The 5th Annual Carnival in the Capital descended upon the award winning Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C. in festive celebration of Caribbean pride as members of the Washington Metropolitan area Haitian community, dignitaries, local leaders, supporters and activists gathered in support of Roots of Development, a 501 c (3) charitable organization dedicated to long-term and sustainable development for communities on the island of La Gonave, Haiti.
Sponsors for the event included Diageo, Seven Hills Foundation, Whole Foods Market, Boulder Shares, CNC Software Inc, Telemundo, Ernst Valery Investments, SA+A Development, Milk & Honey Market, The Chesapeake Baltimore, Rice and individual sponsors, Dr. Tricia Desvarieux, Montgomery Erwin, Dr. and Mrs. Bob Manning and Joseph M. Perta. Attendees dined on traditional Haitian fare including salt cod, herring salad, spicy slaw, rice and beans, plantains, as well as delectably sweet beignets and bread pudding. Caribbean cocktails flowed all evening thanks to the generosity of Diageo. New York-based Haitian Rara band, DJA RARA kept bodies moving all night long to their infectious melodies and thumping beats.
CNN’s Sunny Hostin greeted the audience and thanked all of the event sponsors for lending their support for such a fantastic event. Sara Guderyahn, president of the Board of Directors for Roots of Development, introduced one of the organization’s supporters, Ernst Valery of SA+A Development and Ernst Valery Investments, to present the Max Pulgar-Vidal Award to His Excellency Paul G. Altidor, Ambassador to the Republic of Haiti, for his tireless efforts in the rebuilding in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake which devastated the island nation.
During his remarks, His Excellency Ambassador Altidor humbly accepted the award on behalf of his staff at the embassy, as he said it was all of their hard work that made it possible for him to accept this recognition. He also stated that it was his purpose to reshape the image of the Haitian embassy and the country of Haiti and it is due in large part to the support and work of organizations like Roots for Development that makes his goal attainable. He further said, “We share a common philosophy of Haitians being at the forefront of the redevelopment of Haiti.”
To end the awards presentation of the evening, Co-founder and Executive Director Chad Bissonnette reiterated the mission of Roots of Development: “Development without dependence.” It is the prevailing mantra behind everything that is done at the organization and the passion which fuels Bissonnette’s commitment to sustainable philanthropy that empowers the people of Haiti to support themselves and not be dependent upon others. During his remarks, he emphasized the organization is not interested in short term fixes, but long term solutions designed to help Haiti become the people they want to become. He was careful to point out the Roots for Development does not have staff on the ground in Haiti as they want to the communities themselves to be in control of their own destiny, to be on the forefront of development in their communities. As stated on their website, “The communities we work with choose, build, manage and maintain their own projects. They decide their own future.” Bissonnette ended his remarks by inviting everyone to eat, drink, dance and have a good time.
DJA RARA took to the floor and got everyone into a party mood. The party mood spilled out onto the streets as nearby dinner guests got to take part in an impromptu Carnival parade route as the band and dozens of supporters formed a roving Congo line that was a sight to behold. What a fantastic way to end the evening; celebrating the life, music and culture of the Haitian community. Carnival in the Capital represents the best of both worlds when it comes to DC parties: good times for an even greater cause.