Ev­ery­thing Haitian comes to Wash­ing­ton

Rappahannock News - - COUNTRYSIDE - By John Mccaslin Rap­pa­han­nock News Staff

When Hur­ri­cane Irma churned its dan­ger­ous course through the Caribbean this past week, Bev­erly Knight Sul­li­van’s thoughts — as they have in pre­vi­ous catas­tro­phes — turned to Haiti.

This time, for once, the im­pov­er­ished is­land na­tion dodged a bul­let.

But for Bev­erly, the wife of Wash­ing­ton Mayor John Fox Sul­li­van, the Cat­e­gory 5 hur­ri­cane, like the cat­a­strophic earth­quake that lev­eled much of Haiti sev­eral years ago, has opened up a win­dow for dis­cus­sion about a third-world coun­try that is near and dear to her heart.

Af­ter all, Bev­erly and John vis­ited Haiti when they were first “dat­ing” back in the 1970s. Since then, she’s been back to the is­land more than 30 times. And she al­ways brings home art.

“The paint­ings beck­oned ‘Come to us,’ and we went,” Bev­erly re­calls this week at her Wash­ing­ton home, its walls filled, in some cases from floor to ceil­ing, with ev­ery imag­in­able style of Haitian art.

“About 200 paint­ings and about 50 ob­jects,” she counts. “We’ve put to­gether an in­cred­i­ble col­lec­tion of Haitian art that we’ve col­lected for over 40 years. And we love peo­ple to come and see it.”

Now is that chance. Bev­erly and John and “Voices and Ac­tion for Haiti” are invit­ing all who are in­ter­ested to join them in a “Con­ver­sa­tion About Haiti” at their home from 6:30 to 8:30 pm on Fri­day, Sept. 29. The con­ver­sa­tion is a free event.

“We hope shar­ing our love of Haiti and its peo­ple will en­cour­age oth­ers to be­come in­ter­ested in this im­pov­er­ished but cul­tur­ally rich na­tion,” Bev­erly ex­plains.

With the Sul­li­vans’ ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of art as a back­drop, the con­ver­sa­tion will in­clude a dis­cus­sion of both Haitian art and cul­ture led by Toni Mon­nin, who has op­er­ated Mon­nin Art Gallery in Haiti for the last 40 years.

Guests will also have the op­por­tu­nity to meet James Du­racin, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Voix et Ac­tions, who is vis­it­ing from Haiti. Du­racin will speak about pro­grams of his or­ga­ni­za­tion that seek to pro­vide the men and women of Haiti the means to im­prove their lives.

And Rap­pa­han­nock’s own John O'Mal­ley Burns, of Goat Hill Farm, who grew up in Haiti dur­ing the 1950s and re­turned and worked there for 22 years as an agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment agent, will also be present to share his ex­pe­ri­ences.

“Here’s a fun tid­bit,” adds Bev­erly. “There’s a fab­u­lous num­ber of paint­ings in our hall­way that we bought from John Burns’ mother in Haiti in the 1980s. So here’s the small world in which we live.”

Bev­er­ages and light re­fresh­ments will be pro­vided dur­ing the dis­cus­sion. “It’s go­ing to be very ca­sual,” Bev­erly stresses. “We’ll have fun, i.e. Haitian rum punch.”

Whether any voodoo spir­its will be on hand re­mains to be seen.


An “in­cred­i­ble col­lec­tion”: Some of the Sul­li­van’s Haitian art.

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