To say the Dominican Republic and Haiti have a difficult history is an under-statement. Despite historical (and largely artificial) divisions, there is much the two countries share. This includes a love of music, dance, rum and a good fet/fiesta. The Smithsonian Institution’s Latino Center and the Haitian and Dominican Embassies teamed up yesterday to hold a concert celebrating friendship among two peoples who share an island and a future. Enriquillo Tejada y Los Clarinetes Magicos and Tabou Combo represented their countries well.
Orchestre Septentrional, founded in 1948, is as much an institution as it is a band. A New York Times article by Larry Rohter below describes how Septen, much like Haiti itself, draws from European, African, Caribbean, and Latin American influences to outlast uncertainty and adversity. Interested in hearing/learning more? Check out the new documentary about the band called "When the Drum is Beating." Or better yet, see them in Haiti.
Below is a piece written by Ovetta Sampson for the Christian Science Monitor concerning Haiti's bid to join the African Union (AU). Haiti has been considered by many to be an orphaned African country. Membership would acknowledge Haiti's African roots, strong even today, and possibly open doors for credit and investment. Haiti's request for associate membership will be considered at the next AU Summit in June 2013. It would be a unique arrangement, but then again, Haiti is a unique country.
Like Haitians themselves, coffee has African roots. Throughout much of its colonial and post-colonial history, coffee was a major export and source of livelihoods. However, mismanagement, deforestation, natural disasters, political instability, and embargos have resulted in a dramatic decrease Haitian coffee exports. Yet, Haitian coffee is good - unusually good. Can Haiti revive and expand its coffee industry? Just Haiti and Singing Rooster are two organizations that believe it can. Buying from either of these organizations is a great way to support both your coffee habit and Haitian farmers.
World Monuments Fund (WMF) is an independent organization that has been dedicated to saving the world’s architectural and cultural heritage sites since 1965. WMF accomplishes this through advocacy, education, capacity building, and disaster response. Each year, WMF releases a Watch List of architectural sites that are at risk. Three Haitian architectural sites were listed on the 2012 Watch List: (1) The San Souci Palace in Milot; (2) the Gingerbread Houses of Port au Prince; and (3) the Jacmel Historic District. Read about these sites and how to get involved in their protection below.
I finally got around to watching the No Reservations episode in which Anthony Bourdain travels to Port au Prince. While it is a shame that he did not visit Haiti’s secondary cities or countryside, he and his team were able to capture some of the beauty, the tragedy, and the potential of Haiti. He comes away understanding Haitians are trying their best to get their lives, communities, and country back on track. You can catch the entire episode (in three parts) on Youtube.
The Ciné Institute, which recently moved to a new campus five miles west of Jacmel, is devoted to developing Haitian film-makers. During the first year, students are immersed in all aspects of filmmaking such as narrative, advertising, music videos and documentary. In the second year, students specialize in screenwriting, directing, producing, cinematography, sound, editing or production design. Recent clients include Arcade Fire, BET, Brandaid Project, Brasserie Nationale d'Haiti, The Clinton Foundation, Google, Medicos del Mundo, and USAID. Below is an update from Founder David Belle and links to new films produced by Cine students.
The Service to Serve Haiti Committee is a group of individuals from the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC committed to supporting recovery efforts in Haiti. Its members have organized a screening of "Lift Up", a documentary about two Haitian brothers who return to Haiti in order to memorialize the grandfather they lost after the earthquake. The screening will benefit Fonkoze, the Haiti Micah Project, and the Saint Vincent's School for the Handicapped, each of which the Committee's members have worked with and know first hand the impact these groups are making for women and children in Haiti. Below is the official press release.
“Are you a Missionary? What is Your Religion?” Two common enough questions when Haitians are getting to know foreigners. Haiti is a religious country and even the smallest villages have multiple churches if not a library or a clinic. While every imaginable denomination has a presence in Haiti, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Vodoun form an uneasy trinity. Haitian Vodoun is a vibrant, fascinating religion. One need not be a Vodouisant to experience it, appreciate it, and learn from it.
You don't have to go to Haiti to start learning about Haitians. In many cities along the East Coast, there are ample opportunities to experience Haitian culture. The Tap Tap Restaurant in Miami is a great place to enjoy Haitian food, music, and art at the same time. If in Miami, it is well worth a visit.