NEW YORK —The creators of a new documentary on a Haitian cultural movement will be working with radio station Hot 97 as part of the station’s ongoing efforts to mend relations with the Haitian community. The Other Side of the Water, a film by Brooklyn -based director Jeremy Robins and Magali Damas, a filmmaker of Haitian-American descent, will be used as a centerpiece in Hot 97’s commitment to bringing greater understanding of the Haitian community to its staff and listeners.
The collaboration comes in response to Hot 97 personality DJ Cipha Sounds’ December comment that he was HIV-negative because he doesn’t “mess with Haitian women.” An uproar ensued and Sounds apologized, but executives at the popular radio station suspended him indefinitely and ordered him to undergo cultural sensitivity training. Filmmaker Robins reached out to radio station executives and offered a private screening of the film to Sounds as a means of understanding the longstanding stereotypes many people still have about Haitians and the raw nerve he hit with his comment.
In cooperation with the filmmakers and the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), Hot 97 will offer listeners the chance to win free DVDs of The Other Side of the Water. Likewise, visitors to the station’s website, www.Hot97.com, will be able to link to streaming video of an excerpt of the film on the official website of the NBPC at http://blackpublicmedia.org/watch/afropop/this-season/98. In the coming weeks, Robins will appear on the Hot 97 program, Street Soldiers, to discuss the film.
The film premiered on public television’s World Channel on the anniversary of the Haitian earthquake as part of the NBPC’s series AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange, co-presented by American Public Television (APT). Throughout the 90s when the U.S. government declared that simply being Haitian was an AIDS risk factor and Haitians were being fired from jobs out of fear and when police brutality and racist immigration laws were targeting Haitian Americans, a movement was afoot to combat these attacks. The film centers on a vibrant cultural pride movement that sprang to life in the streets of New York in response, led by an unlikely traditional processional band called DJA-Rara (Dance Joy Ancestors-Rara), which has been rallying the community for the past 20 years. The band plays “rara” is a style of music which is part carnival, part vodou (voodoo) ceremony, and part social protest.
“The Other Side of the Water shows that Haitian Americans are a vibrant part of the rich fiber of New York history,” explains Damas.