Music & Nightlife

Out of money, Big Night in Little Haiti saved by a sponsor

Anna Marius and other members of the Roots Ensemble perform Haitian dances during a Big Night in Little Haiti party at the Little Haiti Cultural Center in 2013.
Anna Marius and other members of the Roots Ensemble perform Haitian dances during a Big Night in Little Haiti party at the Little Haiti Cultural Center in 2013. Miami Herald File

The Haitian community in Miami was devastated to learn that Big Night in Little Haiti ran out of funds when The Rhythm Foundation announced it would no longer host the event. But now there is a big reason to celebrate.

The monthly event has found a title sponsor, joining forces with the Rasin Festival and The Rhythm Foundation (”Rasin” means roots music in Creole). That means the cultural celebration will return as a yearly festivity this November. The Rasin Festival was organized in the early 2000s at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami.

The event’s theme is centered on the Haitian holiday known as Fet Gede, or All Souls Day (Day of the Dead), based on Vodou culture usually celebrated the first and second day of November in Haiti. Laura Quinlan and Angie Bell from The Rhythm Foundation joined forces with Ingrid Llera of the Rasin Festival to make it happen.

Becks Urban Canvas, the philanthropic leg of the beer company, donated $20,000 to fund the program. The production is estimated to cost about $100,000.

Quinlan hopes the amount will be reached through grants The Rhythm Foundation applied for with the city of Miami. The grants would cover rent and additional security, but the foundation is still waiting to hear back from the city with approval. There will also be donations taken at the entrance of the event to help cover costs, but if the amount isn’t reached, the foundation will have to pay the bill from its annual operation budget.

“This event is only happening because we got these funds from Becks. This year Becks has decided to focus on Little Haiti,” Quinlan said. “When does it happen that a sponsor who really gets it, is coming on board with a cultural program, and encouraging us to do it? It’s such a magical opportunity; I can’t even believe it.”

The event will feature live art and music from RAM one of Haiti’s most popular rasin bands and DJ sets by the popular DJ Gardy Girault. They are also in the works of confirming an all women’s Rara group called Rara Fanm. The Fet Gede celebration of Big Night in Little Haiti is expected to attract more than 7,000 guests and will extend from the Little Haiti Cultural Center onto 59th Terrace. The area, which will include the parking lot and the entire street, will have a food village, hands-on activities like mask-making for children, bars and a second platform where dance companies will take to the stage.

Quinlan hopes the yearly fest will develop into several spin-off events throughout the year leading up to it, and encourage connections between neighboring companies.

“What Becks is providing is the spark that got this really beloved community event to find a path forward. We, like many people, were sad at the ending of Big Night, and this was the spark to re-imagine how the festival can continue to exist,” Quinlan said. “We can all agree that Big Night was really transformational for Little Haiti, and it was sad to see the end of it, and this is a nice way for it to evolve into an annual event.”

The festival will finish at 11 p.m., and the after-party will commence at the Little Haiti Caribbean Marketplace. Although the after-party is not free, guests are encouraged to purchase tickets that will be on sale for about $25 to $30.

JennyLee Molina, the public relations representative of Becks, said that the beer company wants to show the people of the community they are here to support them.

“I think for Becks the most important thing is that they want the community to know that instead of investing dollars on traditional advertising they are investing in community programs.”

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If you go

▪ What: The Rhythm Foundation and Rasin Festival present Big Night in Little Haiti: Roots Festival

▪ When: Saturday, Nov. 5 from 4 to 11 p.m

▪ Cost: Free for the Big Night in Little Haiti: Roots Festival with a suggested donation at the door, the after-party will be selling tickets for about $25 to $30.

▪ For more information: Visit http://www.BigNightLittleHaiti.com

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