Little Haiti Book Festival Looms Large

In the midst of all the Memorial Day hoopla, quietly in one of our most beautiful neighborhoods, one of Miami’s more intimate and beautiful events will occur: the Little Haiti Book Festival.

Featuring a series of panels, exhibitions and family-friendly activities, the two-day event unquestionably will offer education, expression and culture right into our bustling urban core.

You could literally take a Jitney to this event.

Lissette Mendez is the coordinator of the Miami Book Fair, host of the Little Haiti Book Festival. Her words on Facebook speak volumes. “Hope to see you all there! This has been the most rewarding collaboration of my career. Too many people to thank in one FB post. But I will get to each one of you who have helped to make this happen… Yes I will! It takes a village, indeed.”

Miami Dade College’s (MDC) acclaimed Miami Book Fair (MBF) is partnering with Sosyete Koukouy of Miami Inc., to present the Little Haiti Book Festival on Saturday, May 27 and Sunday, May 28. This book festival, which features two days of vibrant cultural exposure to writers, booksellers, and performers, is part of MBF’s ReadCaribbean programming. This event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex, at 5919 N.E. Second Ave.

The Little Haiti Book Festival will feature authors from Haiti and the Haitian diaspora, hands-on activities for children, a workshop for writers, film screenings, dance and music performances, and much more.

The following outlines the official schedule of the event.

Hope you can swing by at some point.

Saturday, May 27, 6 p.m.

Creative Cocktail Hour at the Caribbean Marketplace/ Little Haiti Marketplace

Meet members of Miami’s Sosyete Koukouy and Little Haiti Book Festival’s two keynote speakers: writer and artist Marie-Alice Théard, founder of Festival Arts in Pétion-Ville, Haiti, and historian Jean-Claude Exulien, founder of the National Theater of Haiti. Sample some of Ms. Théard and Professor Exulien’s favorite cocktails, listen to a few of their colorful tales, and make connections with interesting people, all in the heart of Little Haiti. Expect innovative art, invigorating music and “natif-natal” dance performances.

Saturday, May 27, 8 p.m.

“Haitian Literature: Resilience & Sustenance” / “Liv Ayisyen: Pote Kole pou Ayiti pi Djanm”

Authors Marie-Alice Théard and Jean-Claude Exulien will explain how books expand the mind and allow us to create new paths for ourselves, and why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all, particularly Haitian citizens, in their quest for resilience and sustenance.

Sunday, May 28

12 p.m. “Literati Natif Nataf” Authors Pierre-Michel Chéry and Anivince Jean-Baptiste will examine modern Haitian Creole literature, and explore why Haitian Creole is the language of choice for many writers who engage the personal negotiations of culture, history, social reform, identity, and art. The panel will also address the diversity of literary texts in Haitian Creole, and writers’ on-going efforts to reach a broader audience.

12 p.m. Kids Writing for Kids + Bookmaking / Rankontre Jèn Ekriven Nou yo Are you raising a kid author? Bring your child to meet published writers Edwin Bonilla, 7, Kimbriah Alfrenar, 13, and Phanesia Pharel, 17. After a craft talk with the authors, attendees will participate in a short workshop to learn to make books.

2 p.m. “Haiti: Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery” / “Esklavaj Modèn nan peyi d Ayiti”* From underpaid house labor and fieldwork, to child slavery (“restavèk”), to sexual trafficking, authors Fritz Jean and Pierre-Michel Saint-Clair will discuss the economic and emotional aspects of modern slavery in Haiti, share personal stories, and name the price of freeing Haiti’s modern slaves. *A presentation in Creole with simultaneous interpretation in English

2 p.m. First Draft: Ébauches & Banbòch – A creative writing workshop* In a fun (banbòch!), supportive and professional environment, author Fabienne Josaphat will teach effective writing techniques to allow writers to give voice to stories about their Caribbean-American experience. *In English, French, and Haitian Creole

2 p.m. “On the Verge of a Fever” – A film screening presented by Ayiti Images Against the backdrop of poverty, fear and the brutal dictatorship of Haiti in 1971, On the Verge of a Fever (Le goût des jeunes filles) is about Fanfan, a fifteen-year-old boy who just wants to experience life for himself with his streetwise friend Gégé. Having lived a somewhat sheltered life with his protective mother, Fanfan experiences a bizarrely terrifying incident involving a Tonton-Macoute. As a result, he decides to hide out at his beautiful neighbor’s house for the weekend. There, he is trapped between his fear of being caught and the fulfilling of his deepest fantasy. Based on the novel by renown Haitian novelist Dany Laferriere. Directed by John L’Ecuyer.

Sunday, May 28, 4 p.m. “Race & Identity: The Diaspora Divide” / “Ras & Idantite: Divizyon nan Dyaspora a”* This panel will offer insight on the strained relationship between Caribbean Americans and African Americans in South Florida, as both groups face similar social challenges, and are often pressured to redefine their black identities. Maude Heurtelou and Hervé Fanini-Lemoine will discuss the urgency of solidarity, so that the space between “us” and “them” might finally collapse. *A presentation in Creole with simultaneous interpretation in English

4 p.m. Self-Publishing Strategies for Authors / Estrateji pou Otè ki vle Pibliye poukont yo Thinking about self-publishing your book? Bito David has the answer to all of your questions! Get the inside scoop on publishing strategies and get to understand the “state of play” in self-publishing today.

4 p.m. “Danses Folkloriques” / “Dans Fòlklorik” From Yanvalou to Rara, Haitian folk dance is one of the most expressive ways to learn about Haitian history and culture. This workshop will teach dances full of opposites, subtle and dynamic, graceful and ragged, the vibrant tones and rhythms of the drums creating calm, balance, sensuality, and passion.

6 p.m. Vodou Immersion / Atelye sou Vodou To the non-practitioners, Vodou is too often dismissed as a primitive practice with strange connotations. It’s been sensationalized, trivialized and parodied. If you’re curious about Vodou and its real meaning, you’re invited to fully immerse during a live, heartfelt ceremony. Learn about Vodou vèvès, ceremonial songs and ritual drumming, and feel the Spirits invoked by a real mambo.

All Day Kids Art Making Studio / Atelye Atizana pou Timoun Children will connect literature to arts and craft with storytelling sessions involving hands-on activities. From Yanvalou to Rara, Haitian folk dance is one of the most expressive ways to learn about Haitian history and culture. This workshop will teach dances full of opposites, subtle and dynamic, graceful and ragged, the vibrant tones and rhythms of the drums creating calm, balance, sensuality, and passion.

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J.J. Colagrande

Has written about Miami culture for twenty years, first with The Miami Herald, then Miami New Times and Huffington Post. He's the publisher of The Jitney and a full-time professor at Miami Dade College.