D.R.: Raw, Real and Uncut

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Dominican Republic: Raw, Real and Uncut Stories of destitution, despair, struggle and survival ... Words of encouragement, support and solidarity through the arts.


During late July and early August I will be an artist in residence in two specific areas in the Dominican Republic. I will be teaching in the cities of Azua and Samaná about the healing properties of the Hip Hop culture, grassroots organizing and social media, and how they can be used as tools for individual and community self-expression, transformation and self-sustainability. I will also be recording/filming their individual/collective narratives for the purpose of documenting their stories.

Azua Sueña
The first place will be Casa Ana, which is a Family Care Center for orphaned and abandoned children in Azua, Dominican Republic. Casa Ana is a safe haven where family values and individual empowerment help nurture responsible and productive citizens for a better society. The children are exposed to the benefits of educational progress and social responsibility. Casa Ana strives to instill in them hope for a brighter future.


I am super excited to share the value and power of the HIP HOP culture with these beautiful children. I will be utilizing Hip Hop as a primary emotional release technique. My main goal is to teach them exercises that they can use on a daily basis when things just aren't feeling right or working out for them. Next, we will learn about dreams and aspirations and how to use them as a source of power to get through life. Finally, we will create a music video about their collective experiences; their realities as well as their hopes and dreams. This video will be used as a tool to spread awareness about the important work Casa Ana does with the children as well as the community. My curriculum includes meditation, affirmations, free writing and lyric writing workshops. During this time we will also be inaugurating the community library which will operate out of the family care center. This is so important!!! We conducted several book drives and received many book donations from all over the USA for the library, which will be accessible to all children, not only the Casa Ana participants. And as if all of this weren't exciting enough, we will also be celebrating Casa Ana's 5th year anniversary!

Here is the video of the work that I did in 2011 with Hip Hop 4 Peace in Guatemala City. Here you can get a better idea of what the work looks like. The children in this video live under the Incienso Bridge which is known as the most popular suicide spot in Central America. Please see the video: http://vimeo.com/28817748


More about Casa Ana and I:
In 2009, I was asked to be a host for a fundraiser in NYC that was being held for Casa Ana, a Family Care Center for orphaned and abandoned children in Azua, Dominican Republic. The funds were being raised in order to give school aid (school supplies) to the children.



When I looked up the organization and saw the faces and felt the spirit of those children my heart sank. I knew that this cause was sent my way so that I can help. I then made Casa Ana my 30th birthday wish on Facebook and was able to raise several hundred dollars for the family care center. Over the years I have been in close contact with the Director of Development Ms. Kimberly Andino of the project and have been able to continue to spread awareness about this humble space via her updates. In 2012, I was invited to visit and be an artist in residence at Casa Ana, but was not able to make it. This year, as most of you know, I was helping them with their campaign to collect books for the family care center's new library. Many people donated books and the library will be inaugurated this summer. I was invited again to be an artist in residence and also help inaugurate the library and am very moved, touched and inspired to finally meet the children and the community.

See more information here:

http://betterfutureinternational.org/content/country/dominican-republic

Somos Samaná:
Creando visibilidad para las fuerzas invisibles que operan dentro de la comunidad.

My second stop on this amazing journey will be Samaná, a peninsula in the northeast region of the Dominican Republic, where I will work closely with the members of the Asociación de Samanenses Ausentes. This group of dedicated community activists manage educational programs throughout the area which benefit hundreds of severely disadvantaged children and their families.

During the second phase of the trip I will be working with the women of the community. The women are the backbone of some of the programs; the ones on the ground making it happen for their families and community. I will be facilitating several workshops which will be about women empowerment, healing tools for daily survival, and tips on how to increase their visibility within their immediate surroundings as well as social media networks for the purpose of marketing and promotion of their entrepreneurial initiatives, ultimately assisting them in gaining sustainable solutions for their advancement. I will also be co-facilitating a workshop with Kimberly Andino on grassroots community organizing at the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) with students and community organizers/activists. Our goal is to create a bridge between college students, organizers and activists in both DR and the USA. Our desire is to be able to truly connect both communities within an organized and structured framework so that they can share resources and implement development strategies for the betterment of their native land.


More about Samaná and I:

In 2008 went on vacation and toured the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and encountered one of the most beautiful places in the world, Santa Barbara de Samaná. Samaná is considered one of the most pristine parts of the Dominican Republic, and remains one of the least known by Dominican natives in general and foreign visitors in particular. This magical province has tropical forests, coconut groves, hundreds of alcove beaches with turquoise crystal clear waters, waterfalls, protected national parks and a protected bay. It is also one of the breeding places of the humpback whale. Thousands of humpback whales come to the coast of Samaná from January to March. I was able to see all of these magical things and always knew that I would come back. Samaná has a very intense cultural history and by far one of the most interesting. After its independence from Spain the DR was taken over by Haiti, which controlled Hispaniola from 1822 to 1844. During this period Haiti invited more than 5000 freed and escaped slaves from the US to settle on the island. About half moved to the Samaná area. Today, a community of their descendants still speaks a form of English.

I never thought that five years later, I would be coming back to this amazing space and learning more about the true stories and resilience of the people of this extraordinary land. I will not be a tourist this time, but a teacher.


Thank you for your support! Love LAH





































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