Verite Sou Tanbou: Haitian Community Cultural Initiative
The NY metro area Haitian population is estimated at 400,000. Significant waves of Haitians from across the socio-economic spectrum entered the U.S. from 1957 to 1986 during the Duvalier era, and more recently, in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake. Haitians reside in all NYC boroughs, with the largest communities in Brooklyn, although significant community hubs can also be found in Queens and in Spring Valley (Rockland County).
CTMD’s Haitian Community Cultural Initiative has thus far produced two annual seasons of provocative, passionate, and informative Haitian traditional music and dance programs in New York City. The group was initially called Ayiti Fasafas ("Haiti Face to Face"), but following a vote in late 2013 changed its name to Verite Sou Tanbou: A New York Haitian Initiative. In our first season, the CCI planning group members came together to develop and produce Louvri Barye: Opening the Gates, a three-part concert series celebrating Haitian traditional singing, drumming, and dance in New York City. That series showcased 18 local Haitian singers at South Oxford Space (June 3, 2012).
On June 22nd, 2012, at Roulette, the group presented, in partnership with La Troupe Makandal, a great gathering of Haitian drummers and musicians who paid tribute to the life of NEA National Heritage Fellow Frisner Augustin (a master Vodou drummer, who passed away in February 2012). Finally, we gathered together five of New York’s best Haitian traditional dance/music ensembles in a program honoring Haitian dance pioneer Jean Leon Destine, in collaboration with El Museo del Barrio, in July 2012.
In our second season we changed our focus from concert format to educational workshop and performance of Vodou traditions. In January, March, and June of 2013 the Haitian CCI presented three programs as part of the Verite Sou Tanbou (Truths on Haitian Vodou) series, including Vodou Lakay: Roots of Haitian Vodou, lecture introduction to Vodou spirituality by Vodou High Priest Dieudonne Jean-Jacques, with Q&A and Vodou song performance by Rozna Zila; Rasin Ginen: African Roots of Haitian Vodou, a dialogue between two local Oungans (priests) about leadership roles/priesthood in Vodou, followed by a performance of traditional Haitian Vodou dance by Erzuli Guillaume; and finally, Haitian Vodou in New York City, a music and dance tribute to renowned New York Vodou priestess (manbo) Mama Lola, featuring the Haitian roots dance and music ensemble Kongo, led by Oneza Lafontant, and other performers.
The first two programs took place at South Oxford Space in Brooklyn—a venue which we very quickly maxed out, due to overwhelming response to our bilingual English/Kreyol presentation, to the open and highly informative focus upon the roots of Vodou, and to the excellent quality of the performances by leading local artists in the tradition. The third program in this season was offered at Brooklyn Public Library, in partnership with the library, which was delighted to host the program, bringing in a substantial (150+) largely Haitian audience to the library's Dweck Center auditorium.
On October 12th, 2013, the Initiative co-presented One Island: Two Houses, in partnership with City Lore and St. Francis College, a one-day symposium on Haitian rara, Dominican gaga, and these musics’ socio-historical context, with panels on the musics and their social history, plus performance of these genres by leading dancers and musicians in Haitian and Dominican communities. The program featured a screening of Miriam Neptune’s documentary film "Birthright Crisis" about the human rights struggles of Dominicans of Haitian descent, and a keynote address by African Art Historian Dr. Robert Farris Thompson. Another series of programs for winter-spring season, 2014, is in the planning stage at present.
For more information about the Initiative or to volunteer, contact Eileen Condon at 212-571-1555, ext. 35 or by email.
Haitian Community Cultural Initiative on YouTube:
Verite Sou Tanbou Honoring Manbo Mama Lola, July 2013
Jean-Lèon Destinè: Slideshow Tribute by Dr. Joan Burroughs
The Haitian Cultural Initiative, a consortium of New York-based Haitian performing artists, cultural activists, and educators, is dedicated to presenting and promoting the rich cariety and authentic origins of traditional Haitian music and dance forms, within the Haitian community and to a wider general audience. Through its programs, the Initiative challenges Oppression, negative stereotypes, and prejudice toward Haitian culture; works to prevent the loss of cultural knowledge of Vodou/n; seeks to heal divisions within our communities; and educates all New Yorkers on the diversity, value, and beauty of Haitian traditional arts.
Inistyatif Kiltirèl Ayisyèn An, se yon òganizasyon/asosyasyon atis Ayisyen, edikatè, travayè ak aktivis kiltirèl, ki gen baz yo lan Nou Yòk. Yo dedye tan yo, pou pwomosyon ak prezantasyon kilti Ayisyèn lan. Lap envestige tou orijin natif-natal ansanm ak richès kiltirèl mizik ak tout fòm dans tradisyonèl ki ekziste anndan kominote Ayisyèn an, epi li vle ede pòte tout richès sa a, bay yon odyans ki pi laj. Inisyatif la atravè pwogram li yo pral kesyone, defye prejije, estereyotip negatif, atak malonèt kap fet kont kilti Ayisyèn lan. Lap travay tou pou konesans kiltirel Vodou/n a pa pedi pandan lap eseye geri maleng divizyon lan kominote Ayisyèn lan, lap fè edikasyon ak levasyon vanse sou divèsite, varyete, ak bèlte kilti tradisyonèl Ayisyèn lan.