LEAF International Haiti has been launched
with Prosjekt Haiti and Boukman Eksperyans!
Founded in February 2013 • Port Au Prince
40 Youth Club Participants • Ages 15 to 25
Drum & Dance Classes • Community Performances • One Mic Recording Studio
"Your traditions are very important. It's like you forget who you are if you don't know your traditions. We are loosing our traditions. They just don’t know their traditions. They like hip hop- the dress- the talk – they are disconnected from their roots."
-Bois Gris of Boukman & LI Teaching Artist
The Cultural Connection • Project Overview
“Music makes life a little bit happier.” It is important to be “connecting youth to THEIR cultural traditions.” -Manze’, Boukman. LEAF International, Prosjekt Haiti, and Boukman Eksperyans worked together to design their LEAF program. It was decided the Youth Club would be the first students. These youth are extraordinary, dedicated, and in the introductory sessions they all eagerly participated. The vision is the youth will also learn how to teach the young kids at Petit Troll. The LEAF program is free and programs two drum lessons and two dance lessons weekly at Prosjekt Haiti. At least 4 times yearly, the youth will perform in the community.
Haitian drums are sacred. There are 3 drums core to the music of which the largest drum is the Mother Drum. Bois Gris commissioned a local drum maker to make drums for the program. Costumes will be designed in conjunction with the youth and made by the women in Atelier Manman Troll, a tailor shop, which is part of Prosjekt Haiti.
Haitian Teaching Artists Lead the Way
“Dancing means to me the heart and then you know the steps.” -Laura Beaubrun
Boukman Eksperyans has been a powerful social voice for Haitians for over 30 years. They embody and preserve Haitian traditions with grace and dedication. For years, they have dreamed of starting a cultural program with youth. This match is perfect timing. As a family and group, they will help guide the program, and their members will be the primary teaching artists. Meet Boukman Eksperyans: Manze’ (Mimerose) Beaubrun, Lolo (Theodore) Beaubrun, Bois Gris “Hans Dominique” (Bois Gris means grey wood), Laura Beaubrun, her husband Paul, Johanne Dejean and a host of musicians and dancers. Experience Boukman's 2013 Carnival Song " Piout Piout".
Johanne Dejean is a very good dancer, and will be leading the dance classes. In conjunction, Bois Gris, drumming since he can recall, will be teaching Haitian traditions through drums.
What Haitian Traditions are meaningful to you? "Haitian drums are special. Congo is the dance of joy; Banda is the dance of rhythm where you shake your body a lot. Vodou means spirit and love. I teach the kids to play the drums and what the drums symbolize. Many people are scared of the drum. Vodou is not “voodoo”. It is not the one on TV. It is spirit and love. We cannot loose our culture. " - Bois Gris
"The Boukman family have beautiful generous spirits. Their music is driven by their love and respect for who they are, where they come from and their collective identity. They are so loved and respected by their fellow Haitians, a reflection of their deep connection and commitment to preserving Haitian culture, the land and its history and to sharing who they are with the world." -Tamiko Ambroise Murray
The Rising Young Musicians & Artists
Meet the youth at Prosjekt Haiti. What do you want people to know about Haiti? “Haitians WORK HARD, are TALENTED, and are FUN even amidst misery they can laugh." - Samual Ambroise
How do you see your future?
They responded as a group. "There must be 4 changes: Government, Fun (the more you teach via creativity the more people will engage), Education (train teachers for quality and responsibility), and Spirit and Culture must be included."
Samual added, “Prosjekt Haiti is fighting for Haitians! The future can be so much better. More opportunities to be educated are needed. Programs should be run and led by people who need them and the programs are for!", and Falix added to have a future “school is the first step”. Babang is dedicated to his goal which is “to change Haitian Cinema” through making good films, and engaging people in film. Cash states , “Music should be something that takes away sadness and makes joy.”
The kids live nearby and walk to the program. The biggest struggle for the youth is everything that entails coming from poor backgrounds. However, in meeting the youth you would never have a sense of the struggles they endure or triumph. These youth are vibrant, talented, self-taught, driven, intelligent, kind, and they have dreams. In their realities, the parents daily struggle to find food for the family (most parents are not working) and lack of electricity forces students to walk to public lights outside to do homework. The families are very happy about the program.
"We have for years talked about doing more on culture such as learning to play instruments and dance. I like the idea of focusing on learning and appreciating Haitian culture, as a way to feel proud about ones heritage." -Ingvill Ceide, Prosjekt Haiti Director
Edwin, Ingvill's husband and Prosjekt Haiti Director, is such a happy generous spirit and driven by dreams of helping Haiti grow. He reflects, “In 43 seconds, 200,000 people lost their lives in the quake. I got the message and got busy living.”
Project Haiti is truly an amazing community-driven organization. Its model of service is exemplary and continues to grow toward the needs of the families served and fostering leadership and the growth of opportunities in its multi-generational community members. Prosjekt Haiti has been creating a thriving supportive community in Port Au Prince for 13 years.
The Vision & Dream
Manze' and Lolo encourage LEAF to think about expanding in Haiti. The vision is to empower the youth club with their traditions, and train those who are a match to teach Petit Troll's 120 Students ages 6-13. During 2013 summer camp in St. Louis De Sud, we dream to provide Haitian cultural traditions, and during this time find locals who have the potential to be trained as teaching artists. Within a year, LEAF and Prosjekt Haiti dream to "expand the programme to our second school in the south in the future, where we have a school for 200 children, from the village St Louis du Sud. In St Louis we are also in the process of constructing a community centre/guest house, and we will have good infrastructure for such a programme overall, including a stage for performances." - Ingvill. St. Louis de Sud is a beautiful vast landscape with mango trees, palm trees, mountain peaks, and ocean waters. Once the guesthouse is ready, we dream to take LEAF journeys to visit Haiti.
LEAF is confident that music education, experience, and mentoring at Prosjekt Haiti will inspire the participants, community, and environment. The youth will bring the community together by performing concerts and developing skills they might use to pursue music and arts as a possible career. The kids will also be able to use the music in help in healing, understanding their challenges, and to connect more deeply with their beautiful and rich Haitian culture and traditions.