vodou flag drum

Call of the Drum Spirit is TONIGHT

Happy Frisner. Photo by Chantal Regnault, early 1980s, Brooklyn

Happy Frisner. Photo by Chantal Regnault, early 1980s, Brooklyn

Tomorrow is not promised, so hurry up and find something ‘health-giving’ that you can love enough to stay awake past the world’s bedtime.

People are too busy with their own issues to care if your shoes don’t match your handbag. So, skip the shoes and the baggage.  Bring your troubles to the drums and dance like you’re Jean Léon Destiné and Prince combined.

Organized chaos is the new calm, so sing like you’re Adele Addison, Riva Precil, Pauline Jean, Tiga, and Paul Beaubrun all rolled into one.

Master Drummer, Catelus "Ti Tonton" Laguerre. Photo credit: Kesler Pierre

Master Drummer, Catelus “Ti Tonton” Laguerre. Photo credit: Kesler Pierre

If for ten thousand reasons you find that you must cry, do it with all the joy you can fake.

And if by some necessary coincidence you should find yourself in Brooklyn, NY, tonight, run to Roulette.  Lose all preconceived notions about Haiti and Haitian Drum Music.

Ditch that inhibition. Overindulge in rhythm. Tonight’s celebration features the BONGA and TIGA. Father and Son musical geniuses.

Photo credit: Tequila Minsky

Photo credit: Tequila Minsky

Two years ago I found myself at the First Annual Call of the Drum Spirit by accident. I can still feel that night’s vibrations. If you can make it to Roulette tonight, consider yourself among the fortunate.

When Master Drummer Frisner Augustin passed away in 2012, he left a palpable void in the community. Patrick LaFrance, one of the founding members of the Gran Chimen cultural center in Brooklyn, remembers the legend as a humble man with an enormous sense of humor.

Photo by Lois Wilcken, asotò drum image from Alfred Métraux, design by Kesler Pierre,

Photo by Lois Wilcken, asotò drum image from Alfred Métraux, design by Kesler Pierre,

“He played from his soul,” Patrick said. “Frisner would share his knowledge with anyone who wanted to learn the drum.  Sunday afternoons , you know, in Brooklyn, can be tough. With Monday morning’s realities coming,  you need a distraction. Frisner would show up at the center, and it was like medicine. We waited all week just to hear him play and teach us a few things. Frisner brought the Lakou to Brooklyn.  Sundays were good with Frisner around.”

Well, thanks to Lois Wilkens and a fierce ensemble of drummers, this Saturday night may be the best Sunday afternoon yet.

voicesfromhaiti photo

voicesfromhaiti photo









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Catherine Flon, Dessaline's goddaughter- sews Blue and Red to create an independent Haiti's first (and current) flag

Follow That Flag!

Haitian FlagSeveral years ago when I moved to this hood, I thought I’d meet at least one Haitian. That didn’t happen for two years. Pawòl serye.

I’ll always remember the moment I spotted a bumper sticker depicting the Haitian flag, and shouting “Follow that car!” to my husband. He followed at a safe distance, ignoring my “Hurry! Hurry! Don’t let them get away!”

“What do you people want?” the driver had inquired—not very nicely.

“Well. . . Well,” I stammered. “I saw your Haitian Flag bumper sticker, and thought . . .You see, I am Haitian, and. . .”

The driver flew out of his car. Arms were wide open to embrace me. I guess he’d been hoping to find a Haitian in town too.  He turned out to be an American who’d spend time in Haiti. Unfortunately, the dude should have spent more time in the slammer than in my country, but that’s another story.

Fast forward several years. The number of Haitians I’ve met in the hood has increased to a grand total of…………….2. And I’m counting myself.  Thank goodness for the Internet.  And Interstate 95.  And airplanes. And day-dreams.  And BOOKS!

I’ve quit following cars with Haitian flag bumper stickers. BUT–and don’t you dare tell anyone this–each time I see the Haitian flag dangling from somebody’s rearview mirror, I step on the gas for a closer look. It’s that serious.

Happy Flag Day to my compatriots and lovers of Ayiti Cheri!




May Belongs to Haiti

Dream Haiti: Acrylic on Canvas by Jean Claude M.When rain falls like a song on the roof, and ocean breezes caress the curtains until sunrise, sleep is sweetest.

This morning, the bedroom window proffered an invitation to behold nature and take from Her all I required: rest, renewal, and inspiration galore. If it’s a happy heart you need, the rain said, I have one for you. Look at the flowering trees. See how their branches are heavy with promise. The rain-washed leaves shone like precious stones.

IMAG2583I awoke with the expectation that every seed I planted will germinate: corn, eggplant, tomato, onions. In two or three months, we will harvest enough fresh vegetables to feed several families. We will share with the neighbors, in accordance with our elders’ teaching: Those who never eat alone never go hungry.

I awoke with mist in my eyes too, knowing how the sky covering Haiti can be tightfisted and the clouds stingy. Sometimes rain stays away so long that farms become like the Sahara.

May 1st, Agriculture and Labor Day, is just the beginning of why this month is particularly portentous to Haiti and Haitians. Let the celebration of our rich culture begin.


Li Teks la an Kreyòl




2 Months Later: Remembering David Bowie

David-Bowie-and-daughter-AlexandriaWasn’t it just the other day we went around wishing one another Happy New Year? I hope your year has been happy, so far.

As with all things, happiness comes with its evil twin. Recently, my father said to me: “Out of my group of friends, there are only two left. And I am one of them.”   That’s tough for a guy in his late seventies who had more good friends than he could count. “What a ride it’s been!” my father said.  Yes, it saddens him that most of his friends are no longer living, but he is grateful for having known them. He is clear about the fact that his life would not have been as enjoyable without them.

This is not supposed to be a sad post, but today marks 2 months since one of my favorite-favorite singers passed away. I recall singing songs by David Bowie long before I knew what the lyrics meant. The man was a consummate artist. He was strangely beautiful. He had his own brand of magic. Boys and girls loved him. From his first to last album, Blackstar, he genius never wavered.

iman quoteMy heart goes out to Iman, his wife–not ready to use that other “W” word for women whose husbands have “transitioned.”

She was utterly silent for weeks after we heard the news. And then she began to fill social media with positive messages. David’s fans flocked to her Facebook page, to post uplifting comments and show their affection for the singer.  The strength Iman shows is bewildering.  She comforts the millions who mourn the loss of the singer-side of her husband. I hope she receives a hundred times more comfort than she gives.

My tribute to Bowie was published on Akashicbooks.com. If you’re a Bowie fan, check it out. If you’re not a Bowie fan, I won’t hold it against you. Take a look at Lazarus, Bowie’s final video. What’s not to love?

We are Beautiful and We Are Here