The benefit dinner will kick off a series of programming and performances, and generate crucial support for NYC’s only organization dedicated to developing, presenting and promoting the artistic and cultural expressions of the Haitian community. The evening will begin with a cocktail reception, followed by a dinner, along with a musical performance by Haitian-American jazz vocalist Melanie Charles, and conclude with an afterparty.
The celebration’s theme, Ayiti: eXperimental, is setting the tone for the month-long showcase that will highlight the boldest Haitian creatives in New York City and Haiti, fusing genre, perspective and environment, said Régine M. Roumain, co-founder and executive director of Haiti Cultural Exchange.
“We’re really looking at artists who are experimenting in their genres, maybe fusing their genres with other genres, and who are pushing the boundaries of their artistic practice,” said Roumain.
Throughout the month of June, HCX will present a multi-disciplinary series of events highlighting Haitian culture through music, visual arts and dance at various locations across the borough. Performers will include both Haiti- and NYC-based artists including Wooly Saint Louis Jean, BIC Tizon Difè, Jean-Aurel Maurice, Pascale Monnin, André Zachery, Nubian Nene, Tara Nicholas and Val Jeanty, among others.
Highlighting artistic and cultural expression has been the driving force behind the organization since its inception. In 2009, seven Haitian-American women founded HCX in response to a lack of consistent support for cultural offerings produced for and by the Haitian community.
Since then, the organization has developed annual festivals such as Selebrasyon! and the Haitian Film Festival, as well as year-round programs including the conversation series Ann’ Pale and Ti Atis, an in-school arts education program for Brooklyn youth. The goal: to foster a permanent presence for Haitian arts and culture in the city.
“At that time, we saw a void for presenting Haitian arts and culture on an ongoing basis through a multidisciplinary organization that doesn’t solely focus on music or solely focus on dance, but that really incorporates all of the various aspects of our culture,” said Roumain. “HCX provides education and background for our history, and offers a platform to bring our community together and strengthen it in collaboration, dialogue and celebration of our arts and culture.”
The past ten years have been wonderful, said Roumain, who believes that HCX’s work and programs have enriched many peoples’ lives and spawned meaningful partnerships with other local community organizations. Like FiveMyles Gallery, which opened its doors to HCX in 2011 and has since become the organization’s headquarter, and the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust, whose community gardens regularly provide space for HCX programming and performances.
“So many of our programs are happening inside of those community gardens, which are a valuable resource for our communities,” Roumain said. “Green space is really important, particularly for us living in an urban environment. And with development happening all over our city, it’s really important to safeguard those green, vibrant spaces.”
But there have also been the usual challenges that come with running a small nonprofit that is under-resourced, she added. Still, she thinks that the organization’s future is bright and is preparing for the next ten years which will bring a continued focus on cultivating and strengthening the Haitian artistic community while adding an emphasis on preserving and documenting its contributions. One way to do that, Roumain said, is with a book, a project that HCX is working on now.
“We’re really looking forward to work towards documenting our work more,” she said. “When you join us for a performance or a film screening, you get to experience something that is unique, in particular when we have artists coming from Haiti.”
Another major goal for HCX is the establishment of NYC’s first Haitian cultural center, which, Roumain hopes, will come to fruition within the next ten years.
But before we get there, it is time to celebrate the first ten years with Ayiti: eXperimental! For a complete list of events, go here.
Ayiti: eXperimental Supper Club and Afterparty
When: Thursday, June 8, 6:00pm
Where: Dumbo Loft, 155 Water Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
How much: $50 – $200. For tickets, go here.