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The battle of the Caribbean islands was on!

Flag-Pins-Haiti-Trinidad-and-Tobago

 

It all started when my in- laws coordinated a trip to their country of origin, Trinidad and Tobago.  They wanted their grandchildren to see and get to know their life journey. It was great trip with lots food, fun, and of course being with family.  It got me to thinking that it was equally important for my kids to get to know my parents’ country of origin, Haiti.

So what does a fully assimilated Haitian-American do to make that happen?

I booked a cruise, of course.

 

Now, I had set my expectations of Haiti very high. I was 6 years old the last time I had visited. I mean on a scale of 1-10, it was on one million.  What life has taught me is that the higher the expectations, the more likely you are to be disappointed.  I brought it on myself and that is exactly what happened when we docked in Labadee, Haiti. As we approached Haiti on Day 3,  I was struck by the beauty of the mountains and how picturesque the scenery was. Then out of nowhere a dark cloud appeared over us and began a torrential downpour, an ominous sign indeed.

So back to the cruise, before I get into the nitty gritty and you may feel the need to comment about how I went about it all wrong. You are right. Who asked you anyway?  The lesson in this is NEVER take a cruise line to a country if you really want to get a feel for the culture. That was my biggest mistake.
 So we arrive in Labadee Haiti, a privately owned island, sanctioned by the cruise line in a torrential downpour. I figure since we had been on that boat for 3 days, We ARE getting off.  We are greeted by a group of men singing “Guantanamera”. I did one of those gestures where you look back and then in front of you a few times, like “What in the world? Is this for real?” I understand Haitian music is a unique blend of African, Spanish, and French rhythms but I anticipated compas/kompa upon my arrival.
 We just continued on our way but that experience was just the tip of the iceberg. However, I made sure to make eye contact as if somehow they could read my mind.
bey
There were signs directing us to a marketplace area where we could buy from the locals. Prior to departure, it was explained that the vendors were “cruise line” approved. In other words, you had to go through a vetting process in order to work on Labadee.  As we strolled through the marketplace, I am accustomed to vendors trying to get my attention, the other guests of the cruise, weren’t so pleased. I almost wanted to yell ” Stop it, we are better than this!”.
I wanted to pick a bottle of rum, so I stepped into a small store and begin to peruse the merchandise. I don’t know who decided it would be a good idea to put a picture of Bob Marley on souvenirs with the caption ” Labadee, Haiti”.  I love Bob Marley like the next person, but I also know he is NOT Haitian.  This was not isolated either, it was everywhere.  There is so much more to Haitian culture that there is no reason to culturally misappropriate individuals.
IMG_5002 (1)
We have so much we could be proud of as outlined in : https://cornbreadandcremasse.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/telling-our-story-3/, but here are a just a few facts to share.
Native Haitians were pre-Columbian Ameridian named Taino/Arawak both meaning the good people.
Haiti is the most mountainous country in the Caribbean.
Haiti has the second longest coastline in the Caribbean after Cuba; 1.100 miles. Over 70% of its beaches are still virgin.
Haiti was the second country in the world to issue a Declaration of Independence, only 33 years after the United States of America.
The first and only country in the history of mankind whose independence is the result of a successful slave rebellion.
Haiti is the first Black Republic in the World.
The first country in the Western Hemisphere to abolished slavery; it would take the United States of America another 65 years to follow suit.
The first and only Black Nation to have successfully defeated a major world power in a war; under the command of Jean Jacques Dessalines, Haiti defeated the world mightiest army at the time, France’s; on November 18th 1803 after 14 years of battle.
-The only country in the Western Hemisphere to have defeated three colonial armies for its independence. The powerful armies of Spain, England and France.
-Haiti is unique in history, going directly from slavery to nationhood.
The National flag of Venezuela was created at the sea port of  Jacmel, a city in  south east Haiti.
Upon Independence, Haiti became the first country in the American Continent to constitutionally grant all Its citizen full rights regardless of gender or race.
Haiti occupied the Dominican Republic for 22 years. From 1822 to 1844, holding the entire Island of Hispaniola under Its jurisdiction. Today’s Dominican Republic was called Spanish Haiti at the time.
Haiti is one of the only two countries in the American Continent having French as an official language. The other is Canada.
Haiti is the only country in the world with Vodou as an official religion.
For much of the 17th and the 18th century, Haiti was responsible for 60% of the world’s  coffee exports.
 Even though, things were not perfect or realistic for that matter, it meant a lot to me to be able to share the experience with my family. Clearly, I need a trip to Haiti do over and when I do, you will be the first to know.
Have you ever visited a place that didn’t quite live up to your expectations? How did you reconcile your expectations with the reality? I would love to hear your comments and ideas for my do over trip:).

 

 

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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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This blog post is by Martine, Haitian-American author of the blog ” Taste Buds Required.  Please check out her blog at: http://www.tastebudsrequired.com

 

concord

 

I have a confession: I don’t know much about wine. This was mostly a non-issue for me before moving to Seattle because most of my friends and family in NY didn’t know about wine, either. When I moved here, I realized how much serving wine was actually a part of the culture; having people over for dinner generally meant having wine to serve them.

In keeping with my philosophy that what goes in my mouth should taste good, I’m mostly a fan of picking up brands that I think I’ll find tasty. We could argue that knowledge gives you a different sense of what tastes good, and maybe once you’ve had a really good wine it’s hard to go back to bad ones, but ultimately it’s still just a matter of preference (of course, with my limited knowledge, I wasn’t really thinking about the fact that wine can be used to enhance the flavor of a meal). My mother’s preference was for Manischewitz.

I know what you’re likely thinking, and I wouldn’t entirely disagree. I’m sure most wine enthusiasts would be appalled by this, or the fact that it was actually occasionally served to guests at parties (either that or White Zinfandel), but no one ever seemed to be bothered by this. To be fair, wine (or alcohol in general) weren’t standard parts of the meal. They were very occasional and usually precipitated by someone asking if they could bring something. If someone mentioned wine, though, someone was likely breaking out a bottle of Manischewitz.

With that background in mind, I was at a severe disadvantage when I moved. Most of my guests would offer to bring wine, but I like to make sure my guests don’t have to worry about bringing anything which meant I wanted to be the one to buy the wine.

At one of my very first dinner parties here, I did the unthinkable and actually brought out a bottle of White Zinfandel. In my mind, this was the classy wine, and definitely a step up from Manischewitz. The bottle went untouched as several of my guests (who apparently don’t like showing up empty handed) had all decided to bring a bottle of “real” wine. I was thankful (if slightly embarrassed) for the lesson and to my guests for deciding to bring the wine, anyway. I also realized I was going to have to learn a thing or two about wine.

How do you go about picking your wine? I’m betting that most people aren’t taking long wine classes or even doing massive internet searches for how to pair wine with a meal. I still don’t know much, but at least I’m no longer serving the undrinkable. While I’ve also usually got a bottle or two of wine on hand, for the most part, I’ve decided to let my guests bring the wine, and focus on the things that I do know.

 

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I was talking to my mother on the phone the other day and I mentioned that I had just bought two pairs of school shoes for my three year old daughter. My mother asked “black and brown?” (referring to the color of the shoes), to which I responded “No…pink and yellow.” My mom repeated “pink and yellow?!?” as if that was the strangest thing ever.

colorfulshoes

My initial thought was “black and brown?! So boring!” Then it occurred to me that my purchase may be viewed as impractical. It was at that moment that it occurred to me that buying two pairs of shoes simultaneously — pink and yellow ones, no less — is a thing of privilege. One that I had taken for granted and had not even recognized as such.

Growing up, I wore either black or brown shoes. That’s it. I can’t remember my shoes ever being “in color”. That was what my mom knew growing up in Haiti, that’s what my parents could afford at the time, and that was the most practical option (brown/black shoes would match every outfit in my wardrobe). Today, most of my daughter’s shoes are a color other than black/brown. In fact, she has only one pair of black shoes — they are patent leather dress shoes, and she rarely ever wears them, because she hardly has occasion to dress up. I can’t believe I had never appreciated this before! Most of her shoes are in color.

Despite it being odd and maybe impractical to my mom, it was one of the reasons she and my dad immigrated from Haiti…they had hoped that they could give me and my brothers a more privileged life then they had. Isn’t that what all parents hope for for their children? This got me to thinking how much of what I have today I take for granted. I sometimes forget that my life (and the life of my children) is the result of great risks, struggle, and hope. I think the majority of first generation Americans (Haitian or not) share this legacy.

So I say we should enjoy our life “in color” — and always appreciate and be grateful for its degree of brightness. It’s what our parents sacrificed for. I will honor the fact that the sacrifices our parents made for us have provided this privilege.

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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

Read Full Post »

Summertime is coming to an end. Kids are heading back to school and soon the warm days will have to wait until next year. As a kid, I loved this time of year but I also hated it. Cooler weather meant only one thing. My Haitian mother would be dressing me for the cold weather. My mother really didn’t care how I looked to others, because the end goal was to be warm. She didn’t want me getting sick and then missing school. We couldn’t have that. Education was everything and no wind, rain, sleet, snow, or below zero temperatures were getting in the way.

For the most part, Haitian people pride themselves in their appearance. I’ve told you about the dresses, ribbons, socks, shoes, and pomp and circumstance that went along with it. I will be honest and admit that when the temperature drops we can sometimes bend the fashion rules-okay we practically break them- but I am here to debunk the stereotype that we can’t match our clothing at all.

Look, many immigrants come here with little to nothing. They are often not prepared for the change from a warm, humid tropical environment to snowy winters that can take place in the States. I know this from firsthand experience. As a result, often times they layer their clothing to stay warm, not to impress other people, but again to stay warm. As much as I would have liked my mother to shop at the GAP, our circumstances did not allow.

With that being said, growing up in the Northeast, my peak fashion harassment time was between the months of October to March, sometimes into April depending. My clothing supply came from two sources; hand me downs or garage sales. This meant a majority of my clothing was secondhand and dated, extremely dated. I had to endure so much ridicule but knowing at an early age that the clothes didn’t make the person.

So, imagine growing up in the 80s and wearing clothes from the decade prior. I knew how I looked. My friends at school and in our neighborhood made that very clear to me, yet it made no difference if I complained to my mom that the shirt didn’t match the pants, hat, socks, or coat. She was determined that I stay warm. To complete the look, she would apply Vaseline to my face. Now, I was shining and not matching; just a devastating combination.

As more and more immigrant families moved into the neighborhood, the teasing diminished because we were all pretty much in the same boat.

Fast forward to today, I have children of my own now and we live in the Southeast. We only get a few weeks of a cold spell, and although I don’t subject them to my mother’s fashion sense, they do leave this house with a shiny face.

I’d love to hear some of your childhood fashion stories. Feel free to leave a comment and I will definitely respond.

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