This year, I attended the Neustadt Festival for the third time. (I missed the one in 2017 because I was in South Africa.) This year’s prize recipient was Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian-American writer. I was lucky enough to be able to attend Haitian literary and cultural events all three days of the festival, October 9-11.
First, on the evening of October 9, I went to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art for the opening-night celebration. I mingled and ate snacks until Danticat made her remarks before the preview of “Women Like Us,” a Haitian dance.
The next day I attended the roundtable discussion “Edwidge Danticat’s Literary Message” made up by Catherine John Camara (an OU English professor whose class I have taken), Marcia Chatelain, and Florine Démosthène. I thought this panel would provide me with a good overview of Danticat’s work, but it also did an excellent job of framing her writing in a Haitian-American context. They discussed Haitian-American immigration and American perceptions of Haitians and Haitian culture. They analyzed African influences on Haiti and compared diaspora writers to Haitian writers.
The final morning I saw the full performance of “Women Like Us” as well as “ReBIRTH.” I found both dances powerful, especially the latter. I enjoy the performing arts and appreciated the exposure to another culture in that form. Danticat followed these performances with her keynote, ending the festival.