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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Haitian Bicentennial Celebration

The Haitian American Society celebrates its bicentennial with music from Tjovi Ginen, a fashion show, and plenty of food. - Photos by Kory Vergets
The Haitian American Society celebrates its bicentennial with music from Tjovi Ginen, a fashion show, and plenty of food. – Photos by Kory Vergets

“The theme of this evening is liberty and dignity for all!” remarked one of the opening speakers for the celebration of Haiti’s gaining independence from France in 1804. Sponsored by the UMB Student Senate and hosted by the Black Student Center, Africana Studies department, and Casa Latina, UMass Boston’s Haitian American Society (HAS) invited the UMB community to celebrate history’s first successful revolt for liberation at the Russell Auditorium in Dorchester on February 7.

The HAS worked hard to create an event that celebrated Haitian culture while also inviting speakers to remind the audience that Haiti is a nation that is politically unstable and facing economic turmoil.

Nonetheless, the general mood of the evening was rather uplifting. The DJ’s presence at the turntable and the lingering scent of fine Caribbean cuisine created a pleasant atmosphere. While viewers awaited their meal, several dance numbers and speakers, including a number of UMB professors, simultaneously entertained and educated the audience about Haitian culture and the Haitian peoples’ struggle for liberation.

Bethany, a member of HAS, told listeners that a shortage of jobs and a lack of educational opportunities among the people in Haiti intensified the country’s social turmoil. She further explained how dictators robbed the country of its natural resources and remarked that although seemingly devastating, it was possible to change. She stated, “The first step is that we’re here celebrating, opening the door to a new generation, and working together to make a better place for all of us.”

One of the first speakers was a UMB professor who challenged Haitian Americans to influence the United States government with their votes so that constructive action could be taken in Haiti. In addition, he asked of Haitian Americans: “What can you do to assure that the situation of the next 100 years doesn’t mirror the situation of the past 100 years in Haiti?”

He continued, “The Haitian Revolution was a very significant event that simultaneously ended slavery and imperialism,” but also inquired, “Where is Haiti today? The independence of Haiti is a promise not kept!” The professor explained that Haiti is a divided nation and society and is also one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. Haiti is, however, the world’s first independent black nation. As UMB professor Robert Johnson commented, “The Haitian revolution inspired the revolutionary struggles of the 1960s in the U.S.”

The event’s intensity was lightened with a fashion show segment that certainly caught the attention of the audience as several lovely ladies and sexy gentlemen strutted across the dance floor modeling a Haitian clothing line. The line, which has two, soon to be three, stores in the Boston area, originated in Dorchester and featured graffiti-style artwork celebrating Haiti’s independence.

Accompanying the party was guest band Tjovi Ginen who shined on stage with three stunning lead singers backed by a lively instrumental section, artfully blending reggae with a twist of Afro-Caribbean music. Tjovi Ginen proved to be the high note of an already successful and fun evening.