For five years, Big Night In Little Haiti has been a free monthly event at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, bringing the community together with a celebration of food, arts and entertainment.
Friday, however, will be the last Big Night: The Rhythm Foundation, a South Florida nonprofit that produced the monthly festival, no longer has the money to keep it going.
“In a perfect world, we would have had a title sponsor. I don’t know why we didn’t get one — it seemed to me like the project was so fundable. I imagined at the beginning that Target or Bank of America would come in and sponsor it,” said foundation director Laura Quinlan. “It was such a quality production. It was so family friendly. So many people came every month with their extended families. We had activities for kids, and great institutional partners.”
Quinlan said the foundation asked for support from the community and the local businesses, but no one came forward with a reasonable amount to keep Big Night In Little Haiti alive.
The foundation even posted online, including Instagram, that it needed money for the event and unsuccessfully sought funding from the city of Miami.
Other Rhythm Foundation events, such as concerts at North Beach Bandshell in Miami Beach, will continue as usual.
Big Night In Little Haiti launched in March 2011, supported by three major grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which stipulated that the event eventually become self-sustaining through matching grants and other fundraising.
In 2010, the Knight Foundation gave Rhythm Foundation $125,000 to help pay for events in 2011 and 2012. Two years later, Knight awarded a second grant for $120,000 to cover expenses in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, Knight gave a final $60,000 grant for Big Night. Those funds ran out in September and Rhythm Foundation has subsidized the past seven months with its own money, along with smaller donations from sponsors including Haitian food company Madame Gougousse, American Airlines, Florida International University’s Latin American and Caribbean Center and the Miami Foundation.
Rhythm Foundation said Big Night in Little Haiti cost $10,000 a month to produce for band payments, staffing, insurance, security, sound, lights, police, supplies, cleanup and marketing.
Quinlan said those expenses didn’t include Rhythm Foundation administration expenses and other costs like photography, video or marketing fees.
To help cover expenses, Rhythm Foundation asked Big Night attendees to pay a suggested $5 donation and charged sponsors $500 for some events, but that income was erratic and couldn’t be counted upon.
Big Night in Little Haiti brought together big Haitian acts and famous entertainers, as well as people and families from throughout South Florida and beyond. Rachelle Salnave, who lives in Hollywood, attended every month since 2011.
“Big Night in Little Haiti had grown tremendously from when it first started,” Salnave said. “The greatest joy to me is to see so many people from different generations getting together and dancing, laughing — the funniest stories come from my parent’s generation, where they see people that they went to high school with and hadn't seen each other in 40 years. It’s always a good vibe going to Big Night.”
Quinlan said the Rhythm Foundation kept the event going because its members understand how important Big Night is to the community. She hopes someday her group has the money to resurrect the event.
Salnave shares that hope.
“It’s going to take a break, but we’re going to bring it back,” she said. “I just want to stay positive that it’s going to come back because we need it. I just honestly wish that the city would look at themselves in the mirror — why wouldn’t they put their dollars toward something like this? But the community has to support it as well.”
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If you go
▪ What: The Rhythm Foundation’s Big Night in Little Haiti
▪ Where: Little Haiti Cultural Center 212 NE 59th Terr.
▪ When: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, April 15
Cost: Free with a $5 suggested donation
For more information or to get in touch with the Rhythm Foundation, visit www.rhythmfoundation.com