flag daySunday, May 18, 2014, marked the 211th anniversary of the Haitian Flag. Ambassador Altidor and members of the Haitian community commemorated this milestone with a cultural explosion at the Greenberg Theatre in Washington, D.C. The attendees rejoiced in the traditional renderings of James Germain and the grace of Haitian folkloric dance performed by the members of Jean Appolon Expressions.

L’Union fait la Force, with Unity there is Strength. This guiding principle has been the cornerstone of Haitian beliefs, dating back to the creation of the National Flag. During the Congress of Arcahaie in May 1803 military leaders representing divided segments of the society united their forces against the French colonial army. This union, sealed by Jean Jacques Dessalines, a former slave, and Alexandre Petion, a free colored man, paved the way for a victorious revolution that would lead to the only successful slave uprising in the world and eventually the birth of a Nation. At the Congress of Arcahaie, Dessalines ripped the white section out of the Red, White and Blue French flag. The Red and Blue cloths were then sewn together by his goddaughter, Catherine Flon, to form the first Blue and Red flag of the Republic of Haiti.

But more than its leaders, the heart and soul of Haiti are, as aptly described by Professor Laurent Dubois, “the culture of these masses, forged in bondage – the Kreyol language, the Vodou religion, the focus on community, dignity and self-sufficiency – that ultimately enabled them to destroy slavery and produce something new in its place”.

Haitians around the world celebrate National Flag Day, expressing their national pride, honoring the forefathers of the Nation, and replenishing their resolve for Haiti’s future in the face of their ancestors’ tremendous and unique accomplishment.

FlagDay JamesGermainAbout James Germain: For years, James Germain has offered a universe at the confluence of its Afro-Caribbean roots. Born in Port-au-Prince, he grew up on St. Anthony’s hill, a popular area of the capital. James sings with melancholic voice great traditional tunes of voodoo mixed with opera-going experiences or even gospel, reinventing codes. Haiti, its folk songs and Voodoo, lie at the heart of his work… His pieces range from classic music to African-Caribbean music. In that sense, it is a rich universe at the crossroads of several worlds. After a third album “Kréol Mandingue”, produced in Mali, James is preparing a new album which demonstrates his deep roots in Haitian culture and his constantly renewed strength to impose his voice to the world.

FlagDay ExpressionsAbout Jean Appolon Expressions (JAE): Founded in 2011, the mission of Jean Appolon Expressions (JAE) is to preserve and advance Haitian folkloric dance as one of the world’s precious cultural resources, and to make high quality dance education available to young Haitians without financial resources. JAE is a Haitian contemporary dance company directed by Jean Appolon. Combining Modern technique, Haitian folkloric dance and live traditional drumming, JAE inspires and educates audiences about Haitian culture, traditions and current issues.

JAE conducts performances, and community and youth classes and workshops in the Boston area and beyond, with the goal of enriching and enlivening communities through authentic cultural events and programming.

JAE’s other major point of focus is in Haiti where The Jean Appolon Summer Dance Institute happens each July. The Institute provides fifty young Haitian dancers with a free, high quality and intensive dance program directed by Jean Appolon. In addition, JAE aims to develop DANCE HAITI! as an intensive, daily after-school dance program, which includes wrap-around services in academic tutoring and health education, for young Haitians without financial resources. JAE is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, please visit www.jeanappolonexpressions.org or contact JAExpressions@gmail.com.

Photo Credit: Emmanuelle Jean Marie

Video Credit: Ethan David Studios