40 Youth served ages 15 to 25
"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 Eksperyans & LI Teaching Artist
LEAF International, Prosjekt Haiti (a Norwegian non-profit), and Boukman Eksperyans (a Haitian musical group) worked together to design and launch the LI Haiti program. Twice a week, members of Boukman Eksperyans give drum and dance lessons to children in Project Haiti’s Youth Club, free of cost. These youth are extraordinary and dedicated. The long-term vision for the program is that they will eventually serve as music teachers for younger children. The youth will perform in the community at least 4 times each year. Scroll to the bottom of the page to learn more about the Vision and Dream for this program.
The benefits of this program extend to the local community, including the drum maker commissioned to provide instruments and the women in the tailor shop Atelier Manman Troll (a part of Project Haiti), who will make costumes for the youth.
To continue the amazing work of Ben Gradison and D Street Studios, whose vision was to spread peace internationally through hip hop music, Rex Neu City Mac (a LEAF sponsor) has also provided One Mic recording equipment for the Youth Club. This studio gives young people the opportunity to share their voices with the world, and they have grown very sophisticated in their technological skills.
Through the project, students gain:
- Classes in drumming- drums are sacred in Haitian culture
- Traditional dance classes
- Reconnecting to local traditions
- The opportunity to perform in the community
- A one-mic recording studio
There are 40 young people in the program, ages 15-25. The students live nearby and walk to the program. If you met these students, you would never sense the real struggles of their lives. The youth come from poor backgrounds and their parents (many of whom cannot find work) struggle to find food for the families. Despite their circumstances, they 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 also asked the students about their vision for the future. Samual said, “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!" Student Falix says that for a positive future, “School is the first step.” Babang is dedicated to his goal which is “to change Haitian Cinema” by making good films, and engaging people in film.
Meet the Teaching Artists
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, and their members will be the primary teaching artists for the LI Haiti Program. The Boukman Eksperyans are: Manze’ (Mimerose) Beaubrun, Lolo (Theodore) Beaubrun, Bois Gris “Hans Dominique,” Laura Beaubrun, her husband Paul, Johanne Dejean and a host of musicians and dancers. Johanne Dejean will be leading the dance classes. Bois Gris will be teaching Haitian drumming traditions.
Experience Boukman's 2013 Carnival Song "Piout Piout."
“Dancing means to me the heart and then you know the steps.” -Laura Beaubrun, member of Boukman Eksperyans
“Music should be something that takes away sadness and makes joy.” -Youth mentor for the program, Cash
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.
Reflections from the trip and creation of the LI Haiti Program:
"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
"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, Boukman
“The kids have so much talent. There is nowhere to take it. We hope to show the kids that arts, music, and dance are valuable so they can grow their talent. Then the next step is self-expression. We will teach the youth club first,and they can become teaching artists for the younger kids.” - Ragnhild, Prosjekt Haiti
The group believes that there must be 4 key changes made in the future: "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."