Martha’s Vineyard may be 2,550 miles from Christ Roi, Haiti, yet the distance will be bridged with the Vineyard’s Haitian Celebration, a gala event that will raise funds to help get the Port-au-Prince neighborhood back on its feet after a series of devastating events. Throughout a ruinous earthquake, cyclone strikes and a cholera outbreak, the residents of Christ Roi have maintained a spirit of resilience and optimism. With Saturday’s Haitian Celebration, their efforts to restore their community to health and stability will receive a helping hand from Martha’s Vineyard.
The link between Christ Roi and Martha’s Vineyard is Victoria Campbell, the actress and documentary filmmaker who traveled to Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the quake to assist relief efforts. Ms. Campbell made a personal connection with the residents of Christ Roi and returned in August 2010 with $1800 raised at a Martha’s Vineyard benefit screening of her documentary film House of Bones. Working with the grassroots organization Haiti Solidarite (solidhaiti.org), Ms. Campbell used the funds to purchase a generator for the health clinic, potable water for the neighborhood, tires for a mobile medical vehicle, and other basic necessities. For Haitian Celebration, Ms. Campbell hopes to raise both funds and awareness of the Haitian plight. To this end, she has enlisted the help of fellow Island artists Treather Gassman, Rob Myers and Emily Drazen.
“This is a place that is in desperate need of a human connection,” Ms. Campbell says. “Any dollar made is a blessing. Everything helps.”
Funds from the event will support the community’s medical clinic and rebuild the ruined elementary school. Less tangible, yet equally significant, will be the moral boost to a community that has endured a year of chaos and devastation.
The evening will begin at the Nye Gallery in Oak Bluffs from 5 to 9 p.m. with a Family Dance-o-Rama hosted by Deejay Shizz. The gallery portion of the evening will also feature an art auction, amusement by Coco the Clown, games, and other family-friendly activities. Food will be donated by Catering Avante Garde, Marvin Jones and Robert Leonette.
From 9 p.m. to midnight the event will shift to the Oyster Bar for an evening of live music with Kahoots, Master Exploder, Phil daRosa, Willy Mason, Goodnight Louise, Erich Luening, 025, Meghan LaRoque, Rick Bausman and the Drum Workshop, Mercy Beat, Alex Karalekas, an assortment of local deejays (Deejay Di, Irie Bomber, Deejay Cousin Andrew) and more.
Rob Myers, the event’s musical coordinator, says the response from the community has been outstanding.
“I think there are a lot of people on the Island who want to do good,” he says. “Everyone recognizes that Haiti has gotten the short end of the stick for hundreds of years. The earthquake and cholera are icing on the cake. People on the Vineyard answer the call when it comes to benefits and causes.”
Island artist Emily Drazen coordinated the art auction, drawing on a broad coalition of donors in mediums as diverse as stone, line wire sculpture, silver gelatin prints, oil on wood, pastel, photography and jewelry. Donors include Ms. Drazen, Laura Anderson, Traeger diPietro, Dick Iacovello, Fae Kontje Gibbs, Peter Keene, Jonathan Klenner, Steve Lohman, Kenneth Pillsworth, Michael Stimola, Kara Taylor, David Tierney, Jhenn Watts, Marsha Winsryg, Astrea Young, Dacri Lee Hanaway and others.
“Islanders are so willing to help,” Ms. Drazen says. “It’s a good network of people.”
Ms. Gassman envisions the event leading to a lasting relationship between Martha’s Vineyard and Christ Roi.
“It’s not a one-time deal, throwing money at them,” she says. “We want this to be an ongoing communication. It’s important as humans to see that we can learn from these experiences and what other people have gone through. When we think about what life is about, it’s about being part of something larger than ourselves, and that makes us stronger.”