It’s about 6:10am on Wednesday. Everyone from the Edeyo crew is still sleep. yesterday was off the chain! One the first day that I taught dance class, we had no music due to the fact that the building in which the children have classes in, had to current (electricity). Yesterday, I was ready for them because I acquired some batteries for my Ipod speakers so there would be no reason not to have music.
Before I got any further, I should explain exactly what’s going on here in this trip to Haiti. The organization called Edeyo has asked Rhythm N’ Dance to come down and support the school they have in Port Au Prince, Haiti. Rhythm N’ Dance is about preserving African Diasporic arts through educational programs geared towards children from ages 4-18. Rhythm N’ Dance wanted to bring our programming to Haiti, however we knew that it had to be tailored to the people here as opposed to the people we work with in the States. This took some research on my part to find out about Haitian traditional drumming and dancing. I was blessed to connect with Frisner Augustin and Lois Wilcken from La Troupe de Makandal, who gave me a lot of information on the traditional Haitian culture of drumming and dancing.
The school that we are working with is in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Port Au Prince, Bel-Air. When we go to the school, it is essential that we wear shirts with the Edeyo logo on them because this community looks out for each other. When the earthquake happened last year, many of the prisoners who escaped from prison relocated up to this area because they knew no one would mess with them up here. The neighborhood is run by two people; Mommie Maude – a staunch defender and advocate of the children who does everything in her power to make sure that the children in Edeyo are protected and educated. Then, there’s Two Machette – the local drug lord that runs the streets of Bel-Air with an iron fist. Every time we come to the school, he’s checking up on us to make sure everything’s all good. The relationship between these two is amazing! In a place such as Haiti, there is a fine line between the “Good” and the “Bad”. As an American, I understand that line very well. There are afterschool programs in South East DC, where the children of some of the major drug dealers and criminals in the area attend afterschool programming that can run pretty late. these same drug dealers are the ones who make sure that these young people and the teachers are protected as they walk home. Here in Bel-Air, it is no different. The argument for “Good” and “Bad” can be had for another day because from what I see in Bel-Air, its all good! 🙂
Yesterday Mommie Maude made a call out to the community to get me some drummers for my dance class! I was ready to rock without the drummers, but when they came through, I was EXCITED! we collaborated for a few minutes to get the rhythms together and then it was a straight throwdown after that! I had the kids from 4th, 5th & 6th grade, but that caused quite a bit of disappointment in the younger kids from 2nd & 3rd who also wanted to dance. By the time we started with the drummers, we had a lot of kids just watching us, however they weren’t allowed to participate because there just wasnt enough room. We also have to deal with the trauma of the earthquake last year, where some people don’t even like to go into two-story buildings. We were dancing on the second floor, so when we danced too hard, people on the first floor ran out of the building in fear that we would bring down the building around them. Even though it only been a year since the earthquake, that expereince has had an extremely traumatic and psychological effect on these people. The one thing that you learn in programming that I do is that you have to adapt, so TODAY, we’re moving the dancing from upstairs on the second floor to outside on the streets. We’re going to open it up to the masses and them know how we do it in de CULTURE of the African Diaspora!