By Onz Chery
A Brooklyn-based nonprofit has launched a fundraiser via GoFundMe to help artists and tailors in Bel Air, Port-au-Prince who lost their homes in a series of attacks this past summer. The Toussaint Louverture Cultural Foundation (TLCF) wants to raise $10,000 for the artists — painters, drawers, sculptors — and tailors whose homes doubled as their workspaces.
During the deadly attacks in August and September, at least 21 people were killed and scores of residents lost their homes when gang members burned down and looted residences. The bandits stole sewing machines, carving wood, canvas paintings, sculptures, leather goods, ceramics, Vodou flags and glitter.
“Art plays a very important role in Haiti’s society, in our culture,” said Paul Corbanese, TLCF’s president. “It’s one of the main things that keep Haiti alive in terms of image.”
Since the artists’ craft was their livelihood, they were left in financial turmoil. Some of the Bel Air artists now stay with family and friends or at Champ-de-Mars park for shelter. They and their families often spend three days without eating.
“The people felt like they were hopeless,” said one Bel Air resident, who asked that his name not be used for fear of violence. “Now they’re starting to breathe again. They’re starting to timidly dream because of TLCF’s fundraiser.”
TLCF’s fundraiser will provide the means for the artists to purchase materials. TLCF officials have raised $760 of their $10,000 goal thus far. Other people have also been fundraising for the Bel Air residents like Missy Nadege.
Some of the residents have been going back to Bel Air to sleep because nowhere else is available. Bandits are still patrolling through the neighborhoods and shot at least five people last weekend. One of them died and the other four were transported to the hospitals. The residents fled from Bel Air again.
A Vodou flagmaker was also decapitated Aug. 28 — the day of the bandits’ most devastating attack — Bel Air residents said. They accused the G9 Family and Allies gang members of the attacks.
“Bel Air can’t take it anymore,” the Bel Air resident said. “We’re tired of watching people dying, women, men, children. We want to send a cry of alert. The government never did anything to help, which makes them the bandits’ partner in crime.”
TLCF was founded in 2013 with the main goal of raising funds for artists in Haiti. They raised $70,000 for the restoration of the Musee d’Art Haitien du College Saint-Pierre in Port-au-Prince mainly after artists from Haiti, the United States and Europe sold their works.
The museum had collapsed during the 2010 earthquake. An additional $60,000 funds is needed to complete the restoration.
They also raised about $500 for The Artists of Grand Rue after a fire at Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines had damaged their materials earlier this year and helped restore The Sans Souci Palace painting back at Saint-Louis de Gonzague in 2018. Numa Desroches, a renowned Haitian artist painted The Sans Souci Palace.
In decades past, Bel Air was one of the most alluring neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince for its cultural contributions. It was known for its arts, having multiple tailors and for being the home of Aigle Noir Athlétic Club, a prominent soccer team.
“We’re not going to abandon Bel Air or the bandits will take it,” the Bel Air resident said. “If the bandits still see us there it’s because we have hope that our neighborhood will be like it was before. That’s why we’re staying.”
Click here to donate to the Bel Air artists and tailors.