Film and Lit Roundup: Cafe au Lait & White Rice

Brandt and Volny in CAFE AU LAIT

  • In Haiti, color issues tend to either be sensationalized for political manipulation or otherwise ignored. To illustrate the latter, a recent panel on Marie Chauvet's work made no mention of her main heroine Claire's tormenting color dilemma. Upcoming film Cafe au Lait however makes cross-color dating in the Haitian community the center of the plot. Race and color issues are best resolved when actually acknowledged so the premise is promising. Let's hope the film is any good. It'll be touring New York in July so I'll update you then. The rest of the touring schedule should be here. The film's director is Georges Jiha and it stars haitian actors Milca Volny and Pasha Brandt.
  • Party, a film by Francis Hsueh and Steve Hahn is yet another onscreen slice of the hyphenated american experience. It is a documentary about the Asian-American party scene in New York City and a look at issues of second generation immigrant identity and assimilation. Hip Hop (the music) is inevitably a protagonist in the film and, as usual, makes both friends and enemies. Friends of the kids who dance to it at these parties and enemies of those who protested the "Tsunami Song" (a hot 97 blunder if there ever was one). And yes, I'm sure there was some overlap between the groups.
  • According to Caribbean Beat, a Grenadian film is going to have a starring role in next week's New York Independent Film Festival (May 4-11). It's called Blinded and is nominated for Best Director and Best Feature.
  • An article by Edwidge Danticat about diri blan [white rice] and its emotional significance to her dying father appeared in the May issue of Oprah magazine. It's not online so whether or not you're an Oprah fan, you'll have to give her your $3.95 worth --and possibly more if you don't live in the US.
  • Did you know that Nollywood (i.e. the Nigerian equivalent of Holly-and-Bolly) is the third largest film industry in the world? I didn't and I have Jen Brea to thank for this bit of science.
  • To find out what West Indian literary works are available on the blogosphere, check out Nicholas Laughlin's latest Global Voices post.

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Webulous Upcoming Web events

Two promising media-related web events are coming up:

  • One is the We Media conference taking place next week May 3 and 4. The bad news is that it's in London. The good news is that it'll be webcast. What exactly WeMedia is, I don't really know. *But* it's a conference that brings together bloggers and journalists which has to be at least somewhat good. We know that bloggers have a long way to go but we also know that mainstream media is far from perfect and leaves lots of holes in conveying how people live in the rest of the world. I'm planning on web-attending the session on Africa (9:45 am NY time on May 4). A once-over of the program did not reveal much on the Americas.
  • About We Media
  • We Media Program (Times are London Time.)
  • Place to watch Live Video Feeds during the Conference. There's audio too for those who'll be at work.
  • Recent RConversation critique of We Media.
  • I've been mentioning Global Voices a lot and you may or may not be curious about the people behind it. Tomorrow (Friday April 28th) one of the co-founders of GV, Ethan Zuckerman is going to be interviewed by Wikipedia. Not only can you listen in but also can you post questions in advance. This wiki contains a profile of Ethan, the IRC channel to join, all his links and a list of the already posted questions. Topics so far include the digital divide (a huge Haiti issue), globophilia (a problematic double-entendre if there ever was one) and Africa among others.


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Hip Hop Panel Last Night at the Schomburg

Dr. Cornel West at the Schomburg last night.
Originally uploaded by kiskeyAcity.

While reading Dr. Marc Lamont Hill's blog I found out he was going to be on a panel entitled A Hip Hop Revolution? last night at the Schomburg along with... Cornel West.

So I went. They didn't let me use a flash but I took as many shots as I could although those of the two women on the panel (Akiba Solomon and Dr. Imani Perry) are too blurry to post.

The panel went well and Cornel (please mom let me not call him Dr. West this one time) was as inspiring as ever. Topics spanned strategies to limit the effects of advertising and consumerism targeted to children, applying marketing skills to public education campaigns and the ways in which the hip hop industry parallels the porn industry among others.

My favorite moment was Asha Jennings' intervention during the comment section when she asked: "Why are we afraid to hold rappers accountable?" Ms. Jennings started the I.M.A.G.E.S. (Igniting Media Accountability for Gender Exploitation Schemes) campaign when she was a student at Spelman in 2004. She talked about how a music of empowerment has turned into a vehicle for misogynistic anthems that many black women find degrading. Her campaign inspired Essence Magazine's Take Back the Music issue. Asha is also a soon-to-be fellow NYU School of Law alum. Go Asha!

Carlito Rodriguez, a consultant for BET, was also on the panel.

Update: Interesting discussion of the event at Dr. Marc Lamont Hill's blog.

Update 4/28/06: Interesting post on the event over at Post Graduate Musings.

Update 4/30/06: Article: Hip Hop Revolution or Revulsion?



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Blogger Yon Ayisen: "I'm No Revolutionary Hero"

Yon Ayisien blogs at Ayisyen Sa Nap Regle? and might as well be renamed HaitiPundit. He is the only Haiti-based Haitian blogger who blogs about politics and his blogging wit and vision is surprising for a 25 year-old. Though YA blogs in French, we chatted electronically in English a week before Friday's legislative runoff. Topics spanned haitian politics and internet, internet access in Haiti, day-to-day life and non-heros.

AB: So Yon Ayisyen, you have asked to stay anonymous but what can you tell us about yourself?
YA: Well, I can tell you that I'm 25, I'm Haitian, I've lived all my life in my country. I guess I'm well educated. I'm one of those who had the opportunity to learn French at home and then in a good school. I read quite a lot too.

AB: Are you a university student in Haiti?
YA: I used to be. My university years are behind me now. With a student budget and schedule I'm sure I wouldn’t have time to blog. I studied in Haiti but I can't tell you what because not so many people do it here....

Citadelle Laferriere
The Citadelle Laferriere built by Haitian Revolution hero Henri Christophe circa 1804 to prevent reannexation by the French. Courtesy Anders Brownworth.

AB: Why did you start blogging?
YA:I guess I usually have a lot to say, and I have an opinion on most things whether they have something to do with me or not. I discovered blogging while surfing the internet, it seemed like an amazing way to reach so many people. I thought I’d give it a try. I wanted to shed light on things that I think people don’t even realize. Things that are important or really terrible but that people here just don't care about. I'm not exactly a consistent blogger though.

AB:Why is that?
YA: Well it's hard times. Sometimes it's all the things I have to do, my job and obligations other times it's just that the things I could write are too depressing… Not to mention, I don't have an internet connection at home.

AB: You’re one of three or four Haiti-based Haitian bloggers that I've found. For a while there was Haitian Mofo who blogged in both French and English but he stopped. Now there’s also Parlons Peu but he uses his blog mostly to publish his late father Marcel Salnave’s journalistic works from the 40s. So when it comes to blogging about current affairs you’re basically it. Why are you in such scarce company?
YA: The first obvious reason would be that not too many Haitians are able to access the internet. But also people are not very educated and the educated ones are not necessarily used to going on the internet to write their ideas, they’re not so familiar with that concept. And, it's not only Haitians; most people are not familiar with blogging. Most Haitians have their thoughts and ideas on things, they share them with friends, family and that's it. They don't necessarily want everyone to know about their opinions, and of course when those opinions are about politics in this country they can be dangerous.

AB: What are the reasons for poor internet access in Haiti?
YA: Poverty is one. Little electricity. And of course computers are expensive. Very few people can have dial up because most people don' t have regular land lines at home. So it's all cell phones and wireless. And the equipment you have to buy for wireless internet access in Haiti is really expensive....

AB: Why do you blog anonymously?
YA: Well..... I'm only 25.... and very few people who do know me know about my blogging. I talk about politics and I say out loud what I think about people and I know that’s dangerous in this country. I don't want to expose myself to unnecessary danger, or expose my family. I'm no revolutionary hero, just a regular person with opinions.

AB: The D.R. of Congo under circumstances very similar to those in Haiti (UN mission, transition, elections, regular blackouts) have a relatively active blogosphere. How do you see the future of the Haitian blogosphere?
YA: The Haitian blogosphere is nearly inexistent. I think the first step would be to actually have a decent number of Haitian bloggers who could represent the variety of voices in this country. I think people in the country have to worry so much about so many basic things that they haven't been blogging, at least not about politics. But I think we might see more personal blogs in the future.

AB: What about those people who do have internet access like you and who do have the time and ability to blog? I know they're out there. There are plenty of Haitian websites and message boards for example (most in the diaspora) but some out of Haiti too dealing mostly with entertainment. Why websites but not blogs?
YA: I think in Haiti 's case it's a matter of numbers. A blog is mostly about content, you need to have something to say. And it also tends to be something you do for free. People have to put time and energy aside to write things but it's just so the world could know. Not so many are willing to do that.

AB: But have you visited the Haitian listserves lately? Corbett, Haitianpolitics, Windows on Haiti, etc...There are lots of Haitians on those listserves who clearly have something to say, mostly about politics. They are probably older than you are --in their mid 30s and 40s-- and many are also from the diaspora. But they're there and I wonder why even they who obviously have something to say are not blogging.
YA: I guess blogging just doesn't come as a natural thing. Maybe they just need to know that they can blog. Maybe we should get the word out: "Haitian bloggers wanted".

AB: So what's life like these days for a bright young 25 year old in Haiti?
YA: Discouraging. Corruption, insecurity. Corruption is really a big problem. I know so many people who just left the country and so many others who are trying to.

AB: Who reads your blog?
YA: Most are people from the US.

AB: What is the climate in Haiti now that the presidential election is over. Do you have any predictions?
YA: It's a wait and see situation. Opponents, supporters of Preval, are waiting to see what is going to happen, everyone is hoping for a better future but.... I personally know a few people who got kidnapped recently so, there is still much insecurity. And also, for the legislative runoffs parties and candidates are trying to make alliances to win seats so some ugly "maneuvering" is going on behind the scenes.

AB: What is at stake in the legislative runoff?
YA: A lot. Especially when you consider that the last time Preval was president, he had a parliament who opposed him and he just could not nominate a prime minister they would accept. So if he does not get the majority in the parliament, he will not be able to have a government that is truly his because the parliament votes the prime minister in.

(See my articles translating Yon Ayisyen posts here and here.)

(Cross-posted at Global Voices.)

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My Caribbean Blogroll

Just a note to let you know I've added a Caribbean Blogroll to the bottom of the right sidebar, right under the Archive section. It is divided into subsections such as "Haiti-Based," "Haitian Diaspora" and "Anglophone Caribbean". As a bonus, I've added the African-American blogs that I read regularly. The "Haitian Press" subsection is a work in progress as I am expecting more Haitian newssites will be issuing rss feeds.
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Yummy Fort Greene + Caribbean Easter

June Sidewalk
Originally uploaded by kiskeyAcity.

Unlike this rainy wet weekend, last Saturday night in Fort Greene was a gorgeous, crisp pre-summer Easter eve night.

To see more sidewalk shots of June and Chez Oskar, go here for annotated gallery or here for slideshow. To see shots of other Dekalb eateries i.e. Smooch and Madiba, go here for gallery with comments or here for slideshow.

Connection to the Caribbean? Well according to Jamaican-born Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson, Brooklyn, New York, Eastern America and the Caribbean are *all* part of what he calls the "West Atlantic Regional Cosmos" (which I in error called "Eastern Atlantic" in an earlier post). There. Not to mention of course that hundreds of thousands of people of Caribbean descent live in the County of Kings.

And while we're talking about Easter, check out a most informative roundup by Georgia Popplewell of Caribbean Easter traditions as told by the region's bloggers. Having read that post before Easter dinner last Sunday, how happy was I to find that one of my sister's guests brought the special Jamaican Easter bun for her to taste. It got all of us at the table wondering whether Haitians had specific Easter traditions and while I personally can't think of any, I invite anyone who can to post a comment.

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Haiti and the World Roundup

Here are some stories that have caught my attention lately:

  • Dumas Simeus, the Haitian-American, did not qualify to run for office in the recent election but he is organizing a summit of the Haitian Diaspora in Port-au-Prince. That's what this Radio Kiskeya story says (FR). The forum is being organized right as a National Commission is getting ready to exclude other haitians who have taken up other nationalities from running in the future, says Radio Kiskeya. It is being organized by Dr. Serge Parisien who was a campaign aide to Simeus. Topics they plan to tackle include the Constitution, voting rights and parliamentary representation for diaspora Haitians. Now the recently elected president said he supported double-nationality while campaigning. Was that just a campaign promise? And what will his involvement be with that commission that plans to prevent diaspora haitians from running in the future?

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Free Hao Wu

Free Hao Wu

It was a surreal experience. One day Hao Wu was introduced on the Global Voices Regional Editors' listserve as the new Northeast Asia Regional Editor, the next (okay maybe a week later) he had... disappeared. News came back that he had been detained by Chinese authorities and he remains so.

Global Voices started a campaign to "Free Hao Wu" which includes a blog featuring translated posts by his sister Nina who is doing her best to get him released, a letter writing campaign and a petition drive that await your support.

As mundane as my own blogging experience can be, blogging is a dangerous activity in some parts of the world. Hao, my thoughts are with you and with all of the support that is being drummed up by Rebecca and Ethan [co-founders of GV], the GV RegEds and the GV community, I look forward to reading your posts on the GV RegEd list very soon...

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New York's Haitian Book Fair 2006

  • Last Sunday was the 11th Annual Haitian Book Fair, held at York College in Queens, NY. Several Haitian book fairs are springing up in Haitian diaspora bastions including one in Montreal, a soon to happen one in DC. And of course there's Livres en Folie, a humongous well-attended one in Haiti every year. The fair featured a panel that was held entirely in French, a choice which probably explains the audience's advanced age. (Who is going to translate all this culture for American-born Haitian-Americans most of whom don't speak let alone read French or Creole?)

Panelists Louis-Philippe Dalembert(l.) and Willems Edouard (r.)

  • This was my first time attending and I quite enjoyed the keynote speaker, Louis-Philippe Dalembert, a Haitian from France. He read excerpts from his last novel, Rue du Faubourg St-Denis. It's basically the story of an adolescent of Haitian descent living in France with his Haitian-born illiterate mother. In a now familiar narrative of the immigrant experience, he serves as her eyes, ears and crutch. He reads her letters sent by relatives in Haiti that inevitably end with requests for money. In his french urban slang, he expresses awe at this far-away place with bizarre customs that he barely understands but to which he is his mother's only link. After all, only he can read or write her letters. Tired of handling her money transfers, he ends up teaching her how to sign her name. An old French lady asks him if he is French and he says "Sometimes." He tries to make sense of his mother's religious customs by measuring them against the ambiant islam of those other immigrants who live in his neighborhood.

  • Dalembert hopes that the novel will hopefully get readers thinking about issues dear to immigrants raising children in host countries, whether France, America or wherever. "How do you deal with identity problems?" he asks.

  • Other panelists included the editor of the Presses Nationales d'Haiti whose goal is to republish old out-of-print Haitian classics. He mentioned that books published by Haitians abroad are exceedingly hard to find in Haiti and that his press plans to republish those books for Haitian audiences.

  • Other speakers included Frantz Voltaire, an editor and filmmaker from Montreal and Jean-Robert Leonidas, author of Les Campeches de Versailles.

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A Booming D.R. of Congo Blogosphere, Why Not Haiti?

  • Haiti and the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) have had many things in common in recent years: transitional interim presidents, "democratic transitions" monitored by the UN and leading up to elections, tensions and doubts regarding these UN monitored elections. Of course Haiti just had its election but the DRC are still awaiting theirs which is scheduled for June and has already been postponed by a year.
  • Here is an interview I conducted with a Congolese blogger, Tony Katombe from Le Blog du Congolais, for GV. I found it interesting that many Haitians and Haitian-Americans I know harbor the same skepticism for political parties as he does. He talks about being involved via his blog and his writings while at the same time not really endorsing or finding common ground with any available DRC party, this despite obvious sympathies for the opposition.
  • Note also that one way the DRC and Haiti part is that the DRC blogosphere is blooming. The same is true of many other African countries, btw. But in francophone Africa, the DRC is by far the farthest along despite having blackouts and an being in crisis...

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