Haitian Week opened with sweetness as Plant Kreyol gave out free rum cake on the Rock as part of an opening celebration Monday.
“This week is a celebration of our culture, especially through music food and history,” Dimiteri Austin, president of Planet Kreyol, said. “This is something the whole campus can get involved with to experience different things.”
“It has a touch of Haitian love,” Winnie Eliassaint, interim advisor, said.
Also on Monday, a candlelight vigil was held for the Haitian detainees at 7 p.m. During the ceremony, “Bold People,” a poem that illustrates the experiences of those who were detained, was read.
“I don’t think that it’s fair the way Haitians are being treated, and I think that we should do everything we can so that our voices can be heard,” Lauren Lassifer, sophomore, said.
Vera Lafosse, vice president of Planet Kreyol, described her experience when she visited a facility in Palm Beach that houses Haitian detainees, some of which had been detained since 2001.
“You could really see the strength in their eyes, hoping and wishing to stay in the U.S. to have a better life,” Lafosse said.
Other events included an Art Fest at the Lowe in which Rosie Gordon-Wallace, owner of the Diaspora Vibe Gallery, shared slides of Caribbean artwork with students. One of the many artists included Daniel Ramirez, who created a large-scale model of the twin towers, created two years before the September 11 tragedy, in which clay faces of victims stuck out of the windows and large American flags on canvas lined the bottom. Ramirez is referred to as a “warner,” a Caribbean name given to those who project future events.
“I like how [Gordon-Wallace] connected the whole Caribbean together through artwork,” said freshman Chelsea Comeau, freshman and third-generation Haitian, said. “I wanted to get an idea of my country and culture and how it looks through photographs and art.”
Gordon-Wallace also encouraged students to take an active role in the preservation of Caribbean artwork because it does not receive the same recognition that other art does.
“Culture is a business,” Gordon-Wallace said. “I am empowering you to make that business yours. Man creates value and the only way to be valued and respected is for documentation.”
Gordon-Wallace went on to say that culture remains alive through our food, through our music and through our conversations.
“There is a lot we have to be proud of and I can’t do it alone,” Gordon-Wallace said.
The art show was followed by a panel discussion entitled “Haitians Overcoming Adversity”, in which Alix J.M. Apollon, vice-president of Legal Service to UPS Latin America and the Caribbean, gave advice to students.
“Half the battle is won by just being here at UM,” Apollon said. “Once you get an education then you can go for other things.”
Lauline Mozard, freshman, was motivated by the discussion.
“It was interesting to see the path certain people have taken to get where they are in life and the hardships they had to overcome,” Mozard said.
Today, a Karnaval, which is similar to Mardi Gras, will be held at the Rat from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. On Saturday at 7 p.m., a free banquet will be held in the UC Ballrooms as part of the closing ceremonies for Haitian Culture Week.
Marquita Bell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org