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Check out Cornbread and Cremasse live TONIGHT! Haitian AllStarZ Radio on WBAI 99.5 FM (or online at wbai.org) every Tuesday evening/ early Wednesday morning 12Midnight – 2:00am. Call in with your comments and shout outs at 718-780-8888.

Tune into tomorrow’s show as we welcome musical guests Monvelyno Alexis and Riva Précil also known as Bohio Music. This amazing duo delivers a wonderful blend of Haitian Vodou and Roots music. You will be thoroughly entertained with their sensual vocals and guitar.

We also welcome LIVE in the studio Ingrid Austin-Daniels of Cornbread and Cremasse with the monthly “Blague” segment and Manolia Live returns with the Haitian AllStarZ news update.

Haitian AllStarZ is hosted by Hard Hittin Harry, DJayCee, Only One Pro, and MC Dred-I. Tune in every week for a fantastic blend of Haitian Kompas, Zouk, RaRa, Kanaval, and much more! The show offers a weekly dose of Music, News, Culture, Politics and Discussion from a Haitian/American and universal perspective embracing the community we belong to.

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When I was junior in high school, a new hip hop album was released by a group called A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) entitled “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm”.  My then boyfriend had bought the new ATCQ cassette tape and he dubbed it for me.  I loved that album so much that I played the tape over and over again until the audio started sounding funny.

They were part of a crew called the Native Tongues, who I was really feeling back then (and even still now).  The Native Tongues were a group of hip hop artist known for their positive-minded, good-natured Afrocentric lyrics.  They also pioneered the use of eclectic sampling and jazz-influenced beats. They were different and more fun than the standard hip hop groups up until that time. I felt that I could relate to them the most out of all the other hip hop groups/crews at the time.  They  were young, black and seemed to have fun together.  Their lyrics didn’t focus on the ill realities of the inner city and as a carefree high schooler, that was more my speed.  Relatability has always been important to me.  They even had female emcees in the crew — one of which grew up close to where I lived.

As I matured and started to identify more with my Haitian culture, I still loved hip hop but was very aware that Haitian-Americans were not represented in the genre – not publicly anyway.  I was a sophomore in college when I heard the first real Haitian hip-hop reference…and it came from none other than Phife Dawg, a member of a Tribe Called Quest.

It was one line,  but it was such a big deal for us fans who were Haitian.  He said “I love ’em black, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitian, name is Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation…”.  We were all so hyped to have been shout out by such an amazing, mainstream group.  Phife is Trinidadian, so he could have very well shout out his own country, or instead said “Jamaican” which was a more common Caribbean country that would also rhyme with “Nation”…but he didn’t; He said “Haitian”!!  I love how he SAW us..and loved us — so much so that he put it in his rhyme.  When people acknowledge you, you feel empowered.  Thanks to Phife, Haitians were no longer invisible in hip hop. That small gesture…to be seen, named, and publicly acknowledged was such huge deal to me.  My love for ATCQ was already deep, but it deepened after that.

I was saddened to learn that Malik Taylor, also known as Phife Dawg passed away recently.   I would have liked to thank him for that shout out.   I wonder if he knew how much we appreciated that line.

Electric Relaxation, A Tribe Called Quest

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I am a Creole, but not the kind that you are most likely thinking of. I am not from Louisiana, nor do I resemble Beyonce. I speak Kreyòl, but I was not born in Haiti, and neither were my parents, or my grandparents. So why do I claim a Creole identity? And what does Haiti mean to me? My answer might surprise you. I believe that our world is comprised of both visible and invisible forces working together to create our experiences. In the visible world, my skin color, hair texture and body shape are the phenotypical identifiers of a Black woman, yet Blackness is not a homogenous, fixed social category. My ancestors are European, Native American, Asian and African. At my core, I am and continually strive to be a vessel of Light, sprouting forth and filled daily with the love of God. Because I am multicultural, multilingual, and multireligious, I am a Creole.
From birth to my early twenties, my experience was that of an African American girl from Savannah, Georgia who was raised in the West Indian neighborhood of Flatbush, Brooklyn. My step-father, God-bless-the-dead, was Jamaican, and my best friends were Haitian, St. Lucian and Trinidadian. On holidays, we ate jerk pork, griot, candied yams and macaroni and cheese. We also sipped on rum punch, carrot juice and cremas that sent us straight to sleep while the adults socialized through the night. We listened to R&B, Rap, Reggae, Soca and Ska. Although culturally rich, my neighborhood was no utopia. In a city as diverse as New York, inter-ethnic prejudice is no secret, particularly among the international Black communities. Insults such as “Haitian or African Booty Scratcher” were common in my childhood, and the internalized racism was rarely addressed by adults, and sometimes encouraged. It is true that too many of my family members would whisper disparaging things about the habits of “foreigners” who were taking over New York. As a smart and well-mannered African American girl, I was an anomaly to many of my West Indian peers whose parents had cautioned them that Americans were lazy and were jealous of them.

The author in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY

Khadeidra in Prospect Park, Brooklyn

The author in Lafayette Square, Savannah, GA

Kahdeidra in Lafayette Square in Savannah, GA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Black children developing our self-concept, we objectified ourselves and each other in manners that, as bell hooks writes, “were compatible with existing images and ways of knowing, constructed within the social frameworks that reinforce domination” (Ford and Dillard, 1996, p. 233). Painstakingly, I tried my best to use such prejudice as a motivation to work harder in school and in extra-curricular activities, as I not only had to counter stereotypes of my race, but of my class background and ethnicity, as well. In the space between high school and college, in a search for myself, I began to challenge my notions of work and pleasure, choice and obligation, assaulting myself with a barrage of doubts and hypotheticals. Gradually, everything that I thought that I was sure of had become a waste of time, and I questioned whether I truly had earned the privileges that I enjoyed—acceptance at elite institutions of learning, scholastic and public speaking awards—or whether standards had been lowered to accommodate me. I grew tired of having to prove my worthiness to others because the work came to easy, or too hard, or because I switched like I had diamonds between my legs when I had been expected to apologize for the sight of my voluptuous booty and thighs amidst the stellar student-athletes.
During my sophomore year in college, after a Spring Break Learning Expedition to Ghana, I decided that I was not going to comb my hair anymore, and after several days, it began to naturally sprout dreadlocks. They were different sizes and shapes and absolutely beautiful. They started in the back of my head and worked their way around the sides, but the very top and front of my hair refused to lock. These strands were too straight and were what Black people referred to as my “good hair.” In all of my efforts to be “pure” African with the distinctive strong, tightly coiled hair texture to match, my own truth was literally staring me in the mirror. I joked that the behavior of these strands could be traced to my maternal Irish great-great-grandmother saying to me, “You better respect me, too! You ain’t all African.” My elders tell me that she was very light-skinned with long red hair and freckles, so I assume that she shared the Scotch-Irish heritage of several White Americans in the South. Across my cheeks and nose are both freckles and moles, which my mother refers to as “Black people’s freckles.” If I was not all African, and clearly not all European, then who was I? Why do I often find similarities between myself and people from the Caribbean when others claim that we are “totally different”?
I turned to God. I called on my ancestors for guidance, and they served it in a huge way. The more I prayed, the more I dreamed, and listened, and witnessed, and loved. It was revealed to me that somewhere in my lineage, I had Haitian ancestors. Moreover, they had been priests and priestesses of the Vodou religion. It was my path—the African American girl from Savannah—to initiate into the religion, as well. This news entirely changed my life. It shocked me and at the same time anchored and fortified me. I believed wholeheartedly in my connection with God. I believed wholeheartedly in my connection with my ancestors, so I trusted my messages and began my training in the theology and liturgy of Haitian Vodou. I deepened my cursory knowledge of Haitian culture and began to learn prayers and songs that were in French, Kreyòl, Fon, Yoruba, Kikongo and other indigenous languages. This process affirmed my whole being, and I began to develop what Ford and Dillard (1996) referred to as the “critical social consciousness” that allowed me to deconstruct notions of race and religion.

 

Veve are sacred drawings representing the Lwa

Veve are sacred drawings representing the Lwa

 

An offering that will be shared with visitors after the ceremony

An offering that will be shared with visitors after the ceremony

Historically, ‘Creole’ has been used to refer to people with mixed African-European parentage, but not always. ‘Creole’ also has referred to people with a mixed cultural experience, who were often multilingual. I contemplated what it meant to be a mixture of different skin tones and cultures. Supremacist narratives of any kind would undo me. Did my African and Native American ancestors truly worship the Devil in their indigenous religions? If so, then their historical enslavement and decimation at the hands of Whites makes sense. Yet, if the Devil seeks enslavement for his followers, then God must seek liberation. I must credit God for all triumphs against enslavement and institutions of oppression. I must credit God with the success of the Haitian Revolution on January 1, 1804, which formed the first independent Black nation in the Americas and provided a beacon of hope for all others who remained enslaved.
Haitian Vodou is a religion of Creoles, of people from Senegal, Nigeria, Benin, Dahomey, the Kongo who called on every name of God that they knew of to escape death and persecution. Powerful ancestors and forces of nature known as orisha, vodun and bisimbi in Africa (Ginen) became zanj and lwa in Haiti. Male and female, husband and wife, mother and child, they united to lead the Creoles in their fight for liberation. In reconciling the religious customs that he was taught with his emerging critical social consciousness, B. Kanpol (1997) writes, “I must challenge traditional Jewish ways, or even social efficient systems, as I did as a boy, and read for myself the New Testament or/and create possibility out of a simple and mechanistic mindset” (p. 30). What Kanpol describes in challenging religious norms and seeking truth for himself is precisely the kind of “leap of faith” that strengthens my belief in religious plurality and my commitment to practicing the beautiful religion of my ancestors.

 

Mambo and houngan marching at a ceremony

Mambo and Houngan marching at a ceremony

Ten years since I first received my call, I have become a Mambo, an initiated priestess of Haitian Vodou, and my husband Hermann is a Houngan, a priest. He initiated at 19 years old and has been active in supporting and preserving Vodou sacred traditions throughout Haiti and the dysapora. I am a Southern girl at heart, and he is as country as they come, so our movements are often synchronized in some way. We meet over stewed turkey wings and white rice, mayi moulen and grits, lima beans and sos pwa. We meet over Kongo square and Neg Mawon. We meet over loud talking and bay blag, all day, toujou. Through the practice of Vodou, I have learned that only God has wisdom, and it is precisely our arrogance, or frekan-ness, that keeps us from moving forward. My spirituality is my defense against oppressive social practices. It is the critical lens through which I see the world and make sense of its infinite multiplicities. I am a Creole, a Savannah Creole, and I could never be more proud.

 

 

 

The author and her husband in ceremonial dress

Kahdeidra and her husband in ceremonial dress

 

 

 

The author and her husband on their wedding day

Kahdeidra and husband on wedding day

 

 

The author and her husband at a ceremony in Archaiae, Haiti

Kahdeidra and husband at a ceremony in Archaiae, Haiti

 

An offering that will be shared with visitors after the ceremony

An offering that will be shared with visitors after the ceremony

 
References
Ford, T., & Dillard, C. (1996). Becoming multicultural: A recursive process of self-and
     social construction. Theory into Practice, 35(4), 232-238.
Kanpol, B. (1997). Establishing a criticality and Critical pedagogy and the multicultural
     project. In Barry Kanpol & Fred Yeo (Eds.), Issues and trends in critical
    pedagogy (pp. 21-32, 49-63). NJ: Hampton Press.

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Yven’s article first appeared in the Miami Herald on 11/29/14 and is shared here with permission.

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Thirty years ago, Phede Eugene, an honor-roll teenager at Miami Edison High School, parked his car at a neighborhood church and shot himself in the chest. He died instantly. By accounts from family and officials, Phede probably killed himself because he was ashamed of his Haitian heritage.

But more troubling was the thought that being identified as Haitian was so stinging an indictment that Phede no longer wanted to live. It was better to hide — and die — in the shadow of a lie than to live openly Haitian.

As the Miami Herald reported, he preferred to speak English rather than Haitian Creole. He told few people about his Haitian background and reportedly told his family that he refused to identify as Haitian. Phede’s tangled hidden world, however, soon began to unravel. It began about a week before his suicide, when his sister came to Burger King, where he worked, and spoke to him in Haitian Creole.

Phede, who went by Fred, and aspired to pass as African American, was accidentally outed in this exchange, in front of his girlfriend, who reportedly did not know he was Haitian. Mortified, Phede scolded his sister. Shortly after, he borrowed money to buy a gun and ended his life.

Most likely he lived a tormented life, torn by a thorn of a double consciousness, never sure of where he fit in. He probably agonized over what his girlfriend knew and feared the taunts of would-be aggressors at school who might discover his secret and bully him for being what many Haitians in South Florida were perceived to be — smelly newcomers right off the refugee boat.

I feel his pain. For Haitians like myself, who were so-called “undercover Haitians,” Phede’s story — his extreme disdain, anxiety and, perhaps, guilt for hiding his identity — goes deeper than any one can imagine. Short of suicide, Phede’s story is my story and the story of thousands of others in the Haitian diaspora.

Phede’s death is important because it marked the awakening of immigrant Haitians reaffirming their identity, a long process that drew more attention right after the 2010 Haitian earthquake, almost three decades later. This struggle with identity and acceptance hits close to home as there are, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, as many as 830,000 Haitian immigrants in the United States, almost a third of that number reside in Florida.

I was 4 years old when Phede died, a resident of South Florida and the son of immigrant Haitians. I did not know Phede. However, by 11, I knew what it was probably like to be him: I felt there was something eerily damaging about letting people know that I was Haitian.

In the thick of the refugee crisis surging in 1991, in my 11-year-old mind, being Haitian represented being primitive, uncultured in sound and speech. To me Haiti equaled hate. Thus began my lying about my heritage. Lying was never easy, and I learned it is impossible to shed your culture, your uniqueness, the stuff God put in you.

I agonized daily over every decision to cover up my identity. I told people that I was half Bahamian, half Canadian or French.

Perhaps the worst of it came when I had to grieve alone. My mother died in a small plane crash in Haiti. To remove any connection of myself to Haiti, I told people my mother died in the crash of the ValuJet Airline DC 9 headed to Atlanta from Miami in 1996.

It was not until college in Atlanta, away from the cultural cauldron of Miami that placed people of Haitian descent at the bottom of society, that I began to embrace my heritage.

Phede never got the chance to embrace who he was. But his death, at least in my mind, marks a watershed moment in the Haitian immigrant experience and highlights a long history of severe bias and stigma that has plagued people of Haitian descent.

Phede‘s death reveals the tragic degree to which untold numbers of Haitians went “undercover” to escape the stigma. But knowing of Phede’s life can begin a new era, one in which I believe immigrant Haitians can reach for self-acceptance and pride.

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There is almost always this moment between two people of Haitian descent in certain spaces, when they find out they are of the same background. A connection happens, even if for only that moment, that they understand one another and are happy to find each other whether at a workplace or a social gathering. This is what I like to convey in my work, particularly on Haitian subjects, including to those who are not Haitian.
I’m a first generation Haitian-Canadian/American if that makes any sense. Born in Montreal, Quebec and raised in New York City. My upbringing was pretty much as Haitian as they come but with hymns in French and sermons in kreyol replacing, kompas and anything related to Haitian roots culture. But like most kids raised in the U.S. there was this navigating of dual identities where some of us never learned to speak kreyol or never had the chance to visit the place where our parents came from. My art has been my way to figure it all out.
The project, the Haitian Creatives Project, came out of frustration as an artist whose personal life had hit a very rough patch (but also organically through the relationships with the many New York-based Haitian artists I began to document including Zing Experience and Buyu Ambroise.) I needed something to channel the uncertainty I felt at the time into something productive. So I called, nagged, emailed, different painters, actors, musicians, animators, etc., I knew to take their portraits. It was swim or stupor.
It’s been a year since I officially gave it a name. Some of the portraits have been featured in a group show put together by the Haiti Cultural Exchange, and it has evolved into a multimedia exhibition of sorts, with interviews and mini-documentaries. With that, it takes more time and I want to take it somewhere I never thought possible.
An introduction to the Haitian Creatives Project:
From the Screening in September:
The official page: http://richardlouissaint.com/?fluxus_portfolio=haitian-creatives
The mini-documentaries:

rlouissaint1 rlouissaint2 rlouissaint3

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My identity crisis began in chemistry lab. The class required a clean white coat and safety goggles. I was instructed to wash my hands for two minutes. The soap made my palms feel brittle while the latex gloves stiffened my muscles. My good eye would squint into a microscope that I could never figure out how to adjust properly. Slides covered in splotches of red and purple stains made me lose my appetite. All of this, three times a week.

My Microbiology professor, a Brooklyn native with a thick Puerto Rican accent recognized my struggles early on but judging from the red marks all over my assignments, had zero sympathy for me. But thanks to Rita, my lab partner, I still passed. Her penchant for getting high right before class made her overlook my incompetence and she gleefully did all the work for the both of us.

Rita’s ability to breeze through each assignment despite her marijuana-induced brain was all the more proof that I was not fit to be a dietician.

I switched my major the next term.

Growing up, the common images of Haitian women in the workplace were in hospitals, nursing homes and medical offices. My mother was a nurse. My aunts were medical practitioners. And almost all my Haitian peers were planning on going to medical school upon high school graduation. Unbeknownst to me, I made a life decision based on an internalized cultural stereotype.

Many people of different racial and ethnic groups will internalize positive and sometimes even negative stereotypes about themselves, even when those perceptions limit their worldview. Although I preferred writing and literature over the periodic table and scientific method, I felt tied to the cultural specific labels placed upon me as a Haitian-American woman. Not to mention that I aimed to please my parents who saw an education in medicine much more respectable than one in liberal arts.

I, like many second-generation Haitian-American children, faced conflicts with my identity. The crushing stigmas, stereotypes and careless media reporting about Haiti and its people played a huge role in this. But my desire to be “outside the box,” or separate from the norm conflicted more with my dual identity. Pressure from my parents who I wanted to please and peers who I wanted to prove my authenticity to, all made me struggle with my identity. But my contention eased when I finally left home.

In  2002, I moved from Florida, which boasts the highest population of Haitian immigrants in the United States, and relocated to Georgia. Once there, it slowly became easier for me to define myself. While my nationality is and will always be a part of who I am, I no longer feel tied to all the cultural norms and traditions typically associated with Haitian-Americans.

Living alone and surrounded by mostly non-Haitian people, I rid myself of the “model minority” mystique. My Cringlish could fall off my tongue without embarrassment. I could dance badly to kompa without looks of confusion.  And despite my below average griot, it was still a hit with my American friends.

The most important lesson I learned is that I can never be one without the other. I am very much Haitian as I am American and both components make me who I am today.

annabella

Annabella Jean-Laurent is a Haitian-American writer who explores race, media and culture in society. Her current project surrounds an important but little known exhibit called the Negro Building at the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition. Follow her @militantbarbie on Twitter and Facebook. 

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This blog post was submitted by Kim “The Muse” Charles…just in time for Brooklyn’s West Indian (Labor) Day Parade.

Have you heard of Phoenix Refined?

Phoenix Refined brought the 1st Annual Haitian Masquerade Camp to New York City for The West Indian American Day Carnival to rejuvenate the numerous aspects of the Haitian Heritage by Teaching Culture through the Art of Masquerading. Our purpose with the Haitian Masquerade Camp is to use it as a platform to enlighten others about the rich legacy of Haiti through Cultural Affairs like Live Events, Conferences, Fashion Shows, Music, Art programs and more. This will therefore empower the Haitian Community & Teach cultural empathy and awareness through out the Caribbean Diaspora. Although the movement began in this manner it doesn’t just end there “We’re more than just a Masquerade Camp; We’re Haitian Cultural Ambassadors To The World!!!”

This Haitian Masquerade Camp was brought to life because of the lack of Haitian Representation in the Caribbean Community. We are the missing link to restoring our countries rich culture and history in New York City. Phoenix Refined believes in giving back to the community and so with that we are collaborating for our 2nd year with It Takes a Community to Raise a Child, a nonprofit learning facility, which addresses the students’, individual needs so that he or she may develop physically, spiritually, intellectually, socially, and morally; ITAC believes in educating the whole child. We play a role in the cultural education of these children and in the near future we hope to branch out further.

pheonixrefined1 phoenixrefined2

About The Founder Kimberly Charles

Having been mentored by fashion icons like former ESSENCE Magazine fashion editor Ionia Dunn Lee and noted celebrity stylist Spry Lee Scott, Kimberly Charles, the founder of Phoenix Refined, has been bred to infuse fresh, funky and classic style from the sidewalk to the catwalk. Due to her vivacious spirit she has been blessed to work with clients like Rhum Barbancourt, AfroPunk, America’s Next Top Model’s Anchal Joseph, Anya Rozova, Restaurateur B. Smith, Singers Cheri Dennis & Frenchie Davis to name a few.

Her hands on experience, under the guidance of her mentors, has further molded her mainstream rebellious ensembles and ensured her professional work ethic approach, as she developed her career as a Fashion Stylist. One of her Mantra’s are “You will always be a blossoming leader as long as you’re always willing to be a student.” Charles is an avid volunteer for organizations such as Hope Worldwide, Gen Art, Passport To The City & The M.L.K Concert Series.

In June of 2012 she focused her views on Her Haitian Ancestry and vowed to change the Lack of Haitian Culture Represented in the Caribbean Community. When Phoenix Refined debuted in 2012 there was no established Organization Representing Haitian Culture at the West Indian American Day Carnival. So with creating a Movement like this one it has had a Major effect on the Haitian Identity. We are prouder than we were yesterday & the joy that beseeches us is greater than words. This movement has changed people’s outlook on a previously downtrodden country. Phoenix Refined has aimed to show the Pride, Joy & Hope Of Haitian Culture.

This movement has become more valuable because it will continue to change the Moral of a Country and of a people who, like the Phoenix, are still rising from their ashes. In the future Phoenix Refined will cause the younger generation of Haitians & Haitian Americans to be re-introduced to their Language, Food & Culture.

Since The creation of Phoenix Refined we have been blessed to work with many non for profit organizations and expose others to the Haitian Culture. We have worked with inner city Schools Like Mott Hall Bridges Academy in conjunction with a group called Passport to the City +NoMadness Travel Tribe, Capra Care, New York Cities Haitian Consulate, Fabrice Armand’s Haiti Cherie Pride, Love & Commitment, The National Haitian Student Alliance, C2C’s Hope & A Future Benefit Concert, LaCaye Restaurant at BAMs Dance Africa Festival and Many More. Our Vision & Our Goal Is To Produce Proud Haitians & Haitian-Americans who are Proactive, Invovled & Aware Of Their Rich Culture. With Phoenix Refined The Proof is in the Pudding come & see for yourself.

With Phoenix Refined we are creating an environment where we bring the camaraderie back into the Haitian Culture and the Caribbean Diaspora as a whole.

With you as an active partner “Moving The Movement” you will encourage cultural empathy within the Diaspora. So Please Don’t Just Be A Spectator Be An Active PARTICIPANT!!! If you are interested in Volunteering, Donating or Partnering up with Phoenix Refined with please feel free to email Team Phoenix Refined via Bus. Line 646.926.0379 or Email PhoenixRefined@gmail.com

Stay Connected With Us!

Email: PhoenixRefined@gmail.com

Facebook| facebook.com/PhoenixRefined

Follow Us On Instagram| PhoenixRefined

Follow Us On Twitter| twitter.com/PhoenixRefined

Check Out Our Interview On BCAT’s TV Neworks: With MarieAnge Daniels Beyond FocusTV http://youtu.be/Pt1bi-U5tCg

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