A Cambridge Affair in DC:
The Embassy of Haiti Hosts the Harvard and MIT Clubs of Washington
On the evening of Tuesday, August 8th, the Embassy of Haiti in Washington, D.C. had the great pleasure of hosting alumni of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at the Chancery for a reception. Spearheaded by the Harvard Club of Washington, D.C., the reception was an opportunity for Harvard and MIT alumni, as well as their guests, to discover the renovated Chancery and its ongoing exhibits.
As the guests made their entrance through the building’s pedestrian gate, they were greeted on the left side by monumental images of picturesque Haitian landscapes and landmarks, such as the pristine island of Ile-à-Vache and the Monument de Vertières, a tribute to the heroes of the last major battle of the Haitian Revolution that led to Haiti’s independence on January 1, 1804 as the world’s first black republic.
In the courtyard leading to the edifice’s rear entrance, the guests were greeted on one side by captivating metal art handcrafted by artisans of Noailles, an artistic village in Haiti.
On the opposite wall, the visitors were mesmerized by the epic image of the Citadelle Henri, a historic fortress and present-day UNESCO World Heritage site built by one of Haiti’s founding fathers, Henri Christophe.
Upon entering the building proper, the visitors were greeted by embassy personnel and guided to the Consular Section’s waiting room for registration. Their presence in this particular space allowed the guests to become acquainted with the Pearls of Excellence, an exhibit showcasing the contributions of individuals of Haitian descent to the advancement of American society. Through the exhibited profiles of Pearls of Excellence honorees adorning the walls, the guests had the opportunity to learn about illustrious Haitian Americans such as iconic artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and revered author Edwidge Danticat.
As they further explored the edifice, the guests also had the opportunity to view the exquisite Haitian art on display at the Embassy from the private collections of Fritz Racine and Galerie Monnin, including works by renowned artists Préfète Duffaut and Emilcar Similien. Throughout the evening, the guests delightedly conversed amongst themselves while savoring the Embassy’s signature Haitian rum punch and enjoying the lively sound of Haitian music.
After all the guests were convened to the second floor’s grand ballroom, they were officially welcomed by the Director of the Embassy’s Culture and Education Section, Dave Fils-Aimé, a Harvard graduate and member of the Harvard Club.
Thereafter, T.K. Yang, President of the Harvard Club, greeted the guests and introduced His Excellency Ambassador Paul G. Altidor, an MIT alumnus.
In his remarks, Ambassador Altidor began by sharing some of his fondest memories from his graduate school experience at MIT. He subsequently elaborated on the overarching objective guiding his now five-year tenure as Ambassador: to help shift the negative narrative often associated with Haiti by highlighting the country’s rich culture and history through various Embassy initiatives.
In the ensuing Q&A session, the Ambassador answered questions from the guests about the challenges Haiti faces and the country’s tremendous potential in a number of sectors. The public thoroughly appreciated Ambassador Altidor’s remarks, which were intermittently punctuated by rounds of applause on multiple occasions.
Afterwards, Mr. Yang presented Ambassador Altidor with a gift from the Harvard Club in appreciation for hosting the reception at the Chancery. To conclude the evening, the guests were treated to a succulent dinner featuring an exclusively Haitian menu that included the following dishes: poulet créole (Haitian stewed chicken), poisson cuit à l’haïtienne (Haitian baked fish), griot (fried pork), riz national (rice & beans), salade trois couleurs (green beans, carrots and beets salad), salade verte mixte (green salad with fruits), and Haitian cake for dessert.
As evidenced by the high praises received from virtually every guest regarding one or more facet of the reception – the various dishes served, the signature rum punch, the art exhibit, the Pearls of Excellence exhibit, and the overall ambiance of the Embassy – the reception was an incredible success!
The event brought together a truly diverse crowd that included Harvard and MIT alumni ranging from the classes of 1954 to 2016, and professionals from various sectors. Quite a few Haitian American alumni of both universities were also present on the occasion. It was a tremendous pleasure for the Embassy to host the reception, in alignment with the greater objective of hosting events to allow the community-at-large to become acquainted with Haiti’s exceptional history and rich culture.