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#4922: Rallying around the flags____ Project fosters self-awareness (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Published Thursday, August 17, 2000, in the Miami Herald 
 Rallying around the flags____ Project fosters self-awareness           

 The chatter of young voices fills the room as a group of teenagers from
Little Haiti work to create the one image they know best -- themselves.
 They are participants in a new program sponsored by the Little Haiti
Housing Association and North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE
125th St. Youth Creating Art, Culture and Community was designed for
at-risk youth from the local Haitian-American community. Twice a week
from 3 to 6 p.m. the kids meet at the housing association's offices
 at 181 NE 82nd St. Participants also make regular visits to MoCA to
view photographic exhibits by artists who explore self identities in
their works. ``There are not many programs in Little Haiti that
concentrate on efforts related to the development of
self-actualization,'' said Sam Diller, director of community
 outreach for the housing association, a community-based organization
that specializes in placing low-income families in homes. ``There's a
need for the community to explore their artistic heritage.'' The
students are creating ``Identity Flags'' in the style of traditional
sequined Haitian Vodou flags or drapo in Creole. The first stage of the
project is a ``word drawing'' in which the students choose
 words to describe themselves and write them inside an outline drawing
of their upper bodies. The next step is to transfer their silhouettes,
projected onto a backdrop against the wall, onto cloth. Then they fill
in the silhouettes with beads sewn into the fabric.

 ``The general response for this project has been extraordinary,'' said
Laura DePasquale, project facilitator. ``Kids are coming before start
time and are even requesting additional days.'' Emmanuela Petit, a
ninth-grader at Miami Senior High, described her involvement
 as a great experience because she can look in retrospect and say this
is something she did. She joined the group of nearly 20 students in the
second floor offices of the Little Haiti Housing Association one recent
afternoon. There, the students bent over their flags -- piercing needles
through cloth and threading black beads to fashion what will eventually
become self-portraits. ``I mean, this is me,'' Emmanuela said. ``It's
really me and the designs were illustrated by me and that differentiates
it from others,'' she said.  Loty Senxant, 14, a ninth-grader at Miami
Edison Senior High, said that before the project, the concept of
self-identity hadn't even dawned on her. In fact, for some of these
kids, this is the first time they have ever engaged in such activity. It
takes them out of the normalcy of their lives and exposes them to a
brighter, more artistic side of life. ``It's fun,'' said Betty Senat, a
10th-grader at North Miami Senior High. ``The program has managed to
keep me out of trouble. When I look at my creation, it's abstract and
makes me think about the funny side of me.'' DePasquale, who has been
designing programs like this for about 2 1/2 years, believes that the
arts can promote self-awareness as well as self-esteem. The
 Little Haiti arts program uses art as a means of self-identification,
she said.
 Diller, the community outreach director, said that by creating art that
addresses issues relative to the kids and their surroundings, they will
have more self-confidence. Other activities the kids have participated
in include a community mural, neighborhood photography and traditional
ceramics. Their upcoming projects include digital photography and
three-dimensional sculpting.  ``Kids that I thought I had lost are
coming back, and some are here that aren't even required to be here,''
said DePasquale. ``It's definitely a creative outlet for me. Not to
mention it keeps me young.'' ``Miss DePasquale is a talented role model.
I hope this program goes on to do great things,'' said Magdala Petit, a
ninth-grader at Miami Edison.

 For more information, call the Little Haiti Housing Association at