BROOKLYN, NY — In a city as diverse as New York, it’s not hard to imagine the blending and removal of a community’s cultural identity as neighborhoods shift and change due to ever changing migration patterns. However, one Brooklyn organization is fighting to preserve the strong and rich Haitian culture that has developed in the borough for decades.
“In Brooklyn, and particularly for the Haitian community thriving here, we pride ourselves on creating spaces for community togetherness and healing,” Veroneque Ignace, creator and artistic director for Kriyol Dance! said.
Founded in 2016, Kriyol Dance! is a collective of artist-leaders working together to create one platform advocating for the unapologetic voices of Black arts—Haitian culture in particular—through collaborative and unified work and intervention.
Each artist participating in the collective creates original work focused on the preservation of Black diasporic culture, Haitian culture, and the promotion of Haitian life through engagement arts. This includes, and is not limited to, artistic work that involves community voices, community issues, and the Haitian state of affairs. Artist-leaders work to develop innovative and multi-pronged approaches to use art as a tool for commentary as opposed to simply entertainment.
“We hope to make normative the discussions of Haitian culture that do more than harp on Haiti’s poverty,” Ignace said. “We aim to continuously place the focus on discussion of Haitian lives, both in-country and abroad.”
The artists use dance, music, poetry, and writing to develop, advance, and uplift communities, both in New York City and Port-au-Prince, through a partnership with Societe St. Michel Archange.
“Our work transcends cultural backgrounds and belief systems, thereby placing its focus on individual and community well-being, public health, and the power of arts to create social change,” she said.
For Ignace, the collective’s role in the community is about engaging the public socially through art to nurture the next generation of activists, visionaries, and advocates. Now, the question becomes this: how do we cultivate community systemically, keeping culture thriving in spite of detrimental changes in physical, social, and political contexts?
“We’re finding that this starts by developing praxis built upon collective consciousness: making the community aware of the social, political, and historical realities that seek to limit us, through cultural and social practice, to act in solidarity and essentially transform those realities.”