DELRAY BEACH – A new artistic project is bringing 10 talented young people to South Florida from Jacmel, Haiti. Students of the Toussaint L’Ouverture High School for Arts and Social Justice (TLHS) charter school in Delray Beach, many of whom are either Haitian-American or recent immigrants from Haiti, are partnering with young members of the Art Creation Foundation for Children (ACFFC), special emissaries of the Haitian people, Nov. 2-19.
Together they will create a public art mosaic installation in Boynton Beach to honor Florida residents who provided aid to the people of Haiti following recent natural disasters, said Joseph Bernadel, ACFFC board member and chief operating officer of Toussaint L’Ouverture High School.
“The generosity of the people of Florida during a number of cataclysmic events, particularly the earthquake of 2010, has not been lost on the people of Haiti,” said Bernadel, a retired U.S. Army major. “This is an expression of thanks from the Haitian people.”
The public art project will be registered with the state of Florida as part of Viva Florida 500, a statewide initiative of the Florida Department of State to celebrate 500 years of Florida history and diversity of culture.
The ACFFC is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to the education and personal growth of youth in need in Jacmel. Its youths began working on mosaic installations after the 2010 Haiti earthquake to memorialize lives lost and celebrate hope for the future.
Their first installation, called Tree of Life, was one of many Mosaïque Jacmel projects, among them mural installations and benches seen throughout Jacmel, and widely considered as enhancing the city.
The ACFFC’s Team Mosaïque will bring with it a mosaic mural memorializing the many Haitian lives lost at sea.
“The visiting youths were chosen on the basis of their mosaics skills,” said Judy Hoffman, ACFFC board president. That was a comparatively easy hurdle compared to the visa concerns, she said. "The fact is in Haiti, even without the earthquake being a factor, there are many children without any documents because they were born at home, or the papers were lost. Many don’t have any sort of documents. We’ve got people 16 – 17 years old who don’t have a piece of paper. There are others we would have loved to have brought with us as well.”
Some of those youth coming to the U.S. “were born on the street, are skilled and talented and regal, and through the arts have reached this level.”
Jacmel “is going through a rebirth, and we as an organization have been commissioned to do a lot of mosaic work,” Hoffman said. One result is that Team Mosaïque is coming here “not in need, but coming with grace to teach other Haitian-American youth the skills they have learned.
“Mosaic has been a game changer for us. They have proven that when you place something beautiful on a wall, people do not throw trash in front of it.”
While in South Florida, the youths will audit academic classes at TLHS, and visit local cultural hotspots such as the Palm Beach Photographic Centre in West Palm Beach, and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County and Clay-Glass-Stone Cooperative Gallery, both in Lake Worth.
Some of the ACFFC team members will also visit Washington D.C. to
visit the Haitian Embassy and Capitol Hill.
In Haiti, said Bernadel, “close to 70 percent of youths do not graduate from high school. So this kind of collaboration
underlies the necessity to provide opportunities.”
The collaboration “continues to happen between the people of the Diaspora and the people of Haiti. It is not all just economic, it is social, religious and political aspirations, and the children of Jacmel and my school are part of a new generation that is building these ties.”
He credited Delray Beach City Commissioner Al Jacquet, a leader in the local Haitian community, “who will be very important in determining where the (public art mosaic installation) is going to be.” The office of U.S. Congresswoman Lois Frankel was instrumental in making the visit possible.
Along with the two partner organizations, the project is being sponsored by the Office of Public Diplomacy, Embassy of the United States, Port au Prince, Haiti. Additional supporters include Jacmel’s Offices of the Ministries of Culture and Tourism, the Mayor of Jacmel, Haiti, the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County and the Palm Beach Photographic Centre.
“It’s been a trying time because the visa requirements have been taxing on us for quite a while,” Bernadel said, “and we could not go forward had it not been for the strong commitment of the people of Jacmel and the embassy, to determine that this is a legitimate project, not a fly-by-night thing.”
Now, he said, “The students at Toussaint are very excited about the opportunity to collaborate with those in Haiti.”
*Pictured above is Joseph Bernadel.