haitiandancers_fc.jpgFrom Miami to Delray Beach, the smells of fried griot and the sound of the Kompa and Zouk will fill the air in a range of events, from finger-snapping poetry readings to cultural bazaars during Haitian Heritage Month.

In just the last five years, the number of Haitian cultural events has multiplied significantly throughout the tri-county area. And since the month of May is now officially recognized as
Haitian Heritage month, culture-seekers can almost be picky about which Haitian community corridor they visit.

This year, however, the festivities will be accompanied with the dismal reminder that South Florida’s island neighbors are literally starving.

To date, tens of thousands of Haitians continue to fight over military-gifted rations and morsels. Every day, some people are too late and are forced to return home hungry, knowing high-priced food in markets is way beyond their financial reach.

Determined not to ignore the country’s food crisis, community activists, artists, and schoolchildren are looking for ways to use the cultural focus of the month to address Haiti’s hunger.

A group of community activists has called an emergency summit, which takes place today, Friday, May 9, at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida in Miami.

The Summit, called by the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board, Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, and the Miami-Dade NAACP, calls for community members to address myriad political issues, including temporary protection status for Haitian immigrants, food relief, and economic sustainability.

The need to help Haiti extends beyond geographic and generational lines.

Some of the most tenacious do-gooders are Haitian teens like Jucelyn Calixte, a senior at the predominantly Haitian Toussaint L’Ouverture High School for the Arts and Social Justice in Delray Beach.

“Even if you’re homeless here you can walk to someone’s house and find food,” said Calixte, 19, who is helping her school organize a Haitian Flag Day celebration. The celebration will take place at Old School Square in Delray Beach on May 18. “In Haiti, you can’t even find that.”

Calixte said she and her classmates devised a plan to send money back to their home town of Liancourt, after hearing dozens of stories about the country’s hunger crisis. Although
Calixte was born and raised in the United States, several of her relatives still live there, she said.

“Some of the kids at school who came here from Haiti were in the same place,” said Calixte. “You can fall asleep and imagine that place when you were hungry. We don’t forget.”

Many of the proceeds from the Old School Square event will go toward feeding the village of Liancourt, a small area in Haiti that has inadvertently become a feeder to mostly-Haitian neighborhoods from Delray to Lake Worth, said Salusa Basquin, who is working with Toussaint L’Ouverture students to plan the Haitian Flag Day event.

Calixte, who wants to be a paralegal and computer programmer, said she hopes to raise just $1,000 to help the village of Liancourt.

“We want them to be able to buy pots, coal, silverware, bags of rice,” said Calixte. “I hope we can also hook up an international bank account.”

Haitian Heritage Month is not the only reason why South Florida is seeing a burst of interest beyond Miami’s Little Haiti. The culture has earned a mystique among non-Haitians that has made room for more overall exposure of the country.

Several local libraries and museums will also showcase the works of Haitian artists. The interest for Haitian culture has also been transferred to young, first-generation Haitian students who earlier, may have hidden their heritage for fear of teasing and bullying from non-Haitian students in schools.

Basquin said up-and-coming Haitian pop groups like the BlackParents, who have received top hits on YouTube, are also attracting a younger generation of Haitian Americans who are proud to state their island affiliation.

While Toussaint L’Ouverture students plan ways to care for a small village they hold dear, the people of Coral Gables Congregational Church have pulled resources to feed the hungry in Haiti, as well.

The church will hold a string of artsy events from a coffee klatsch to a book discussion with Haitian author Edwidge Danticat, to a film screening.

In Broward County, Miramar will be the setting of Broward’s Haitian Flag Day celebration, which will honor legendary Haitian musician Jose Tavernier and feature the music of various Haitian musical artists.

Miramar Haitian Flag Day coordinator Jimmy Moise said he hopes the city’s first Haitian Heritage celebration marks the start of an annual center for Haitian culture.

“There has been a lot more interest in trying to understand and know more about not only the Haitian culture but the Haitian ways of living, how our society functions,” said Moise.
“The world is gaining more respect for Haitian art.”

Ksdejean@aol.com

Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Students at Toussaint L’Ouverture High School for Arts and Social Justice prepare for Haitian Flag Day celebration.



HAITIAN HERITAGE MONTH AND HAITIAN FLAG DAY FESTIVITIES and EVENTS THROUGHOUT SOUTH FLORIDA

WHAT: First Annual Miramar Haitian Heritage Month Celebration
“Night of the Artists” Honoring Haitian Music Legend Jose Tavernier
WHEN: Sat. May 10, at 7:45 p.m. – Cocktails, 9 p.m. – Dinner
WHERE: Miramar Civic Center, 6920 SW 35th St., Miramar
COST: $50
CONTACT: Jimmy Moise – 754-423-6465

WHAT:  Toussaint L’Ouverture High School for Arts and Social Justice Haitian Flag Day celebration   
WHEN: Sunday, May 18, from noon to 10 p.m.
WHERE: Old School Square, 51 North Swinton Avenue, Delray Beach
COST: General Admission – $13; Students with ID – $8; Free for children under 5
CONTACT: Robin LaMare 561-376-7179

WHAT: “Haitians of Florida: The Hope and the Future,” a photographic exhibition celebrating the Haitian community of Florida  
WHEN: On exhibit until June 4.
WHERE: Delray Beach Public Library, 100 West Atlantic Avenue, 2nd floor gallery, Delray Beach
COST: Free
CONTACT: Alan Kornblau, 561-266-0194

WHAT:  “Haitian Community Arts: Images by Iris PhotoCollective”
WHEN: On Exhibit until June 30
WHERE: Spady Museum, 170 NW Fifth Avenue, Delray Beach
COST: Free
CONTACT: 561-279-8883

WHAT: Spady Museum Haitian Heritage Month Trolley tour through Haitian communities
WHEN: Sat. May 10, at 10 a.m.
WHERE: Pick-up and drop-off at Delray Beach Historic Society,  5 NE First Street, Delray Beach
COST: $15 for adults, $12 for museum members, $10 for children.
CONTACT: Pre-register by calling 561-279-8883.

Coral Gables Congregational Church
WHAT:  Haitian Heritage Month festivities** at Coral Gables Congregational Church
WHEN: May 11 – 25
WHERE: 3010 De Soto Boulevard, in Coral Gables (across from the Biltmore Hotel), Miami
COST: Free and open to the public
CONTACT:  305-448-7421
**Haiti Market and Coffee Bar | Sunday, May 11 & 25
In Fellowship Hall after church services

Book Club Presentation | Wednesday, May 14
7: 30 p.m. – |Meet award-winning author Edwidge Danticat who will talk about her most recent memoir Brother, I’m Dying.
Presentation by Vodou Priestess | Monday, May 19
7 p.m. – Learn about the Vodou religion and its contribution to Haitian culture – in Havighorst Lounge (entered through the west-side entrance of the CGCC Campus, on Columbus Boulevard)
Film Screening and Panel Discussion |Sunday, May 25
6 p.m. – Screening of documentary “Of Men and Gods,” and a panel discussion on gay issues in Haiti. – in Havighorst Lounge (entered through the west-side entrance of the CGCC Campus, on Columbus Boulevard)

WHAT: Emergency Summit on Haiti
WHEN: Friday, May 9, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
WHERE: Historical Museum of Southern Florida, 101C West Flagler Street, Miami
COST: Free and public   
CONTACT: 305-375-5730

WHAT: Poetry Reading and Art Exhibit
WHEN: Sunday, May 18 from 4 to 8 p.m.
WHERE: 10525 Southwest 130th Court, Miami
COST: Free and public
CONTACT: Francois Adrien, 786-426-4688 or 305-388-0493