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a727: Dance troupe merges two black cultures (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Dance troupe merges two black cultures
Special to The Herald



Sosyete Koukouy dancer Alice Vasquez receives a vodou benediction from Alan
Coreus during a dance dramatization at the Lyric Theater in Liberty City
recently. The performance was in celebration of the 100th anniversary of
poet Langston Hughes' birth. Story, 3.

Long before black Americans and Haitians lived among each other, poets
Langston Hughes and Jacques Roumain sought to unite the struggles of the two
peoples through words.

This month, the 100th anniversary of Hughes' birth, Sosyete Koukouy, a
cultural dance troupe, and the Mapou Cultural Center, 5919 NE Second Ave.,
continue that effort through ''Spiritual Mood,'' a literary and cultural
series that attempts to highlight cultural similarities among African
Americans, Haitians and people of color in the Caribbean.

The series is sponsored through a $20,600 grant from the Florida Humanities
Council and the Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Department. It includes
performances showing Haitian peasant culture, a lecture series and folklore
presentations and was scheduled for Black History Month.

Wallis Tinnie, an adjunct professor of English at Florida International
University, read selected prose from Hughes' poetry Feb. 3 as part of the
series. Hughes' friendship with Roumain, she said, brought together two
literary movements and struggles: Hughes' Harlem soul and Roumain's Haitian
militant negritude.

''Both of their works expressed the voice of people who had been oppressed
for centuries,'' Tinnie said during the lecture Feb. 2 at the Lyric Theater.
``Their works warned black writers to not surrender racial pride, to become
the voice of their people.''

Hughes, an itinerant poet, traveled to the African nations of Senegal,
Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo, Angola and Guinea, as well as to many European
countries, as a young man in the 1920s, before meeting Roumain in Haiti in

The two men found they were in similar struggles and helped each other
realize that all black people are inextricably bound together, regardless of
the countries they are from, Tinnie said.

Jan Mapou, owner of Mapou Cultural Center, said Haitians and African
Americans continue to have a lot more in common than they know and they
should focus more on their similarities and less on their differences.

''It's important for the future generations to know their past, to remember
that we [blacks] came from one place,'' Mapou said. ``We can do this a lot
of different ways.''

One way Mapou has chosen is through the sketches that his group, Sosyete
Koukouy, presents. Sosyete Koukouy, which in Haitian Creole translates into
''one that illuminates or clarifies,'' has branches in Canada, New York
City, Haiti and Connecticut. Mapou founded the group in Miami in 1986. Its
actors, actresses and musicians perform traditional Haitian and African
music and dances.

Sosyete Koukouy's most recent performance was a 20-minute presentation Feb.
2 that urged young people to remember their ancestors with lines such as,
``Through you my children are young and free; you realize the dream denied
to me.''

Throughout the sketch, performers conjured up traditional images of Africa
through four drummers who tapped on ceremonial drums, increasing their
cadence, changing their rhythms and lightly humming while three performers
danced the Dambala (snake), Janvalou and other ceremonial vodou dances.

The sketch spoke for itself, Mapou said, because certain themes in it, such
as random violence, are common throughout the Caribbean, Africa and urban
areas in the United States.

Yolande Pierre, a teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages at
Morningside Elementary, 6620 NE Fifth Ave., said the sketch explained what
ails Haiti, the Caribbean and Africa. She said she hopes young Haitian and
African Americans would follow the collaboration and friendship of Hughes
and Roumain.

''We could go so much further if we knew where we came from,'' Pierre said.
``Yes, we have our different languages and customs but we are from the same

Dorothy Fields, founder and chief archivist of the Black Archives History
and Research Foundation, 5400 NW 22nd Ave., offered her family's lineage as
an example of the common history and causes that Hughes and Roumain
discovered some 60 years ago.

''Haitian Americans are African Americans and African Americans are Haitian
Americans,'' Fields said. ``My parents settled in Miami in 1903 from Key
West. My ancestors had lived in Haiti, Barbados and Sierra Leone before
that. We are one people; we are family. Welcome, cousins.''

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