Braving an arctic blast recently, on one of the coldest nights, young Haitian professionals with many others, filled a hall on Manhattan’s far west side to celebrate Fabrice Armand’s birthday. For the last four years, Fabrice has observed his “bonn fete” with a benefit for Haiti.
“After the (2010) earthquake, I knew people’s attention on Haiti would wane. I decided to use my birthday as a way to galvanize our community into an annual event that could celebrate Haiti,” he explains.
Elaborating that “Haiti Cherie” (Haiti Dear), the annual gathering’s name, focuses on “Haiti’s history, beauty, culture, while honoring successful Haitians who have excelled in their fields and are tied to American/global culture.”
By now, this impresario sees himself as a part of a team that creates the fete that brings people together for a cause.
As for acknowledging noteworthy Haitians, this year’s honorees certainly fit these criteria.
Haitian-born, Boston-bred Ambassador Paul Altidor traveled from Washington DC and traveling from Montreal, Haitian-Canadian Katleen Felix, chair of the Haitian Hometown Association Resource Group, who is formerly Diaspora Liaison and Zaphen coordinator with Fonkoze received honors.
Also acknowledged were New Jersey resident Dr. Jean Orelien, founder and CEO of SciMetrika, a company dedicated to public health challenges and traveling from Los Angeles, Jimmy Jean-Louis, known for his role as the “Haitian” in NBC’s Heroes and his recent portrayal in the French film production, Toussaint Louverture.
Two organizations are the recipients of this year’s monies collected from sponsors, ticket sales, and auction items.
Prime recipient, Haven, an Irish-origin housing and development group works in Gonaives and Isle-a-Vache. Haven hires skilled Haitians to transfer their expertise by training locals in trades such as boat building and fishing or dressmaking. In Leogane, they also built 50 homes for earthquake victims in the Habitat for Humanity compound.
This year’s other recipient, Project St. Anne, a small Diaspora-initiated organization, provides tuition assistance and school supplies for 50 children in the southern city of Camp Perrin. The organization also holds a Christmas toy drive.
“By the time the final figures come in, we hope to have raised $20,000 total to support the work of these two groups,” Fabrice says.
Prior to the program, the band IET entertained with modern pop, Latin and Haitian music.
Master of Ceremonies, 11 Alive TV anchor in Atlanta, DeMarco Morgan presided over the program part of the evening and Jumaane Williams presented proclamations to the all the honorees.
Among honorees in years past are Mona Scott Young, CEO Monami Entertainment, Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of the SRT Brand and senior vice president of design at Chrysler Group LLC, from Michigan, and Judge Lionel Jean-Baptiste from Illinois who worked tirelessly on the issue of dual citizenship for Haitians. Judge Baptiste and his wife were among the VIPs at Haiti Cherie, this year.
Fabrice Armand is a marketing fundraising professional, passionate about Haiti who wants to help the Diaspora reengage with the country.