Haiti-List
Getty Images, ManGod Haiti

8 Influential Haitian-Americans You Should Know

There's plenty to be learned from these legends with Haitian ancestry. 

When it comes to Haiti, President Donald Trump and company have tried their hardest to lessen its cultural value. While depriving 60,000 refugees of asylum and barring natives from seasonal work visas, the political faux leader has carried dangerous statements off his tongue that won't be repeated here.

Over the course of its rich history, the nation of Haiti has exhibited nothing but strength amid barrenness of resources and the displacement of approximately 1.5 million people. A new UN mission has been implemented recently, hoping to stabilize its political system over a two-year span.

But in spite of the false narratives of Haiti’s present condition and its classification in the West, the country has birthed and exported some of the most legendary figures in art, music, literature and so much more.

Take a look at some of the most influential Haitian-Americans below.

__

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Born in Brooklyn, NY, Basquiat got his start tagging the streets of New York as a part of the art duo, SAMO, alongside Al Diaz. The graffiti was often accompanied by short poetic phrases that spoke to and on behalf of members of the underrepresented, offering him fast entry into the Neo-Expressionism art movement. Though not formally educated in fine arts, the creative was welcomed into the industry as a high roller. He wasn’t afraid to collage “mundanities” with elements considered “high brow.”

The “rough” and uncontrived appearance of his work was nuanced by a qualic experience--one where the artist exists in the same social milieu that he observes. Centered around contemporary critique, many of the pieces initiated a conversation about black or minority experiences as they related to navigation through America. Many of Basquiat’s paintings borrowed the significance of heads, skulls, and crowns, as a focus. Black figures had histrionically large heads, shifting attention to intellect, the mind, and pride as opposed to the magnification of the black body.

While decades have passed since Basquiat's death, his art has immortalized him in popular culture. With admirers like Jay Z continuing to push his ideas, Basquiat's legacy is more important and appreciated than ever.

 

Edwidge Danticat

Homeland practices were central to Danticat's novels and short stories. Raised in an enclave, Danticat hadn’t began examining distance and discomfort until she was able to watch it from the outside. She then brought her expression to literature and it graduated to its own kind of social activism.

Distinct as they may be, Danticat dedicates her works to a small pool of purposeful and entirely necessary themes. It includes, but is not limited to, assimilation, national identity, and post-colonial claims to power. Regarding Haitian migration to the US, Edwidge never begs the sympathy of a reader. Instead, her characters abandon the narrative of victimization and displacement becomes a journey.

Danticat’s characters are all, in some way or another, reflections of her own multinational identity as a Haitian inculcated in America. The author discusses the estrangement felt by anyone who struggles to establish belonging in a place that they wish to call “home” and gives them a story.

Gary Victor

Tales of the oppressed seldom belong to the oppressed themselves and when their stories are told, victimization is hyperbolized in a way that makes it seem like what power they may have had was forfeited without a fight. Novelist and playwright Gary Victor assures that the stories of Haitian natives belong to the natives, themselves.

His work is marked by unmatched precision through his impressions of disillusionment within and surrounding the country. An agronomist by nature, Victor’s landscapes are characterized by hyper-description, relaying areas never visited with intense clarity. His most celebrated works include Clair de Manbo, the daring Les Cloches de la Brésilienne and the voodoo thriller, Soro.

Influxes of migrants tend to be voiceless and faceless to the wider society but Victor’s characters have depth that cannot be refuted. His well-developed characters are pulled straight from the minds of his people.

Raoul Peck

Raoul Peck is a Haitian filmmaker, best known for Lumumba and critically-acclaimed film, I Am Not Your Negro. While he’s made many career ventures, he’s known for his work in the sociopolitical art world. Widely accepted as Haiti’s most famous filmmaker, he’s been vocal about Haitian and American relations on multiple occasions over the years, even going so far as to restore Haiti’s humanity in the public eye after their 2010 earthquake.

Peck took note of the perceived weakness of his country in the West and attempted to reinvent his nation in the eyes of others through film.
Entitled Moloch Tropical, the film explored Haiti’s rich history and the importance of power in a nation that’s rarely recognized for it. Largely surrounding the final day in office for an absolute leader, the film covered Haiti’s decades-long battle for a proper democracy in the face of despotism and vicious militarization. He hoped to transform Haiti and impart some of its values and culture unto the world.

Jamie Hector

Brooklyn-born actor Jamie Hector is best known for his role as kingpin Marlo Stanfield on The Wire and he’s no stranger to collecting. The Haitian-American actor has aided the causes of myriad benefits, including fundraising for Haiti well before the tragic earthquake.

Hector founded the non-profit theater organization, Moving Mountains in 2007 to provide inner-city youth opportunities for artistic expression. Brooklyn children and young adults between the ages of 6 and 21 are offered drama, vocal, dance, writing, and photography training. He's also taken part in a bevy of events to bring awareness to Haitian filmmakers.

Elsie Surena

Surena was born in Port-au-Prince and spent the majority of her childhood in the south of Haiti. Her mother instilled the importance of reading and artistic expression in her early on so she went on to follow it, naturally. Formally trained in most of her crafts, the artist/writer attended the National School of Arts for training in visual arts. She also studied at the School of the Museum and Armory Art Center for continuing studies.

Surena traveled often and settled, eventually, in the US. She studied creative writing at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in Massachusetts. Her visual art of choice is black and white photography, mostly compositional and portrait. But Surena is most dedicated to her poetry where the topics are often everyday life, love, and absence. Her poems can be found in Haitian Creole, French, English, and Spanish. But translations do her no justice. Across languages, one cannot translate her connection to her beloved Haiti. The country, though painted hellishly by many outsiders is an inspiration for many of her works where she is encompassed by a pleasant landscape or seemingly mundane passerbyers.

The writer has also appeared in several anthologies for her children’s books–writings that are studied in primary schools across Haiti. The multi-disciplined artist considers herself to be just that. She uses the medium most fitting for her product whenever she takes on a new project. She is not limited to any of her art forms and has Haiti to thank for its bustle.

Anne-Christine d’Adesky

Anne Christine d’Adesky is a Haitian-American journalist and activist with a focus on Haitian affairs and AIDS awareness. d’Adesky has been a correspondent in Haiti for The Village Voice and the San Francisco Examiner where she reported before and during the nation’s devastating earthquake. In 2010, in the immediate aftermath, she went to Haiti to get a visual of the status of things and went on to start Haiti Vox, a site dedicated to reporting about Hispaniola’s starkly different nations, the legacies, and health and wellness demographics.

Aware of the rife nature of HIV/AIDS in Haiti, the journalist-activist covered stories about the issue as early on as the mid-90s. She’s been featured in publications like New York Native, In These Times, and The Advocate. HIV Plus is a magazine that d’Adesky launched in 1998, devoted to LGBT rights, treatment, and prevention. In addition to her disease and disaster outreach, the journalist/ activist has advocated for women’s and LGBT rights. She’s one of six founders of “The Lesbian Avengers” which commenced in 1992 in an effort to focus on issues central to the visibility and survival of lesbians.

d’Adesky continues to advocate for, report on, and research about Haiti with an increased focus on women seeking refuge for a number of publications.

Viter Juste

Haitian-born community leader and activist Viter Juste, laid the groundwork for Miami's “Little Haiti” community. Business oriented early on, Juste received a degree in business and accounting and opened a supermarket in Port-au-Prince. Only two years later, he closed up and accepted a position with the UN for a disease eradication program.

In 1957, after Francois Duvalier won the presidential election and assumed his position as a dictator, Juste, who supported Duvalier’s opponent, fled Haiti with his wife and children to Texas and then to Miami. In 1974, Juste met with Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh to aid Haitian refugees. The meeting resulted in the birth of the Haitian-American Association of Dade County, one of the first organizations of its kind. Its sole purpose was relief and support for Miami’s Haitian community. Juste served as one of the first directors. The move essentially launched Juste’s career as an activist and led him to build a rapport with South Florida’s Haitian immigrant population.

Juste led his share of protests in response to overt discrimination against supermarkets and public schools. A fight with the Miami-Dade school board after refusing to enroll Haitian students ultimately led him to call the community, historically known as Lemon City, “Little Haiti.” The name is an attribute of the neighborhood to this day. Juste’s neighborhood has become a hub for Haitian-American creatives and the business inclined to collaborate.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Courtesy of Kumasi J. Barnett

Kumasi J. Barnett Flips Classic Comic Books To Highlight An Heroic Black Experience

Marvel and DC movies are raking in millions in the box office telling the stories of Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain Marvel, Spiderman, Batman, The Flash, Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Superman, just to name a few. These daring and striking films stem from the ever so popular classic comics, and a new spin on the tales comes from a Brooklyn-based artist Kumasi J. Barnett.

Lowell Ryan Projects presents Barnett's The Amazing Black-Man exhibit which kicked off July 13 in Los Angeles. The series features two hundred hand-painted comic books from the DC and Marvel world.

Barnett, however, has painted over these vintage covers to give a very black presence. Replacing all familiar faces with new characters including The Amazing Black-Man, The Media's Thug, Whitedevil, and Police-Man, the narrative for the comics instantaneously change.

He replaces Spider-Man's unforgettable bodysuit to a hoodie and jeans, Superman's logo with stars and bars of the Confederate flag, and turns all of the supervillains into the controversial nemesis –the police.

While flipping the Good v. Evil narrative, Barnett addresses real-world issues and works to resolve the strain of racism in American history and the justice system.

His re-creations pose the questions: What kind of superhero is The Amazing Black-Man? In a society built on systemic racism, does his brown mask hide his identity or define it? Is his costume actually a costume?

The exhibition runs through August 17.

Check out some of our favorite images from his collection below.

Continue Reading
Beyonce Knowles-Carter attends the European Premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on July 14, 2019 in London, England
Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney

Beyoncé Nears EGOT Status With Emmy Nominations For 'Homecoming'

Shortly after the announcement of the 2019 Emmy nominations, it was only right that many wondered just how close Beyoncé is to EGOT status. As it turns out, she might be closer than we think.

Beyoncés Netflix documentary Homecoming: A film by Beyoncé is nominated for a total of six nominations including, Outstanding Special (Pre-Recorded), Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special, Outstanding Production Design for A Variety Special, Outstanding Costumes for a Variety (Non-Fiction or Reality Programming), Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special, and Outstanding Music Direction. Three of the nods name Bey, giving her a strong chance of taking an Emmy home.

The entertainer has been here before.

Her 2016 visual album Lemonade was nominated for two Emmys, including Variety Special and Variety Special Directing.

With the release of her curated soundtrack for The Lion King arriving Friday (July 19), her single "Spirit" has a strong chance of getting an Oscar nomination next year.

Her Grammys speak for themselves. Beyoncé has snagged a total of 23 Grammy Awards and 66 Grammy nominations. She scored her first Grammy with Destiny's Child for “Say My Name,” in the categories Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group and landed multiple solo wins for her debut album Dangerously In Love.

This year, the singer won her latest gramophone for Everything Is Love, a collaboration album with husband Jay-Z in the Best Urban Contemporary Album category.

If Bey explores Broadway for the Tony nod, she would join Whoopi Goldberg as the second black female entertainer to reach the famed-honor.

Goldberg won two Daytime Emmys for  The View and Beyond Tara: The Extradoniary Life of Hattie McDaniel, one Grammy for Whoopi Goldberg: Original Broadway Show Recording, One Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Ghost, and a Tony for Best Musical for Thoroughly Modern Millie. 

Viola Davis, almost came away with the title while her children's book Corduroy Takes a Bow rumored to be created into an audiobook in 2018, pushing her to be nominated for a Grammy. Davis has won an Oscar for Fences, and Emmy for How to Get Away with Murder, and two Tonys for King Hedley II and Fences the stage show.

Continue Reading
Lalah Hathaway attends The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation Inaugural "Can We Talk?" Benefit Dinner at The Newseum on June 07, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation

Lalah Hathaway To Perform At Future x Sounds LA

Five-time Grammy award-winning artist and activist, Lalah Hathaway will curate and perform at the Los Angeles edition of Future x Sounds LA at Ford Theaters (Aug. 31). The multi-city and art series will also present the sounds of Anna Wise, Justus West, Gwen Bunn, DJ Battlecat, and an appearance by Hathway's art collective, #realmusicrebels.

Future x Sounds invites artists, attendees, and society to question the world around them, with Hathaway leading the art journey. "L.A. welcomed me home at an early age and continued my music education. It kept me honest and kept me true to the eternal student within me," Hathaway said.

Celebrating the creative community and spotlighting the way music and education impact social change during an evening of live performances, collaborations, conversations, art installations and more, the event will host some of the most active and respected musicians in each city of the artistic community.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

LA! #futurexsounds #futurexsoundsLA #shiftingthespotlight #realmusicrebels @annathewise @djbattlecat @justus.west @gwenbunn AUG 31!

A post shared by Lalah Hathaway (@lalahhathaway) on Jul 16, 2019 at 12:29pm PDT

"Their curation [Future x Sounds] is based on mutual inspiration, respect and the will to support each other's individual projects. It's pretty beautiful and powerful. As one of the most respected and authentic voices music today, Lalah Hathaway was an ideal choice to showcase Los Angeles with our inaugural series in this city," said Future x Sounds founder and executive producer, Angela Gill.

Hathaway was most recently nominated for three Grammy Awards in 2019 including, Best R&B album. The artist is one of the most elite of her time with 30 years of music under her belt. As a singer-songwriter and producer, she has collaborated with an extensive list of hitmakers including Dr.Dre, Anderson .Paak, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and Pharrell Williams. Also gracing the stage with legends Anita Baker, Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Herbie Hancock.

With LA x Sounds being one of her final destinations of the summer, Lalah, will first open the 2019 Lincoln Center Out of Doors summer concert series (July 24).

Future x Sounds will kick-off its multi-city tour in New York where they will partner with Summerstage to celebrate Black Woodstock and the 50th anniversary of Harlem Culture Festival (Aug. 17).

You can purchase tickets here.

Continue Reading

Top Stories