‘Ayiti Dous,’ this year’s new mas band

The Ayiti Dous (Sweet Haiti) Mas Band costume in blue and red echos their theme: Haitian Flag 2006. There will be no confusion that this Band represents Haiti. Phiona St. Cyr is looking forward to the revelry.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

The feathered decorative collars and elaborate headdresses are cobalt blue and ruby red, topping stretchy fabric costumes in the same bright shades. This Mas Band’s theme, the Haitian Flag 1806, chosen “so people will recognize that we represent Haiti,” shouts out: Haitian flag!

Ayiti Dous Mas Band’s Leader, Emmanuella Arnaud-Carr, explained that with these colors, there’s no mistaking which country this band represents. The band’s name in Kreyol means Sweet Haiti.

The Haitian flag was picked as the theme because it means so much to the community. “Especially after the earthquake,” said Arnaud-Carr who lost her mother and father on January 12, 2010. To her, the flag represents courage and moving forward.

Haiti-born Arnaud-Carr is an East Flatbush resident and social worker/family therapist and is one of a committee of 13 organizers of this brand new Mas Band that will compete in the small Band category.

Twenty-five have signed up, so far, with an expectation of 50, come Labor Day. “We can recruit up to J’Ouvert (the pre-dawn march through Flatbush),” she said, acknowledging that with time people will to get to know the organization. “Then, they’ll be more receptive and join.”

Arnaud-Car and Akin Ross, who designs for Sesame Flyers, designed the costumes–for women, only. The costumes’ manufacture was outsourced to China, to keep the prices down. “Many groups do this,” Arnaud-Carr shared, adding, “We have costumes to accommodate 100.”

You can bet that Phiona St. Cyr stopped traffic on Courtelyou Road in East Flatbush when she modeled the costume of Ayiti Dous with one of its founders and Band Leader Emmanuella Arnaud-Carr.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

DJ Polo Mixx, said to be the first Haitian to DJ on the Parkway will be providing the music. Ayiti Dous will also be participating in the Miami carnival in mid-October.

It was explained to Caribbean Life that there has been cultural resistance to (Haitian) guys wearing costumes. “They only want to wear T-shirts,” Arnaud-Carr said. Ayiti Dous organizers feel that as this Mas Camp gathers momentum, the attitude will change and guys will join them.

Ayiti Dous Inc. was started to preserve the traditions and develop through community organizing more opportunities for youth and the community, at large. In mid-May, Ayiti Dous organized a street celebration in East Flatbush in honor of Haitian Flag Day. Arnaud-Carr feels that this new Haitian Mas Band is another way to show involvement in the community and attention to Haitian culture.

As for such a small Mas Band, “We’re like a family Mas Camp, ” Arnaud-Carr says. “We make breakfast for them!”

Definitely in the costume competition, Arnaud-Carr admits, “We know we’re not going to get points for colors,” (getting more points with more colors in your costume).

Phiona St. Cyr models one design of the Ayiti Dous (Sweet Haiti) Mas Band wear. The blue and red echos the theme: Haitian Flag 2006. There will be no confusion that this band represents Haiti. For St. Cyr, a student at Kingsborough College, “I’m doing this to have fun and have a new experience.”
Photo by Tequila Minsky

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