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Profile picture for Edson Jean

(Edson Jean was born in West Palm Beach Florida and raised in Delray Beach, Florida. Upon graduating High school, he moved to Miami to study theatre at New World School of the Arts, where he received his Bachelors in Fine Arts degree. Edson went on to write, direct and star in The Adventures of Edson Jean (2012), which scored an ABFF/HBO official selection.) – IMDb Mini Biography

1.  Where and in what environment you were born and raised?
I was born in West palm Beach Florida but raised in the suburban town of Delray Beach. In Delray, there is a big population of Haitians/Haitian Americans that settled further north from Miami. As most young Haitian Americans can agree, my introduction to the Haitian culture was strongly influenced by religion and church. Some Sundays we would go up to three times a day! and up to 5 times a week. Most of the time we were forced to attend. I was one of four children 1 girl and 3 boys, and we thought one time a week on Sunday was plenty. Aside from the blags(Haitian folklore) in the evenings from my mother or grandma, my Haitian experience came from the church.
My adolescent rebellion from going to the church so often was influenced by friends in the neighborhood. Some of Haitian decent and the others African American, would play football in a field adjacent to my home every Sunday after church. I would escape to the field with my brothers and play football with the intention of missing the next service. This invited many embarrassing moments of my mother coming out and gathering her boys in the middle of playing.
2.  How you developed an interest in film making? 
I’ve always been in love with story telling and the power that stories can have over you or grant you. All the credit goes to my mother. She is the best story teller I know! She always told us blags… and boy would she get into it.  Some would make me laugh till I had to beg my mom to let me get some air, and others would scare me to the point of literally running away. Bouki and Malis are the most memorable characters from these stories. My moms compelling talent created my itch for acting, and acting has lead me full circle to telling stories as a writer and director.
3.  Can you give us an overview of the creation, process and journey of the film — and why you thought it was important to include the Haitian angle? You are a main character — is it based on a true story?
Funny you ask. Yes, this is a true story, but it is fabricated for the purpose of crafting the arch of the characters. Adding the Haitian angle is crucial, it’s a part of me. The creation process was very instinctual for me. It was originally a one person staged show in which I played all the characters for my senior thesis during theatre training. (New World School of the Arts-Miami) After performing it, I thought: .”I want to film this.” With no prior film experience before then… and I just did it. Not alone of course, all the actors in the film are my friends and trained at New World School of the Arts with me as well. That, and a small grant from Miami’s Borscht Corp. kicked it all off.
4. Where can your film be viewed, and how can the public can help make it a success?
I’d say check the local listing. The times change frequently, so its best to check your T.V./On Demand guides. It is available on HBO GO/Xfinity/DirectTV and others. (See the links below.) For me, the film is already a success. National airtime is more then I was ever expecting to come from this. I am big on connecting with others though in fact, I encourage it. I love hearing feedback, opinions or just saying hi to people that have seen the film and want to say a few things to the director. Don’t be shy, I’ll reply. Like the facebook page, rate the imdb or email thoughts to Get@edsonjean.com. Let’s continue to tell Haitian and Haitian American stories!
 
 
 

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The following is an excerpt written by Gabrielle Daniels aka blksista of This Black Sista’s page.  The blog in its entirety is linked here: “Rachel Jeantel: You’d Better Let That Girl Alone“. June 28, 2013.

Rachel Jeantel crying on the witness stand (Courtesy: Justice for Trayvon Martin on Facebook)

“Rachel Jeantel is Haitian American. She is probably among the first generations to be thoroughly, culturally assimilated as an African American, but her antecedents are from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. However, her first languages were French Kreyol and Spanish. To me, any African American who can speak (and/or write) in another language other than English is to be admired.  Some children—black as well as white—in South Africa, for instance, can speak Afrikaans, English, and three tribal languages by the time they are ten years old.

But English is her third language, learned late in her childhood, and this may be part of her problem. She appears to have either a speech impediment or an impediment compounded by wearing braces on her teeth. At 19, Rachel still has not graduated from high school; she will enter her senior year this fall, which says to me that she has probably had to be kept back. In California, there is such a thing as continuation high schools, in which students who are at-risk or have learning disabilities are allowed to graduate at a slower rate than their contemporaries; I wonder whether she is doing the same in Florida.

Because of her poverty and coming from an immigrant background, she may not have gotten all of the instruction and the encouragement and support soon enough to make a comfortable immersion into English.  And school systems for the poor are not the same as school systems for the middle class or the rich.  It’s catch as catch can, and even worse if English is not your parents’ language either, and there are no interpreters available to translate concerns to teachers.  One result is that Rachel cannot read or write cursive, which made a lot of us realize to our dismay after some research that cursive handwriting is not taught any more in schools; that it is being dropped in state after state, another victim of the keyboard.  That change in curriculum is not her fault.

Rachel "DiDi" Jeantel in happier times (Coutesy: Global Grind)

Rachel “DiDi” Jeantel in happier times (Courtesy: Global Grind)

And I have no doubt that she did what many children do in the face of such insurmountable drawbacks.  She gave up, or did whatever she could do in order to graduate, in order to fit in somewhere.  What fills the gap is a preoccupation with clothes, fingernails and hair, junk food, texting from morn till night, music, trying to be cool, and keeping up with the reality shows and parties.   Yep, she drinks, and she smokes dope, but this is…normal for teenagers nowadays.   Wrong, but normal.  This is what fills the gap for many teens these days regardless of color or of class.  Only a few students seem drawn towards the academic or intellectual life these days, and striving towards college seems to make these kids more goal-oriented and mature in certain respects than others at the same age.  Which is another reason why I went, huh? when I saw Rachel.  I liked all that too when I was young—clothes, movies, The Jackson Five, Mod Squad—but I wanted to go places and to do things, and I wanted a college degree.  I liked to read.  But she is not me.   If she gets to junior college to learn a skill—whether as a cosmetologist or as a pastry cook,  and finishes—it will be momentous, a step up in the right direction.

Just because someone is ignorant and does not know how to act in public does not mean that they are stupid.  Slower, yes.  Out of her  depth, yes.  Untrained, yes.  Limited in access to resources, yes.   But not stupid.   I repeat:  lack of knowledge does not necessarily translate into a deficit in intellectual capacity.   Learning disabilities she may have, but Rachel Jeantel is not, repeat, IS NOT STUPID.  Not with knowing how to speak French Kreyol and Spanish and negotiating the minefield of English as a third language with defense attorneys who are hell bent on trying to prove that she lied about everything on that fateful night, and that she was coached to say what she said by Trayvon’s bereaved mom. Rachel Jeantel was not on trial, and neither was the dead Trayvon Martin.”

http://thisblksistaspage.wordpress.com/

http://thisblksistaspage.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/rachel-jeantel-youd-better-let-that-girl-alone/

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(Reprinted by permission of http://www.ourhispaniola.com)

March 2012

By now, I’m sure most people have heard of the tragedy surrounding the last minutes of Trayvon Martin’s young life. As a Floridian, this has opened up many things that I have kept closed inside of me but am forced to face today. Many people think that Florida = Miami, this is not true AT ALL!!! Miami’s palm tree and Spanish-speaking façade can be wiped away to show the racial inequalities of Florida and the Southern United States*. Drive ten to thirty minutes out of any major city in Florida and you will be face-to-face with confederate flags and the mentality that there are “places” that you belong to.

One thing this tragedy has forced me to come to terms with is no matter if you are an African-American or Non-American Black, we are all Trayvon Martin. For immigrants, holding on to a piece of home is important in shaping our experiences in our new homes. This can be retaining our native tongue, cuisine, dance, etc. Some Non-American Blacks have often felt it necessary to distinguish themselves from African-Americans. Personally, I hold on to being Haitian because it is a part of me I don’t want to disappear. No shade.

Since hearing about Trayvon Martin a few weeks ago, I realize that separating ourselves is a joke. Not only is it a joke, it can also be destructive to our communities in times like these. Times when our not-so-recent past is pushed into our faces. The Civil Rights Movement wasn’t 100 years ago. Amadou Diallo was gunned down very recently in our history. Racial inequality exists and it is important to see ourselves as a collective no matter our background. Separation within a group of people is a big distraction to the real problems we face every day. It surely keeps up from tackling the George Zimmerman’s of the world.

Every time I look at my brothers or their friends, all I see is Trayvon Martin. I think to myself, will someone mistake them for a thug and panic as they walk down a street? The burden that these racial implications have on the psyche of Black men in the United States is something that I am trying to cope with. What if I have a son in this country? This scares the mangú out of me as I realize that- it doesn’t matter where you come from or what language you speak if you are Black in the United States. Are you Black? Then you are Trayvon. When the rest of the U.S. looks at us and see dark skin they see Trayvon.

No matter where we are from, there are things we can do as a collective. Go to www.change.org and sign the petition to get justice for Trayvon’s family. Join a #MillionHoodiesMarch in your area. Most importantly, talk about this issue in your respective communities so that we will never forget Trayvon Martin. (Follow us on Twitter: @OurHispaniola)

Does there still continue to be a divide between non-American blacks and those born and raised in the States? What have been some of your experiences growing up? How do we move towards being more unified or should we?

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