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May 18, 2024 13 mins
May is Haitian Heritage Month, which makes this the perfect time for Boston's new Haitian cultural center, the Touissant L'Ouverture Cultural Center, to open its doors in the West End. Nestled in Lovejoy Wharf, the Center promises to offer education, information, music, arts, and so much more for Boston's growing Haitian community. Dr. Elizabeth Louis, a member of the Executive Committee at TLCC, shares the vision for the center with Nichole on this week's episode, and also has details on the upcoming groundbreaking ceremony.
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(00:07):
From WBZ News Radio in Boston.This is New England Weekend. Each and
every week we come together right herewe talk about all the topics important to
you and the place where you live. It is so good to be back
with you again this week. I'mNicole Davis. This has been years in
the making, but soon in Boston'sWest End, not too far from North
Station, the Garden and the ZeconBridge, the doors are going to be

(00:28):
opening for a brand new cultural center. This is not just any community space.
This is a symbol of pride forBoston's flourishing Haitian community. Now May
actually, if you didn't know,happens to be Haitian Heritage Month. So
really it's the perfect time to celebratewith the opening of the tuc Sint Louverture
Cultural Center. This space, onceit's all up and running, promises to
offer music, education, information,art, community, and so much more.

(00:53):
Doctor Elizabeth Lewis has been instrumental inhelping to get this up and running.
She's here on the show to tellus all about it. Really good
to have you here, doctor,and you know this has been a long
time coming, but it's really excitingthat you're so close to opening, I
want to learn a bit more aboutthe process how we got here in the
first place. Yeah, so,as you are aware that this has definitely
been a labor of love and itcame through different members within the Haitian American

(01:21):
United Inc. Haitian Americans United,Inc. So that's an organization that has
been here for decades and it servesthe Haitian community, but also the Boston
community at large, especially on differenttypes of events and programming related to art
or history, even putting on theHaitian the annual Haitian Parade for Haitian Heritage

(01:45):
Month, with which is the monthof mart of May. So for us,
it's been just an experience in termsof meeting and advocating for years and
years, and for me in myrole, I joined, I believe in
the fall of twenty eighteen, andI joined because I was just finishing up

(02:06):
my doctoral program and I wanted tobe involved in the Haitian community. So
from twenty eighteen, and I'm suremembers who've been here even from the nineteen
eighties and such can also share similarsentiments that we recognized that due to the
growing population of the Haitian community inNew England, especially in Massachusetts. We

(02:29):
really wanted to sort of conjure upand think about having a space that is
not only for us, but alsothat we can share with also folks from
the Craban diaspora, African diaspora,and just Boston and Massachusetts the verse communities.
So that's how sort of the visionstarted. And then we kept meeting

(02:53):
more regularly, monthly and then evenup until up until really twenty twenty two
when we when we were able tothink about different grants and and opportunities,
and then we went for one ofthem and we were selected. So then

(03:15):
what came next? I mean,when did you decide, Okay, we're
going to be going to the WestEnd. How did you find that piece
of real estate? Like how didit all come together? So the Boston
Planning and Development Agency VPDA, theyreally put up a they put out a
search, and we provided them witha grant proposal and we competed with other

(03:38):
participants because there was a vacant spaceat one thirty one Beverly Street on Love
Show Raft area. So for us, we we they were seeking sort of
folks who could be qualified to actuallyoperate a civic or cultural space. So
for us, when we saw that, we we thought that yeah, we

(04:01):
could, we could be really greatcandidates for that. And also part of
having a cultural space, we alsowould be responsible for a visitors center sort
of part of that space, sowhen folks come into that area, we
would also provide them with information aboutBoston, Massachusetts and things like that.
Yeah, so we did put ourwe responded to the request for letters of

(04:24):
interest, and then they released andthen they said that, yeah, our
proposal was selected. That must havebeen the most exciting thing knowing that,
you know, obviously Boston has sucha rich Haitian community, and you've got
so many organizations, but finally beingable to see that, look, our
vision a space for all of usfinally coming together. How did that feel

(04:46):
when you finally got the approval?That felt great? I think there's not
enough words to sort of express,you know, just the because we knew
that we weren't doing it for ourselvesas a team, as an organization,
but for U the Haitian community andfor the Boston community as well. So
we're just like we were just veryaesthetic and and we continue to just relevant,

(05:12):
duel and and and into that justgreat moment of being selected. Now
the name of the cultural center isnamed for Toussaint Louverture, So for people
who might not be familiar, tellus a little bit about what he means
to the Haitian community and why youchose that name. Yeah, so to
salt Liverature was a very pivotal andaspiring leader, especially at the time when

(05:38):
we were as a as a asa Haitian nation fighting for our freedom and
and then also recognizing that we alsowanted we also believed in a vision where
we would be free as people,but also as a nation and also in
the region. So he was aprolific leader, revolutionary as well, and

(06:03):
he displayed a lot of important militaryand political tactics that was really helpful and
instrumental and us being able to haveour independence in eighteen oh in eighteen oh
four. So for us, it'sit's it's it's it's a way to to

(06:25):
sort of honor this leader and alsojust the symbolism of freedom and also the
audacity to believe that not just usas Haitians can be free and we have
the right to do so, butalso recognizing the different ways in which we
have helped other countries as well.Include uniting, including the United States and

(06:47):
their efforts of gaining their own independenceand believing in the importance of freedom too.
And speaking of freedom a side notehere, I mean, obviously there
is extreme unrest in Haiti. Whathave you been able to do to try
and help people from Haiti or peoplewho are in Haiti trying to make that
connection, to try to make surethat you know people you know are okay

(07:09):
and helping people that might still beback on the island trying to make their
way through all this. Yeah,I think we all have family members,
friends, and we do our bestand you know, personally to stay in
touch with folks. And I thinkhere in the Boston, Massachusetts area,
we continue to partner and collaborate withdifferent entities and organizations even including, for

(07:30):
example, if see the Immigrant FamilyServices Institute that's in Mattapan and other organizations
and community leaders because we are awareof the migrant situation, so we have
found ways to be supportive in otherand either advocacy efforts or or supporting initiatives

(07:50):
to help folks to adapt to thisnew environment and culture. We've gone to
different sites such as the Everett HaitianCommunity Center, in which yeah, they
also support migrants as well, soreally touching base with our existing partners who

(08:13):
we've had decades of relationships with.And this is another initiative that we've been
very committed and dedicated to as wellalready. So let's finish up by talking
about what exactly is going to bein the Cultural Center when you open it
up. Tell us a bit aboutthat event, and then tell us a
bit about what is going to beoffered here in the next few months.

(08:33):
Yeah. So the event is Maytwentieth, six to eight pm and is
at the Lovejoy Wrath Center area andone point thirty one Beverley Street. And
the purpose of this groundbreaking ceremony isonce again it's to especially it's the birthday
of Tuessay as well, so wewanted to once again honor this leader and

(08:56):
also especially on this a very importantday, but to welcome those who believe
in us, those who support us, and also invite you, you know,
folks who may not be as familiarwith under with the Haitian community and
and Haitian culture. But it's ait's gonna be a day of celebration,

(09:16):
especially given the just the efforts thatis taken taken us to get to this
point, and we will have specialspeakers that represents different diverse communities in Boston
and also representative of Mayor Wu's officeas well. And we're hoping to be
able to showcase and give people aglimpse of what to expect of the Cultural

(09:39):
Center and also to foster continued engagementand also support folks and in ways and
learning more about our history, butalso inviting people in to donate, to
donate their time too, and alsoengage in our fundraising efforts. So within

(10:00):
the Cultural Center, a couple ofthings that we want to make sure that
we have is that it can bea space that once again, as I
said, is as part of it'sgoing to be part part of the section
of the Cultural Center will also havea visitor center so the folks who are
new to the city or the area, they can learn more about this area

(10:20):
and also Boston, Massachusetts. Butwithin the Cultural Center, we're hoping to
have different adult youth focused classes onHaitian art and painting gallery and exhibits.
Also, it will have a culturallibrary different Haitian printed and digital materials and

(10:41):
books and resources. We also hopeto have a cafe so if folks won't
want to they're in an area theyjust want to place a quiet space to
just relax or just to get adrink or so they can do so,
and also be hosting dance classes,language classes, youth programming, and just
hearing from the community other potential waysthat we can also engage the community.

(11:07):
So we're also open to collaborations andopen to folks using the space as well.
That is a lot going on,and you were definitely going to need
support because this is all great stuff. Obviously it's wonderful. But if if
somebody can't make it to the groundbreakingbut they're hearing this and they want to
support you, they want to givetheir time or their energy or their money,

(11:28):
how can they connect with you?How can they get that to you?
Yes, you can connect with usby going to our website which is
t L Culturalcenter dot RG. Sot sands for trucsan L stands for liberature
and then cultural the word cultural cU L t U r A L and
then centers c E N t eR dot o RG. So that's the

(11:50):
way that you that's our website,so that's where you will be able to
follow our events and updates and alsoyou can also put your name down on
our listener to follow our newsletter andalso events that we'll be having throughout the
year two years to come. Beautiful, Are you on social media as well?

(12:11):
Yes, we're also on social mediaand I believe it's TOCC MASS as
well for Instagram, so TOCC Yeah, Mass is on Instagram, so to
St. Luberture Cultural Center of Massachusetts. So if you type that up you
also find us as well. Beautiful, I mean, Elizabeth, this is
really exciting stuff. I know it'sbeen a long time coming. Really really

(12:35):
excited to see how this all pullstogether and can't wait for your center to
open. All the best to youas you make your way into this.
Thank you so much. I appreciateyou giving us the time to share this
out with others, and thank youfor your support as well. Okay,
that's the end of the show forthe week. Thanks again so much for
tuning in. As always, Ihope you have a safe and healthy weekend.
Please join me again next week foranother edition of the show. I'm

(12:56):
Nicole Davis from WBZ News Radio oniHeartRadio.
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