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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Tchaka Night 3: Taking it Back to the Roots

The Haitian American Society “took it back to the roots” on Saturday night, March 29 at UMass Boston, hosting an event celebrating Haitian culture. The event filled every seat and then some at the Snowden Auditorium with students, faculty, staff from UMass Boston and the community at large. While waiting for the performances, including Haitian folklore dancing and spoken-word poetry, the audience mingled and listened to music. Opening speakers discussed economic instability in Haiti, but tonight, “taking it back to the roots” meant taking it beyond struggle and oppression and focusing on traditions and values that are beautiful and essential to the culture.

The spoken word is an important aspect of many cultures and in Haiti, it takes many forms, including gospel, choir, and poetry. A Boston poet’s voice filled the room, singing the phrase “wade in the water,” accompanying those words with spoken verses. Other forms of art were expressed by dancers who performed traditional Haitian Folklore dancing, accompanied by percussion.

Drawing on folk music and other traditional arts, groups created performances that celebrate Haitian culture and comment on the political experiences of the Haitian people. One skit touched upon issues brought up in education, like how some Haitian-Americans are treated in the classroom because of ignorance about Haitian culture in general. The skit’s setting was an American classroom where new Haitian students were introduced. The other students proceeded to tell the new students they had H.B.O. (Haitian body odor). When the newcomers wished they weren’t Haitian because of this nasty teasing, a woman reassured the students that H.B.O. could stand for Haitian Beauty Originality, “Be proud of being Haitian!”

Food is an effective way to cultural traditions alive. Traditional Haitian food derives from the many nations from which its people emigrated; indigenous peoples mixed with those of West African nations, France, Spain and the United Kingdom. Typical dishes include accrats, an appetizer composed of breaded fried cod, and soup au giromont, pumpkin soup full of flavor. Meats include griots, which is boiled, fried pork, often complimented by a spicy sauce called ti-malice, and lambi en sauce, or fresh conch in a thick sauce. Exotic desserts include pain patate, which is cake made with sweet potatoes, coconut and raisins.

Saturday night was full of laughter, dancing, poetry, and music. It was a beautiful cultural celebration here in America. In the U.S. cultures are apt to become “Americanized” and cultural identity can be lost. In today’s society, the many cultures that make up the nation have nights like these to return to their roots, the customs that unite people. A major message of the evening was to be proud of your cultural background; everyone’s roots grow from seeds planted centuries ago. Keeping these seeds alive is what Tchaka Night was all about.