Arcade Fire Exploited Haiti, and Almost No One Noticed














Months before Arcade Fire’s new album came out, I learned of its existence when social media pointed me to a website with some chalked, black and white patterns spelling out “Reflektor.” The designs seemed strange and foreign, and I was intrigued about what the music might sound like—not because I knew what the accompanying imagery meant, but precisely because I didn’t.


This, of course, was the intended effect. It turns out those designs were inspired by Haitian veve graffiti, used in syncretistic Vodoun practices to summon the Loa (angels or spirits, messengers to the deity). But presented out of context, to the typically unknowing fan like me, they connoted something else: mystery, exoticness, esotericism.


Reflektor itself—now released and at the top of the charts—and the rest of its marketing campaign went all-in on the Haitian tropes. During some promotional concerts the band donned Kanaval masks, coopting a symbol that holds multifaceted, complex meaning for Haitians during Carnival but that was reduced to flat shorthand for “party!” during a raucous SNL appearance. The music evokes similar stereotypes. In the song “Flashbulb Eyes,” glimmering marimbas will, for many listeners, conjure a specific idealization of the Caribbean (where Haiti is located), while singer Win Butler wails about cameras stealing souls. The band’s music used to feel interesting by virtue of its heart-on-sleeve confrontation with mortality; now, it borrows its edginess by leaning on preconceptions about a foreign region.


So with Reflektor, Arcade Fire has employed an old trick. Use seemingly “exotic” cultural elements, regardless of their original context, to grab attention; profit. It’s a model Urban Outfitters, for example, has gotten in trouble for. Many iconic white musicians, from the Beatles to Madonna, from Elvis to Eminem, have done the same, to varying levels of controversy: Most everyone agrees cultural mixing can lead to innovative art, but there are sensitive and insensitive ways to do it, ways that perpetuate inequality and ways that work against it.


At Chart Attack, native Bahamian writer Jordan Darville makes a convincing case that Reflektor’s marketing fell on the side of “insensitive”:


    Discussing the album with Zane Lowe, Win Butler described the new sound as “a mashup of Studio 54 and Haitian voodoo music.” It was the beginning of Arcade Fire’s campaign focus: using appropriated visuals to contrast their maroon beginnings as loudly as possible. This method of marketing does nothing to combat – and in all likelihood reinforces – this overarching perspective of Caribbean islands being resources for awakening of white souls.


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SAVE THE DATE: 12/12/13



Jaffa Films in association with Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees will host “Bon Bagay: Haitian Art Auction & Charity Event” to help empower the lives of women and young girls of gender based violence in Haiti & the Dominican Republic, an evening of art, music, food, guest speakers and film to support aid organizations in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the fight of civil rights and citizenship for hundreds of thousands Dominican-born children of Haitian immigrants




Take home a masterpiece for the holidays and make a difference in the life of a Haitian – 100% of all art sales go to charity. 





















This past Labor Day, Monday, Jaffa Films Creative Director and roving photographer, Andrea Cauthen, captured these sights during the forty-sixth annual West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn. The city’s largest parade drew thousands of revelers, many wearing colorful costumes, and waving flags to celebrate their Caribbean heritage.

Haiti was representing!!

AFP Haiti photographer Thony Belizaire dead at 54






PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) –  Thony Belizaire, who won numerous awards while working as Agence France-Presse’s photographer in his native Haiti for more than 25 years, died on Sunday. He was 54.


Belizaire, who joined AFP in May 1987, died at a hospital in Petion-Ville from complications related to respiratory difficulties.


Belizaire was AFP’s eyes in Haiti for the past three decades, covering the political upheaval that has bedeviled his homeland and natural disasters such as the 2010 earthquake that left more than 250,000 people dead.


In the last months of his life, Belizaire had been working on a photo essay about the environment and the work that needs to be done to improve the lot of the Haitian people.


Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said the country had lost an “outstanding professional.”


“Mr. Belizaire devoted more than 30 years of his life to covering the major social, political and cultural events in the life of the Haitian people,” Lamothe said.


“He was a profound influence on Haitian photographers, particularly photo journalists.”


David Millikin, AFP’s regional director for North America, also paid tribute to Belizaire.


“Thony was a gentle but very courageous man — not only for ignoring personal risk while covering the momentous events which marked Haiti’s recent history, but also for pursuing his career with passion and diligence despite battling serious health issues in recent years,” Millikin said.


Belizaire is survived by his wife, Marie-Florence, and three children Jeremie, 17, Jonathan, 13, and Jovanny, 5.


Haitian bands say Michel Martelly is censoring carnival songs

As ‘Sweet Micky,’ Haiti’s charismatic president built a reputation as the king of carnival by denouncing governments, mooning politicians and being outrageously anti-establish-ment.


Now, as president of Haiti, some say Michel Martelly is banning other artists from taking part in this year’s carnival celebration for doing the same thing he did as a singer: criticizing the government.


Lead singers behind some of this season’s most controversial carnival tunes — most of them critical of the Martelly government — say they were disinvited from being among the 15 bands to be featured on floats for this year’s carnival.

“As young artists, we learned how to do this from him, watching him denounce government after government,” said Don Kato of the group Brothers Posse, whose alleged ban has lit up social media and become a lead story for Haitian journalists. “It makes no sense that as an artist I can’t sing about the environment I am living in, and you want to sanction me because I’m not singing in favor of you.”

Political pulse

In a country where past carnival songs have predicted the fate of governments, carnival lyrics are viewed as the social and political pulse of the country. In the past 20 years, some have even predicted the fates of governments, which Martelly acknowledged in a radio interview Friday, saying songs have the power to “overthrow a government.” Already, political journalists and opposition lawmakers are employing the song lyrics in their own analysis of Haiti’s current rough political waters.

In the interview on Port-au-Prince’s Scoop FM radio, Martelly said it’s not automatic that an artist would be chosen to perform during carnival. He added that Kato’s song “doesn’t bother me.”

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Haiti’s carnival festivities start





Jacmel, Haiti – Haiti’s annual Carnival festivities have erupted in the streets of the coastal town of Jacmel.



Thousands of revelers danced and hopped in Jacmel’s streets Sunday afternoon as a parade of people wearing papier-mache masks and costumes to celebrate the pre-Lenten holiday passed through the streets.

The country’s Carnival celebration begins each year in this town on the southern coast revered for its artisans and artists.

The event is typically followed a week later by a big street party in Haiti’s capital. But the administration of President Michel Martelly has held carnival outside Port-au-Prince in an effort to spread resources and bring tourists to the countryside.

Carnival will take place next weekend in Haiti’s second largest city, in the north, Cap-Haitien.


Jean-Léon Destiné, Dancer, Dies at 94

 Jean-Léon Destiné, a Haitian dancer and choreographer who brought his country’s traditional music and dance to concert stages around the world, died on Jan. 22 at his home in Manhattan. He was 94. His family confirmed the death.

Considered the father of Haitian professional dance, Mr. Destiné first came to international attention in the 1940s and remained prominent for decades afterward.

As a dancer, he performed well into old age. In 2003, reviewing a program at Symphony Space in New York in which he appeared, Anna Kisselgoff wrote in The New York Times that Mr. Destiné’s number stopped the show. She added, “He looked agile and nuanced, mesmerizing in a bent-legged solo.”





As a choreographer, he directed own ensemble, which came to be known as the Destiné Afro-Haitian Dance Company.

The company, which presented work from throughout the Caribbean, was devoted in particular to dances from Haiti. Accompanied by vibrant drumming — Mr. Destiné collaborated for many years with the distinguished Haitian drummer Alphonse Cimber — these dances were often infused with elements of voodoo tradition.

As reviewers noted, Mr. Destiné and company could dance, to all appearances, as if possessed.

Much of Mr. Destiné’s work also functioned as commentary on Haiti’s legacy of colonialism and slavery. In “Slave Dance,” a solo piece he choreographed and performed, the dancer begins in bondage only to emerge, in astonished joy, a free man.

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Haitian amputee makes comeback on dance floor..

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Georges Exantus thought he’d never dance again. He was lucky just to be alive.

The earthquake three years ago in Haiti’s capital flattened the apartment where he was living and he spent three days trapped under jagged rubble. After friends dug him out, doctors amputated his right leg just below the knee.

Israeli doctors and physical therapists who came to Haiti after the quake sent him to Israel for surgery and rehabilitation.

Three years later, the 31-year-old professional dancer is back on the floor, spinning away as he does the salsa, cha-cha and samba. A prosthetic leg doesn’t hold him back.

Exantus says he’s the same person he was before the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake struck southern Haiti.

But it’s clear the life of the young man nicknamed “The Gladiator” has been changed by the disaster that killed tens of thousands of people and forced an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 survivors to undergo amputations because of gangrene-related infections.

Exantus walks with a slight limp. He can’t dance as fast as he used to or balance as well or do some of his old moves, such as flipping his partner over his shoulder.

Exantus has also learned to ignore the long stares and quiet whispers, products of a longstanding stigma in Haiti for people with disabilities. Before the quake, few resources existed to accommodate Haiti’s disabled, and many regard people with disabilities as misfits.

“I’m not focused on what people say about me or how society sees me,” says Exantus, who married his girlfriend in July on a dance floor.

If some see him as something of an outcast, his friends find inspiration: He’s not one for self-pity; he was determined to dance again, and did. He’s part of a Latin dance company and gives classes.

“Some victims of Jan. 12 stay in the same place and they can’t do anything,” says dance partner and friend Modeline Gene Arhan, 26. “Georges has a goal. He’s always thinking of where he’s going.”

He’s already made one dream come true.

“As long as I’m living,” Exantus says, “I’m going to dance.”