Videoconference Links US and Haitian Students

This article was first published in the Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste on April 16, 2014. Translated by Carolyn Shread, language instructor in French at Mount Holyoke College.

A Videoconference on Marie Vieux-Chauvet

By Wébert Charles

This Wednesday April 16, students at the École Sainte-Trinité (Port-au-Prince, Haiti) and students from Mount Holyoke College (Massachusetts) met in a videoconference on Marie Vieux-Chauvet. The meeting was coordinated by the Mount Holyoke College Language Resource Center (LRC) and the Haitian journal Legs et Littérature.

11a.m. The staffroom at École Sainte Trinité is filled with junior and senior students from the school. Eleven students took part in this encounter on the topic of Les Rapaces, the novel by Marie Vieux- Chauvet published posthumously in 1986 by Henri Deschamps, which had also previously published Amour, Colère et Folie, winner of the prix Deschamps.

Settled comfortably in the lab at Mount Holyoke College, the students shared their thoughts and questions about Les Rapaces and the history of Haiti during the Duvalier period. The novel, which begins with the funeral of François Duvalier, is composed of three parts: the cat, the poor and the police. The metaphor of the cat was at the center of many debates during this discussion. Students from École Sainte Trinité helped the Mount Holyoke students understand the use of Kreyòl and various historical and geographical references. Founded in 1913, École Sainte Trinité celebrated its centenary last year under the leadership of the current head of school, Fernande Sanon Pierre-Louis, the first woman priest in Haiti, who has given a new direction to the institution.

Carolyn Shread, who teaches French at Mount Holyoke College and who is also editor for the Haitian journal Legs et Littérature, was very pleased with this audio-visual conference. After teaching at École Sainte Trinité in November 2013, she developed a partnership with Dieulermesson Petit Frère, who visited her class in Massachusetts this February – a partnership that resulted in the shared class this Wednesday April 16. The project brought excitement to the faces of the students from Mount Holyoke College and warmed the hearts of students at École Sainte Trinité. Founded in 1837 in South Hadley, Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke College was the first women’s university in the United States.

Born in 1916, in Port-au-Prince, Marie Vieux Chauvet is a key figure in Haitian and Caribbean literature. Her masterpiece, Amour, Colère et Folie, first published by Gallimard in 1968, has become a classic of Haitian literature, appearing in various pirated versions. Aside from Les Rapaces, the novel translated into English by Carolyn Shread and into Kreyòl by Dieulermesson Petit Frère, Marie Vieux-Chauvet is also the author of La légende des fleurs (1947), Fille d'Haïti (1954), "Ti-moun nan bois," a short story published in September 1954 in the seventh edition of the journal Optique, La danse sur le volcan (1957) and Fonds des Nègres (1960).

The students from Mount Holyoke College who participated in this video-conference: 1- Whitney Schott, 2- Ruvimbo Mushavi, 3- Almila Kakinc, 4- Ellen Chilemba, 5- Céline Mudahakana, 6- Bowie Kung, 7- Alex Slucky, 8- Jordan Rios, 9- Molly Morgan, 10- Cam Vilain. The students from École Sainte Trinité who participated in the videoconference: 1- Jose Williane Benoit, 2- Widenie Bruno, 3- Maria Clara Emiliana Jeudy, 4- Taniah Charles, 5- Lovensky Compère, 6- Shnaïlledine Sévère, 7- Gaana Oksana Volcy, 8- Ralph Cooper David Luxamar, 9- Vanessa Odena, 10- James Carl-Henry Sanon, 11- Béatho Tolem Félix.