I’ll be the first to admit that my knowledge on Haiti was limited: it's a little island in the Caribbean that battles a lot of hurricanes and earthquakes, and that’s it. It seemed like such a distant place that had nothing to do with me, so needless to say, attending the Haitian Association’s Creole Cuisine Night was a little bit intimidating.
But as I walked into the Murray Family Function Room at the Yawkey Center on Thursday night, I instantly felt like a part of the Haitian culture. The sound of traditional island music was blasting through the speakers, the tables were topped with straw hats, and the people in the crowd were happily chatting away in their seats, smiles permanently plastered on their faces. I knew I was in for a night like I had never seen before, and boy was I right.
The night took off with a bang, as junior Franchesco Martinez stunned the crowd with an impressive reading of an original poem, followed by a poem about the struggles of bullying, hatred and depression that was written by a Haitian friend of Martinez. Next, the freshmen representatives of the Haitian Association gave an update on the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the island of Haiti. There have been 51 people reported dead and 15 missing, and over 70 percent of the island has been destroyed by flooding. This is in addition to the ongoing effects from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake of 2010, which left 370,000 citizens without homes.
Two spoken word performances came next from junior Andrew Francisque and senior Rayanna Grace. Francisque addressed his struggle with a friend’s death while Grace spoke of the tendency for African-Americans to revert to their African heritage.
The energy of the night took a turn as PATU, Boston College’s African dance crew, took the floor and immediately got the crowd out of their seats. The dancers performed a few numbers and then invited audience members to learn some of their moves. Some people had no trouble being in the spotlight, earning themselves a spot at the front of the food line at the end of the night.
When asked about her favorite part of the night, freshman Lindsay Cellar admitted her new-found passion for African dance. “I really liked the part when PATU performed. They were very enthusiastic and upbeat, and everyone should go see them perform at some point!”
The highlight of the night was comedian and YouTube sensation Haitian Jonas. From commentary on the dollar menu at McDonald’s to Haitian punishment to matchmaking, Haitian Jonas brought a new dimension to the term “ROFL” and gave off a cheerful and lighthearted vibe throughout.
The night concluded with a highly-anticipated spread of Creole food, including traditional foods such as banan peze (fried plantains), poul (chicken), diri ak sòs pwa (rice and beans) and kochon (pork).
“Although we had a few hiccups here and there, I thought the event turned out really well! We still had a crowd at 10 o’clock at night, which means that people loved it as much as I did,” says Caroline Hall, a freshmen representative for the Haitian Association.
The Haitian Association plans to host more events throughout the year, possibly including a Learn to Speak Creole night and a Traditional Haitian Dance night. Overall, the Creole Cuisine night was a huge success. With a massive and enthusiastic crowd combined with delicious free food, it allowed for people to come together to celebrate the nation of Haiti and the immense amount of vibrant culture that it has to offer.