waited patiently for their moment with Franketienne but also to Franck himself, who lives for these personal interactions. As it tends to happen at HCX events, people continued to linger, not quite ready for the night to end. As people slowly trickled out of the gallery, the energy was still one of excitement. In the course of just a short evening, with just his words and his very presence, Franketienne had managed to ignite a powerful fire in many.

Click here for pictures of Frankétienne’s conversation.
Click here to watch Frankétienne read from his book.

By Wynnie Lamour, Founder of the Haitian Creole Language Institute

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

Pwezi ak Mizik Anba Tonèl – by Alain Balan, HCX Intern



HCX held its 4th annual Pwezi ak Mizik Anba Tonèl on Saturday, August 23rd at FiveMyles Gallery. This annual performance has emerged as a seminal community event — one that has hosted renowned writers Syto Cavé and Anthony Phelps, Master Drummer Frisner Augustin, as well as emerging talents Melissa Beauvery and Riva Precil.

Traditionally held outdoors, the rain forced us inside but could not dim the energy in the room that evening. Catered by Cybille St. Aude, guests were offered delicious tastes of soup joumou, chicken skewers and pen patat while they mingled and shopped at the HCX Boutik.

Once everyone settled in, Shirley Skai and her band kicked off the night by presenting a mix of Haitian classics as well as some original songs. Her covers of Lauryn Hill’s song Ex-Factor and BeLO’s Lakou Trankil had the audience singing along, enthralled by Shirley’s beautiful voice and presence.

Jean Dany Joachim followed Shirley with a set of poems that were at times sober, and at others, passionate. One poem was dedicated to the chaos of the 2010 earthquake and the pain that has lingered in the hearts of victims and Haitians abroad. Jean Dany’s two year old son was also a highlight of the performance, joining his father on the mic.

Francie Latour offered us readings by René Philoctete and Michel-Ange Hyppolite. With a refreshing voice, Francie was able to hook the audience in as she read imagery-filled stories of raising her children in suburban Massachusetts.


M’pa janm mande-m poukiasa m’ret isit?
Tankou m’pa mande-m poukisa m’respire,
Sa k’ fè m’ pale jan m’ pale ya ?


Do I ever ask myself why I live here ?
Like do I ask why I breathe,
Or Sleep,
Or Speak the way I speak?

René Philoctete
Excerpt from Open Gate, An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry.

Before reading his pieces, Marc Anthony Arena spoke of Paul Laraque, his grandfather, as an influence on his poetry. Marc also read about themes relating to the earthquake with raw and genuine emotion. After the rain settled, the last performance was moved outside, where a rosebush by artist Sam Tufnell bathed the musicians in a mystical purple glow. Tiga Jean Baptiste’s set encouraged people passing by to stop and join the audience, taking in the beautiful sounds of Tiga’s skill. The didgeridoo, mbira, bass and guitar complimented his soothing and mellow performance.

This year’s Pwezi ak Mizik event was dedicated to our friend Mario Donnay who resided on St. John’s Place and passed away earlier this year. Special thanks to the performers, audience members, and HCX volunteers!

Jean Dany’s books of poetry can be bought at the HCX Boutik. Manman Zanfan by Denizé Lauture, a project of the Arena family for alphabetization in Haiti, is also available for sale.

Check out some PHOTOS and VIDEOS from the event and share this post with your friends.

See you at the next HCX event!

Posted in Archive, Arts, Events, HCX Programs, Mizik Ayiti, Music, Poetry, Weekend | No Comments »

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