Taking a Look Back on Center Stage’s First Round: Part 8

Kelsey smiles in a striped shirt
Program Manager, International Exchange

BélO, Haiti's socially conscious groove innovator, came to the U.S. with Center Stage in late October 2012. Although he had performed in the states before, this was BélO's first time to small American communities like Rockport, Maine, and New London, Connecticut. In fact, those were some of his favorite places! When asked where he would come back to in the U.S., he said, 

I'd go to Maine! Maine is a very peaceful area, from what I could see. Life is really quiet and no one is in a rush. This is something really important... They say the winter is really hard but I could enjoy the lobster and the sun and sea. And I met some great people, like the presenters who hosted us, you could see that they were waiting for us. Boothbay, Rockport, all so good to us. To me, that is one of the reasons you want to go back, when you go and see that you have a warm welcome and people really care.

Before arriving in Maine, BélO and his band spent some time in Massachusetts. While in Northampton he performed with a Q&A at the Academy of Music for 4 - 6th graders as well as the public, attended community forums with the Unitarian Society Haiti Support Group and Smith College students, took in the scenes of New England fall foliage, and taped an interview with a local PBS affiliate.

"BélO was an outstanding advocate, educator, and ambassador for his country and helped shape a new perspective for supporting and understanding the needs for building a successful future for Haiti. The diplomatic component of this project was exceptional and engaging, and the Academy's community loved this opportunity."
          - Debra J'Anthony, Executive Director, Academy of Music

The next stop in Massachusetts brought them to Hibernian Hall in Roxbury. This was a special performance for NEFA as many board and staff attended this local event in addition to Haitian Ambassador to the U.S., Paul Alitdor as well as Marie Weslyne Nicolas and Gladys D. Joseph of the Consulate General of Haiti in Boston.

Photo Credits: Sancho Maulion

After several days in North Adams at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts the group was headed up to Maine, stopping first in Rockport to play at the Maine State Prison. Then they were off to Boothbay Harbor, where BélO performed at the Boothbay Region High School and at the Boothbay Opera House.

Continuing along the Maine Coast, they performed in Rockland at the Strand Theatre and then in Portland at Hannaford Hall. While in Portland they also attended workshop activities with Charlot Lucien, a Haitian storyteller, and with the Portland High School's Global Studies Group.

The last New England stop for the band was in New London at Connecticut College. They had busy days while in residence including three performances at a local middle school, on a live webcast at The Day (view it here), and at Evans Hall, Connecticut College. In addition to performing, they also had a jam session with the Conn College Jazz Ensemble and local musicians, and played during an Afro Caribbean Dance Class - in which BélO himself danced!

Photos Courtesy of NEFA

Photos Credit: Laura Cianciolo

They wrapped up their tour in Florida, spending a week between Gainesville and West Palm Beach. BélO has not slowed down since he returned to Haiti, and one special thing that kept him busy this January was a visit from Jonathan Secor of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts with a group of students. BélO visited MCLA on his Center Stage trip while in Massachusetts, and their exchange went full circle as students were able to see Haitian culture first hand after their first introduction from BélO in November. View all the photos from their visit here.

Follow BélO on Facebook to see what he's up to next!

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