Carnaval, Culture & Progressive Conversations

After the intensity of Fashion Week it was an amazing and welcomed escape to travel back to Haiti and immerse myself in a country that never fails to fill me with energy, motivation and an overall sense of joy.

This trip encapsulated everything that Urban Zen is about – education, creativity, culture and healthcare. From our meeting with the CGI Haiti Action Network to our Haiti Coalition meeting with Sean Penn, Ben Stiller and Petra Nemcova, this trip produced many ground-breaking conversations on how best to invest in Haiti’s future and rebuild in a way that reflects the vibrancy of the Haitian culture. During the International Support of Education in Haiti Summit, I was particularly struck by President Martelly when he shared his mission to ensure all 2.4 million children in Haiti will go to school with at least one meal per day provided. This is a beautiful vision and we all need to do what we can to make sure that this dream comes to life.

On Saturday evening, we had dinner at the stunning Abaka Bay Resort on Ile-A-Vache, where the Minister of the Interior, Thierry Mayer-pol, and Elizabeth Landers from the Economic Committee joined us for riveting conversations about our shared love of Haiti that continued late into the night.

The following day, I experienced what turned out to be my favorite part of the trip: Carnaval in Les Cayes. I ventured over to Les Cayes with Maria Bello, Caroline Sada, Isabel Lagarde from the Clinton Foundation, and a posse of our favorite girls. The Carnaval provided a beautiful opportunity to witness a wave of culture; a flood of humanity dancing to the rhythm of the Haitian Carnaval music performed by some of Haiti’s best, including RAM and President Martelly’s son Sandro (otherwise known as T-Mickey). It was an fantastic treat to see President Martelly jump up on one of the Carnaval floats and perform like he did back in the day. The whole encounter was exhilarating!

After such an intense experience at Carnaval, we decided to spend the following day taking in some of the beautiful peace that Haiti has to offer. We boated around Ile-A-Vache, an exquisite island that has incredible un-tapped potential. I was struck by the perfectly preserved cultures of the indigenous communities. We had the pleasure of joining the owner of the Abaka Bay Resort for dinner later that evening, where he shared with us his vision for expanding the island.

The next day we flew along the southern coast of Jacmel back to Port-a-Prince to spend some time with Shelley Clay and the Apparent Project team. We arrived with a documentary team to capture some of the amazing work that Shelley is doing. I am excited for the documentary to be complete and can’t wait to tell you more about this in the coming months.

From the Apparent Project we went to Zanmi Beni, a home for children run by our friends at Partners in Health. We visited the home with Bill Starkey from Starkey Hearing Institute to see if we could give Patrick (one of our favorite children) the chance to hear with a hearing aid. I am elated to share with you that the hearing aid was successful and we were able to witness Patrick hearing for the first time. Miracles truly happen in Haiti all the time.

Before returning home, I was able to connect with my favorite partner in crime, Russell James, to discuss the next installment of Nomad Two Worlds Haiti. It was another example of how dots continue to connect in my life as we are currently previewing this exhibition at the Urban Zen Center in New York City (make sure you stop by to witness Russell’s artwork capturing culture, collaboration and creativity for yourself).

This trip was an extraordinary chapter in my on-going journey of creativity in Haiti. I invite you to visit our Facebook Page where you can catch a glimpse into the whirlwind of inspiration captured in our photo album.

Photo Credit: Bryn Mooser and Isabel Encinias