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a119: Article from Rockland Journal News (fwd)

From: Steven White <polanve@optonline.net>

Haitians gather for food, fun

(Original publication: , 20)

Haitians gather for food, fun

Recent immigrants and long-time Rockland residents chatted with friends and
discussed politics over cups of traditional Haitian stew last night during
the fourth annual Konbit Neg Lakay holiday party.

About 100 people gathered in the Louis Kurtz Civic Center in Spring Valley
for the party, which is given by the organization as a thank-you for the
people who use its services.

"The annual party is something we give to celebrate the year that we've just
had and to gather among friends, family and supporters and look forward to
the new year," said Carl Marseille, president of the KNL board. KNL is a
Spring Valley-based Haitian cultural center that helps immigrants.

The party is traditionally low-key, Marseille said, to show respect for the
different religious traditions of KNL attendees. The party room sported two
large palm-like plants in pots and a variety of tables covered in white. The
main focus of the room was the buffet table, which featured fried pork,
fried chicken, rice, beans and other traditional Haitian foods. Music played
softly in the background and a pile of gifts rested in the back of the room
waiting for dispersal among the guests.

"In Haiti, this is a time to celebrate, to be with your friends, family and
loved ones," said Renold Julien, KNL director. "We continue that tradition.
This is our way of saying thank you to them. Without them, the agency would
not be able to move forward. They give us everything they have. They come to
the different programs, and we just want to say to them, 'Merry Christmas.'

The food is brought by community members and the servers are all volunteers,
he said. "They understand the true meaning of Konbit, which is 'coming
together.' "

Marie Cayo, 30, of Garnerville said she attended the party "to celebrate the
holiday with the Haitian community. It's the time to meet with the
community, to wish them well and to wish them a Merry Christmas."

Betsey Dufrene, 37, of Spring Valley and her children, 12-year-old Alex
Rodriguez and 10-year-old Candela Rodriguez, regularly attend the party,
they said.

"It's fun," Dufrene said. "I like seeing the people and the progress they've
made" learning English.

"I come because the person who is giving the party is a good friend of
mine," Candela said. "I like to see a whole bunch of different people every
time I come."

Paul Cherimond, 13, of Nyack said he has come to the party for the past
three years.

"I come to relax and be with my friends. We talk and have fun," he said.

"I came here because I just want cake and I want to celebrate with my dad,"
said 7-year-old Joseph Julien as he gave his father, Renold, a big hug.

Reach Randi Weiner at rweiner@thejournalnews.com or 845-578-2468.