By Anna Gustafson
Queens artists paid homage to Haiti’s rich cultural history at the Langston Hughes Library in Corona Saturday with an afternoon of music, drama and art inspired by the Caribbean nation that was shattered by an earthquake earlier this year.
“After the catastrophe, I thought it would be a good time to have a cultural Haitian performance,” said Andrew Jackson, executive director at Langston Hughes. “We wanted to have a celebration of the strength of the people of Haiti.”
More than 45 people attended the event that included a dramatic performance by a Bayside actor who presented a play about the leader of the Haitian revolution, a reception for a Whitestone artist from Haiti and jazz by a musician from Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Jean Lodescar Jr. of Bayside put on a 40-minute show entitled “The Awakening of All Saints: The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture,” about the Haitian leader who led the struggle against the country’s French colonizers. Haiti became the world’s first black republic in 1804.
“I love to play roles that inspire me and he really is an inspiration, a liberator,” said Lodescar, whose parents are from Haiti. “It’s great because I get to hit on education and entertainment at the same time and the audience really enjoyed it.”
An opening reception was held for Patricia Brintle, a Whitestone artist who discussed her exhibit at Langston Hughes called “Haiti: The Legacy of an Undying Spirit,” which runs through June 30.
“Throughout the exhibit, you can feel the pride that exists in the heart of the Haitians regardless of their stature of life or the adversity they have to overcome,” said Brintle, who grew up in St. Michel de l’Atalaye, a town in the middle of Haiti, and lost two cousins in January’s earthquake. Despite the tragedy, Brintle said Haitians are a resilient people.
“One of my pieces is called ‘Hope at Sunrise,’ which tells the story of the Haitian history,” Brintle said. “Even with the earthquake, the hope at sunrise still exists. Even through the earthquake, we still hope and we continue to find everything will go well.”
Michael Varekamp, a jazz musician from Amsterdam, played original pieces that he said combined African and jazz roots.
“It was wonderful to play in the library because where I’m from in Holland, a lot of libraries are just quiet places with books,” Varekamp said. “I really appreciate it.”
Following his performance in Queens, Varekamp will take a whirlwind tour of the area and play in Philadelphia at the end of this week. His trip to the United States was sponsored by Jazzmobile, a nonprofit that brings musicians to events throughout New York and other parts of the country.
“When we knew he was coming, we were looking for different opportunities for him and thought the program at Langston Hughes would be perfect,” said Sandra Trim-DaCosta, who does talent booking and talent development for Jazzmobile.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.