This year Haiti celebrates 219 years of hard-won independence. Yet in Jacmel, in the southeast of Haiti, the challenges are still immense, especially for the LGBTI community there. However, through dance, religion, song, music and voodoo cultural expression more broadly, that city’s gay and lesbian people are finding a positive and popular avenue of affirmation with the Gran Lakou Folklorik, an art and performance troupe.
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This is an interview with the coordinator of Gran Lakou Folklorik:
76crimes: Please introduce yourself.
Fritzner: I am Fritzner of Gran Lakou Folklorik and I am the coordinator of this well known social and cultural organization in the south of Haiti, in Jacmel. I am also part of the LGBTI community in my country.
76crimes: How did you come to found Gran Lakou fòlklorik?
Fritzner: In the past, I was a member of the Haitian Folkloric Ballet, located in the capital region. Back in my hometown of Jacmel, I had the idea of founding a popular dance and performance art troupe, featuring traditional outfits and costumes, because that’s what I like.
In addition, we needed to find a concept that could showcase people from the LGBTI communities, while at the same time bringing together a larger local audience around the celebration and customs shared by all Haitian people. Thus, our activities are an opportunity to promote HIV prevention, while ensuring a wide distribution of condoms to the public that we invite during our performances.
It must also be said that Jacmel is a very touristy city on the south coast of Haiti and it is the national capital of Carnival, with an influence and an echo that goes far beyond the borders of the Caribbean.
We are a people of artists here and Jacmel is also known worldwide for its native figurative paintings. We had to be able to do something in order to remove the stigma and for us our vector is art, because we also want to be able to touch or sensitize homophobic people.
76crimes: What are some of the obstacles you face and how can we help overcome them?”
Fritzner: We have to deal with malicious acts: harassment, defacement, punctured drums, difficulty in getting a place, a room, a hall to meet for rehearsals and so on.
Moreover, this is in addition to the ordinary homophobia in families, hospitals, schools or within some churches.
In this context, ideally, in the future, if possible, we would like to have the management of our own premises. In addition, this could help to expand the scope of our organization, since in the future we would like to organize conferences on LGBTphobic prejudices here in the south of Haiti.
For more information about supporting Gran Lakou Fòlklorik in its missions, you can write to the following address: email@example.com.
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