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This post was written by Wilkine Brutus.  Mr. Brutus is the editor-in-chief of The Vanguard Element: http://www.vanguardelement.com/
He is a poet working on a cross-genre book.  He is also a Vlogger from South Florida, USA and edits from South Korea.

Jean-Bernard-Etienne1-300x206La Misterieuse by Jean Bernard Etienne (Acrylic on canvas)

“Sak pase?”

As a Haitian-American, I grew up with a sharp concern for identity. The American dream, skewed like a broken mirror of slanted reflections or like the bewilderment of a weird nightmare. I’d wake up from it all with an empty stomach, hungry to understand what society was feeding me, fiending for a gluttony of knowledge. Like most inner-city youth, resources were limited. I was often times too apprehensive and distracted anyway–time in the inner-city was like watching a scary movie, buffering at the climax or at the scary moment of a scene. There is nothing more horrific than the constant depreciation of the human soul.

At age 12, the sudden realization of anger and confusion forced me to find an avenue to channel my erratic emotions. I was one of many 12-year-old Haitian-American boys and girls that generally weren’t embraced by Black-Americans. We were also depreciated by the American culture and its hypocritical foreign policy.

In the mid-90s and early 2000s, I use to swallow the stark contrast in treatment between Cubans and Haitian refugees, a double standard US immigration policy that favored the Cubans, which allowed Cuban refugees to stay on American land once they arrived, but would ship Haitian refugees back Haiti. This illogical and racist treatment sparked humanitarian debates, but Black-Americans never embraced or defended the Haitian diaspora, at least not in my neighborhood. There were also historical political and cultural animosity between Haitians and Dominicans, whom both share the island of Hispaniola.  Haitian-Americans were marginalized by black-Americans and Dominicans, hated, frowned upon—and I screamed during a fight, “I’m human, just like you. I’m human, just like you, I’m human just like you,” only to wake up, frantic, with a broken mirror, slanting my reflection—a sharp identity crisis.

It would take years for Haitians and Haitian-Americans to salvage their reputation as “equivalent beings.” I look back and ponder if that time period of injustice and hate was just a complicated era of culture clashes and miseducation.  I don’t know! Evidently, political and economical deterrents were to blame for the madness—a bit too overwhelming for a 12-year-old to understand. Despite my current wisdom, those feelings of neglect and cultural misfortune is difficult to eradicate, albeit moving on in life felt fairly easy. The morals and values that my mother instilled was like a watermark on video—my life, like all humans, has been a montage of trials and tribulations but I own them and I’ve managed to fast forward.

The earthquake that ravished Haiti didn’t create complete sadness, it was ironically another inspiration to uplift and represent the people. However, it was obviously painful to fly to Korea directly after the devastation.

There is a deep fundamental responsibility to understand humanity and the men that alter its very essence. We’ve reduced ourselves into categories and sub-categories and we’ve ignored the universal understanding of love and respect, cordial debates and solution. Our existence is often a battle to claim significance and human contribution, economical strength, fear, and power.  We are, in many ways, still lost in our desperate attempts to find meaning—a matrix of confusion. I am, however, beautifully found—as my purpose, as a Haitian-American in South Korea, is to navigate through preconceived notions and negative perceptions of black males and rectify them. I’ve been wonderfully embraced in doing so, as the universal rule of love and respect applies everywhere. Onelove! -Wilkine Brutus

 

 

 

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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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This blog entry was submitted by artist Gelan Lambert, an artist Haitian descent, versatile in all art disciplines who has been blessed to have graced the stage with legends.  Learn more about Gelan at http://www.facebook.com/GelanLambertJr

 

haitiusaCornbread & Cremasse!

What a fantastic name for a blog! A homage to two great cultures birthed through Mother Africa!

When I’m homesick for Haitian cuisine, one of the things you’ll find me doing is combing the streets of NYC for Lambi, an aromatic concoction of stewed Creole tomato sauce and conch perched on a bed of pillowy steamed rice. Unabashedly, its my foot stomping Hallelujah go to meal of the day. When its done right, expect a savory festival in your mouth and to be left in a state of culinary euphoria. Legend says that it also has amorous properties; however, that’s another story for another time! Now back to the subject at hand!

After doing some research on cornbread, I discovered that Native Americans created the first
prototype from corn meal. Corn, originally known as maize was the foundation for a plethora of nutritious corn based foods such as corn syrup, corn pudding and succotash, a mixture of beans and corn meal. Subsequently cornbread became an integral part of African American cuisine incorporating various parts of animal scraps, leftovers and root vegetables eventually known as ‘Soul Food’. Symbolic in nature, there is also a direct correlation between traditional African food and Soul Food which speaks to ancestral memory passed down from one generation to the next. On the other hand, Cremasse, is a Haitian beverage that consists of Barbancourt rum, coconut, carnation milk and spices. Usually its imbibed on special occasions and celebrations. In a recent conversation with my mother, I found out that she made Cremasse for her very own wedding! Who knew? My first experience with this special libation was several years ago. I can recall vividly when it touched my palette it reminded me of candy with a strong hint of vanilla ice cream, coconut icy and alcohol. It went down smooth and warmed my entire being. When it ‘Hits’ you, be prepared to R E A L LY feel it!.
I generally don’t take alcohol, but with Cremasse, I always make an exception. LOL!

One of the wondrous things about the digital age is that we can literally immerse ourselves in several cultures at one time, either as a voyeur, an inquiring scholar or student. Technology has made it possible for us to share our thoughts on a variety of different subjects that can be associated with history, art, food or trivia. As an American born Haitian, the journey of investigating my heritage and the constant desire to know more has been my personal mission since my teenage years. This quest has been daunting at times, and even downright frustrating, however the revelations have enlightened and transformed my life beyond words.

Metaphorically, my life in America with my family’s history in Haiti represent my own personal Cornbread and Cremasse. Its poignantly revealed in our collective spirituality, and the way we express ourselves individually and communally as we eat and drink. Each tasty mouthwatering morsel has its own profound story and legacy that speaks to our struggles, triumphs and undeniable beauty and creativity. As a recipient of this great gift, I am more than grateful for the sacrifice of the ancestors, for I always have a personal invitation to remember where I come from through each magnificent cultural meal.

 

Thank You Cornbread & Cremasse for creating this wonderful space.

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(The following blog post was submitted by Kassandra Khalil, Program Director, Haiti Cultural Exchange:  http://haiticulturalx.org/)

Selebrasyon_Logo&Info_OrangeBG

 

My experience of Haitian culture begins with my grandmother’s hands. Soft like calf leather with strong, deep palm lines and a missing knuckle on her left hand – an accident from her days as a seamstress and a reminder of a hard life. I’ve watched those hands brush my sister’s hair and scrape the bottom of the rice pot with that same cast and pull motion. And there is a clear image in my mind of those hands gathering a long skirt with a quick grab and loud “Humph!” in distaste at my uncle’s off-color humor.

 

The motions of Ma Laborde’s hands, the stories they tell, and the food it taught me to cook amount to so much of what I consider my identity as a Haitian woman. My grandmother connects me to a country with a deep history of revolution, of art, and nature – all things that resonate with me regardless of my Haitian background. What inspired me to focus on Haitian culture was those passive moments – gestures and often minor acts that I found to be so distinctly Haitian and Caribbean.

 

For the past few years, I have been working as the Program Coordinator at Haiti Cultural Exchange, an organization that I feel represents that nuance. Together with Régine Roumain, our community of brilliant supporters, interns, committee members and talented artists, Haiti Cultural Exchange has been able to present programs on art and culture from Haitian and the Diaspora that incite discussion, build community, and acknowledge how wide and diverse Haitian culture really is. Laying into these ideas, HCX strives to give Haiti-identifying artists a space to express their link to their country while sharing their personal creativity and individuality as an artist.

 

As part of this mission, HCX is presenting a six-week festival called Selebrasyon! Placing artists and community in the forefront, Selebrasyon! aims to reinforce intersections inside the Haitian community and will express the multidimensional nature of Haitian Diaspora culture.

 

Taking place in venues all over the city, Selebrasyon! will highlight some of the best new talents and known names in Haitian culture today. These include our Haitian Flag Day Selebrasyon! on May 18th featuring the traditional “rèlkè” of Jocelyn Dorisme beside the neo-blues sounds of Nadïne LaFond as well as  LirikAyiti: Rasin/Chimen on June 8th featuring the hip-hop influenced rhymes of Lenelle Moïse  and the high rhythms of Patrick Sylvain’s  Kreyòl verse.

 

From May 18 to June 30, this city will come to life with over 20 Haitian cultural events that will unite the community and bring generations together to remember, learn, and connect around Haitian culture. This is YOUR festival, I hope to see you there.

 

Check out the official Selebrasyon! Calendar here and see how you can support our ongoing Indiegogo campaign. Special perks  include tickets to Monday Nightcap & Music with Melanie J-B Charles on April 21st , hand-painted tote bags, and original artwork.

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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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I had just turned 6 when I was blessed with my first child.  I really didn’t have much of a choice. They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  Here I was 6, and I was being told by my Haitian parents that I was going to be someone’s “marenn”  or as we say here in the United  States a “godmother”. That is pretty much how things went down in my family.  By the time I was a teenager, I had lost count of all my godchildren. It got me to wondering why DO Haitian parents pick minors as godparents?

 

godmother

  1. The Decision Process: I doubt there was one.  I was a great elementary school student, but other than that I was still living with my parents and in no way shape or form capable of being a second parent. So, was it to ensure that someone lived as long as their child? I just don’t know how I felt about my godchild growing up with me, literally. I should have a created a support group for “young marenns”. Hmm, It’s not too late. Were you a young marenn? Leave a comment below and share your story.
  2. Job Description: No one was really ever clear to me on what my responsibilities would be.  In the beginning, I would buy gifts, well correction, my parents would buy the gifts and just say it was from me.  I was and continue to be the type of person that needs clear and concise instructions. Otherwise, I am just winging it and that’s not fair to the kid right? A godmother assumes an important role in the spiritual life of a child she has sponsored during baptism. The parents of the child who will be baptized choose a godmother or godparent to represent the child who is unable to respond during the baptismal ceremony. In the case of an adult baptism, the godmother assists the person in making this step of faith. Being a godmother is not a legal commitment but a spiritual one. The godmother’s responsibilities start at the baptismal service and continue throughout the life of the child.  Clearly, a huge responsibility at 6 and so it begs the question what were they thinking?
  3. Quid Pro Quo: From time to time  I would wonder if the parents felt indebted to my parents for something and threw the “marenn” label on me as to call it even. Were we somehow the Haitian Corleone family? Who were these people ( my parents) before they came to this country? Never mind, I don’t think I want to know.
  4. The Parenn Problem:  I was often paired up with a MUCH older Haitian male who was the “parenn” translation “godfather”. It is an extremely awkward photo when at 6, you are standing with a gentleman who could be your grandfather but most times it turned out he was your cousin. Everyone is your cousin but for some reason you end up being paired up with the one cousin who you wouldn’t want your parents to leave you alone with. Ever. The cousin that holds your hands just a little bit too long after you have greeted him with the obligatory kiss on the cheek.  Which makes me wonder; are Haitian boys even considered? That’s a whole other blog.
  5. The Irony: My parents were always quick to throw my name in for consideration as marenn. However, If I ever would have had a child as a teen, I would have been put on the first plane to Haiti to stay indefinitely or that’s the story they would’ve used to explain my disappearance.

Thanks for checking out this week’s blog. Please feel free to leave a comment:).

 

 

Switching gears, on a more serious and personal note, I wish to take this time to remember my own son’s Godmother, Stephanie Lissa Leger,  who tragically passed away at the age of  25 after a 4 year battle with cancer. 

http://www.palmswestfuneralhome.com/obituaries/Stephanie-L%C3%A9ger/

 

 

 

 

 

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ratchetMrJeffDess is a writer, professor, public speaker and emcee of Haitian descent. Born and raised in Jamaica Queens, MrJeffDess stayed in New York City and hit the poetic and leadership scene full force in 2001 at St. John’s University. Along with receiving a B.A. and M.A. in English Literature his career at St. John’s would mark the beginning of a journey towards a variety of literary genres and leadership types.

MrJeffDess is the author of three books of poetry. He has performed, spoken and presented across the nation at various institutions and universities. With over ten years of performing and student affairs experience under his belt MrJeffDess continues to strive towards helping students reach their highest potential. He currently serves as the Assistant Director of Campus Life at New Jersey City University.

MrJeffDess in conjunction with grew bap books   creates an enjoyable cultural dialogue about growing up as the son of immigrants and the struggle with identity with the publication of Deconstructing Ratchet.

Deconstructing Ratchet, provides a poetic conversation on the complexities of ratchet culture and all that surrounds it. Featuring over 100 haiku, Deconstructing Ratchet will  reshape the way readers define ratchet ideologies and all of its incarnations. The text will specifically look at the impactful influences of music, television and media. The haikus will also address the how young men and women are depicted through a ratchet lens.

Using the art of the haiku poetry, Deconstructing Ratchet evokes humor, paradox and intellectual discourse all while twerking to a dope rhythms and drenched in a hot mess.

clair huxtable haiku

Deconstructing Ratchet will be available in paperback for purchase at www.lulu.com as of March 4, 2014 and www.Amazon.com as of April 4, 2014. EBook versions of the text will be available on April 4, 2014.

For more information visit www.MrJeffDess.com

Follow him on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mrjeffdess

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