Unity Day promotes Haitian culture

The Haitian Student Organization (HSO) hosted its annual Unity Day event Friday to promote Haitian culture and get the attention of the non-Haitian community. As this year’s theme suggests, the goal of the event was to promote “Cultural Traditions through Generations.”

“The whole point of HSO is to promote Haitian culture and serve the community,” Marli Lalanne, Planet Kreyol president, said. “We’re trying to do the whole fun and education thing together.”

The first part of the event was a cultural showcase on the UC Patio. Those who wished to participate purchased an all-day pass for $5, which covered lunch and dinner as well as the arts and crafts session.

Red and blue streamers hung from the trees in the UC Patio, and orange, green and white balloons floated nearby. These colors signified the unity of the Haitians with the UM community, one of the messages the event meant to get across.

“We really wanted to focus on bringing people together to see what the Haitian culture is about,” Lalanne said.

Planet Kreyol club members served ethnic foods, including divi avec pua (rice and beans), griot (grilled pork) and mais buconen (grilled corn). The arts and crafts session allowed event participants to decorate straw hats, maracas, beads and coconuts.

HSO also brought special guests to the event. Photographer Marc-Arthur Jean-Louis displayed his photographs of the island and its culture at a table set up in the patio. The Maroons, a group of spoken-word poets, performed two pieces that expressed a history of Haitians through multilingual monologue. Their goal is to promote history and culture to both the Haitian and American communities through spoken-word poetry.

“It is important to keep the traditions alive,” Maroon performer Berwick “Underscore” Augustin told the audience.

Following a visit to the time capsule which was buried at last year’s event and will be unearthed in 2014, a special guest speaker discussed the importance of voodoo in the Haitian culture.

The Unity Day events ended with a dinner in the UC Ballrooms, followed by an after party from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the Rathskeller. Although turnout wasn’t as high as the executive board of Planet Kreyol expected, the event did promote awareness within the organization itself.

A portion of the money raised from the event will be donated to support Project Medishare.

For more information on spoken-word poetry, visit http://www.themaroons.net.

Megan Ondrizek can be contacted at m.ondrizek@umiami.edu.