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Lakou NOU 2018 | Lakay Nou: Creating Flatbush Island Through Cultural Identity by Madjeen Isaac

06.28.18

Lakay Nou by Madjeen Isaac

Madjeen Isaac (Flatbush) specializes in oil painting, as she focuses on creating images based on her Haitian American culture. Growing up in a neighborhood where it is predominantly Caribbean immigrants, Isaac allowed her process to give her a sense of purpose from the memories and cultures that have shaped her. She says, “Flatbush is where I have lived most of my life. Flatbush is a place that emits culture and hustle. Overtime, I have developed a concern for immigrant youth and children of immigrants, becoming “Americanized” or assimilated out of fear, without reflecting back on the culture of their ancestors”. Her works are based on celebrating one’s existence and differences while showing patronage to the Haitian culture. Madjeen currently attends the Fashion Institute of Technology, and is expected to receive her BFA in Fine Art, May 2018.

Her Lakou NOU 2018 project, Lakay Nou: Creating Flatbush Island Through Cultural Identity, stems from her last two years at the Fashion Institute of Technology; the recent works she created there are based on Flatbush itself, “…the neighborhood that has shaped me as well as contributed to my Haitian American upbringing.” Throughout her artistic journey, the cultural fusion she’s created with Brooklyn and Haiti landscapes allowed for her to tap into how her Haitian roots are manifested within everyday life in Brooklyn, and how immigrants have rebuilt their lives after settling in Flatbush.

She says:

The inherited lifestyle of hustle that Caribbean immigrants seem to withhold reveals their resilience through their long standing businesses such as, their transportation services known as tap-taps, storefront churches and merchants selling herbs in the street imported from the islands. All of which I have incorporated into my paintings. Although I was fully invested in the idea of merging both urban and tropical, my process also allowed for me to compare my younger self and my present self. Breaking barriers of stigmatism I’ve always been taught to believe of the place my parents came from. I realized that during my painting journey, the works I’ve created were deeper than merging two worlds together. It allowed for me to understand why preserving my observations and showcasing my perspective was crucial for me to claim my Haitian American identity.

Her focus as Lakou NOU artist-in-residence working in  Flatbush, will be to expand her work by focusing primarily on Haitian youth. She will be facilitating art making workshops with a core group, guiding them to weave in the parts of their culture that are not so obviously relatable nor taught at school. These workshops will cover topics as such, “ how will the youth go about exploring their culture and forming their own identities? ” and “ how can art making be a catalyst in forming narratives about the Flatbush community in the perspective of the youth?”

She hopes to have two public culminating events in October 2018.

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Lakou NOU 2018 | Temporary Protected Status by Stefani Saintonge

06.28.18

TPS by Stefani

Stefani Saintonge (Crown Heights) is a Haitian-American filmmaker and educator. In 2014 she won the ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Discovery Award for her short film, Seventh Grade. Her documentary, La Tierra de los Adioses, won Best Latin American Short Documentary at the Festival Internacional de Cine en el Desierto. Her work, which focuses on women, youth and immigration, has screened at several festivals in the US and abroad. A member of New Negress Film Society, she is a recipient of the Jerome Foundation Film and Video Grant, and works as an educator and adjunct professor in New York. She holds an MFA in Documentary Film Studies and Production.

For her Lakou NOU project, she intends to research current TPS holders as well as community leaders and activists fighting to have it extended.

There are currently 58,000 Haitians with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), with 20,000 living in New York. The US granted TPS in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which declared that any Haitian immigrant residing in the US without permanent residency could apply. The Obama administration had consistently extended the program, but the Trump administration intends to put a stop to it leaving the 58,000 at risk to losing their documentation. TPS is due to end by July 2019 making this year a crucial moment.

From May to August 2018, she will work within Brooklyn particularly Crown Heights to gather anecdotes from TPS holders and their family members documenting their journey to the US, their work since arriving here and their current state in order to highlight the human stories behind this issue. The interviews will be conducted on and off camera depending on the comfort level of participants. She will also interview people in Haiti inquiring on their plans in case their family member is forced to return.

In addition, she will conduct on-camera interviews with experts and community leaders.

In September, she plans to bring together the TPS families she would have been working with for 2-3 private events where they can meet each other, connect and share in an attempt at collectivizing. She will invite a community organizer for one event to do training on self-advocacy, and, an additional event will feature a community healer for a group talk on strategies for managing anxiety amongst state violence.

Her culminating event will take place at the end of September.

There she will present the resulting footage at a space in Crown Heights for a public, educational forum on the current status of TPS to inform audiences interested in the struggle. The event will blend facts, personal anecdotes, excerpts from interviews and observational footage. She will also invite willing TPS holders as well as community leaders to participate in the forum.

The goal at the end of her residency will be to generate an audio/ visual record of current Haitian TPS holders as well as use the collected footage as foundational research for a possible in-depth film to be completed in the future.

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Lakou NOU 2018 | Istwa Nan Je Yo by Richard Louissaint

06.28.18

Istwa by Richard

Richard Louissaint (East Flatbush) is a first generation Haitian-American filmmaker and photographer from New York City. Growing up in Queens, he was exposed to a wide spectrum of the Caribbean diaspora but was primarily influenced by Haitian and African-American culture. His obsession with music led to him to writing for music magazines and websites before pursuing a career as a photographer and filmmaker. His work centers on  people of color, especially those of Haitian descent,  through portraiture, film and documentaries. He has been published in Wax Poetic Magazine, MTV and the New York Times.  His work has been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, Wilmer Jennings Gallery at Kenkeleba and he had his first solo show in Petionville, Haiti in 2014. His films have screened at the Haiti Film Fest, New York Short Film Festival, and Newark International Film Festival. Richard also holds a MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

Richard is interested in the idea of place memory. He explains that “place, whether it be a childhood home, the local bodega, the park you spent your days during long summers hold some sort of significant memory and some that may seem insignificant until you recall them.” Considering this, he seeks to build an interactive visual project that addresses how place memory can be influenced by rapid gentrification. He asks, “how can you retrieve…memories from a space that has been turned into a looming 40-story glass building?”

As his primary course of action, Richard will communicate with businesses in East Flatbush – young and old – to document their stories, their perceptions of the community, and to help enforce their ability to succeed. This work is timely as it occurs with the launch of the Little Haiti Business and Cultural District. Richard hopes to use this as a launching pad for building connections with his lakou.

The information he collects will help to create a digital app, accessed through a unique QR code for each business. He says, “I want the archive to live online and be something that can be updated with other businesses in the future. I want it to evolve as more innovative technologies get refined for more immersive experiences. That could mean 360 videos of the business spaces or user contributions that can create a shared experience.”

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Lakou NOU 2018 | Demanbre: Herbal Wellness and Haitian Heritage by Sirene Dantor Sainvil

06.28.18

 

Demanbre_Herbal Wellness and Haitian Heritage

Sirene Dantor Sainvil (Canarsie) is a Haitian culture preservationist who used her passions to develop Fanmi Asòtò, a Haitian cultural organization whose drum performance, community workshops, and herbal teachings are rooted in Haitian Vodou. Sainvil seeks to encourage identity building for all Haitians but particularly for Haitian American youth. Paying homage to the asòtò drum, the mother of all African descended drums, her mission is to encourage identity building for all Haitians but particularly for Haitian American youth who are the next generation of Haitian culture and Vodou.

As part of  her Lakou NOU 2018 residency, she is developing research to answer the question: Where is the heritage of Haitian people in Canarsie preserved? How do we participate in it?

Her goal is to use her skill as a Haitian culture preservationist, singer, and Vodou herbalist to learn about the culture in Brooklyn communities, document the changes in Canarsie, and encourage people to visit Canarsie spaces. She seeks to create spaces for community dialogue through her “Fey Nan Bwa” workshops.

These workshops will take place in each of the four main Lakou/Haitian communities delineated through the Lakou NOU program – Flatbush, East Flatbush, Canarsie, and Crown Heights. They intend to create a space where people can talk, learn about tradition, and share stories about their history in Brooklyn and in the Canarsie community.

Sirene says, “At Fey Nan Bwa people, Haitian and otherwise, coming out learn about things they never knew. It is a way to have people be in fellowship with one another.”

Current workshop dates include:

Fey Nan Bwa Series | Flatbush to Canarsie
DATE/TIME: Saturday, April 28th | 1-3pm
LOCATION: Q Gardens Community Farm | 70 E 18th St, Brooklyn, NY 11226
ADMISSION: FREE | RSVP HERE

Fey Nan Bwa Series | East Flatbush to Canarsie
DATE/TIME: Saturday, May 19th | 1-5pm
LOCATION: Brooklyn Fete | 70 E 18th St, Brooklyn, NY 11226
ADMISSION: $20

Fey Nan Bwa Series | Canarsie 
DATE/TIME: Sunday, June 3rd | 1-3pm
DATE/TIME: Saturday, July 7th | 2-4pm
LOCATION: Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum | 5816 Clarendon Rd, Brooklyn, NY 11203
ADMISSION: FREE

Sirene’s culminating event will occur:

DATE/TIME: Friday, July 27th | 6-9pm
LOCATION: Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum | 5816 Clarendon Rd, Brooklyn, NY 11203
ADMISSION: FREE

This event is about presenting the research I have completed in Canarsie and with residents. Through it attendees will prioritize making long lasting relationships and friendships. I hope to activate our tradition through Vodou to pay homage to our ancestors, use their energy and strength to be a part of the legacy to preserve Haitian Culture in Canarsie and to facilitate connectedness there. Bringing together a community of Vodouist with guests, and through the power of the drums, “Demanbre” seeks to create a sense of pride and power within us despite circumstances that encourage separation and negativity. The ultimate goal is to treat this residency as the beginning of a longer process for building community in Canarsie and building demand for Haitian culture preservation there.

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