Ambiance celebrates Haitian culture and cuisine

By Sierra Stivala
Staff Writer

The walls danced along to the rhythm of the pulsating music while the air carried the enticing aroma of savory cuisine. With the help of some festive decor, the Decker Social Space was illuminated on the eve of Saturday, March 5, for the Haitian Student Association’s 11th annual Ambiance event.

The event is a formal celebration of Haitian culture. Each year, the Haitian Student Association (HSA) hosts Ambiance with the goal being to expose the rest of the campus to all that Haiti has to offer.

The gathering represents far more than a steaming plate of rice or a roaring dance floor. For the HSA, Ambiance symbolizes a budding opportunity for unity.

Students enjoy authentic Haitian food while listening to kompa music. (Kim Iannarone / Photo Editor)
Students enjoy authentic Haitian food while listening to kompa music. (Kim Iannarone / Photo Editor)

The yearning to spread the essence of the Haitian culture is an overarching theme for both the club and the annual event. According to HSA’s brochure, “The purpose of the HSA is to promote the awareness, respect and better understanding of the Haitian history, culture and traditions.”

The widespread popularity of the event enables it to serve as a platform to channel the greater College community.

With more diversity among its members than ever before, the HSA is certainly on its way.

Sophomore international studies major Vanessa Fiore is one of the club’s many non-Haitian members. Previously unfamiliar with the Haitian culture, Fiore said she most enjoys exploring the day-to-day aspects of Haitian life. The club has even inspired her to choose Haiti as the subject of her international research project.

“I like learning about the little things they do that are different,” Fiore said.

Senior finance major and former HSA treasurer Christelle Beauvais said the purpose of the Ambiance event is for people to “not just listen but (also) enjoy and understand. It’s for people to experience.”

This year marks the 11th annual Ambiance celebration. (Photo courtesy of Sierra Stivala)
This year marks the 11th annual Ambiance celebration. (Photo courtesy of Sierra Stivala)

From beginning to end, the night was filled with tributes to the vibrant culture. Guests enjoyed a performance of the Haitian national anthem, followed by a traditional Haitian dance routine performed by the Mikerline Dance Troupe. Later, the beauty of the Haitian language was demonstrated with the presentation of a poem.

Traveling all the way from Florida, the band Xtassy performed authentic “kompa” music. This style of music heavily relies on the piano and guitar, delivering a sound specific to Haitian culture. Sophomore sociology major and HSA Vice President Rose Cherilus classifies the music as radiating a party vibe conducive to close dancing.

“It’s both upbeat and slow at the same time,” Cherilus said.

Meanwhile, toward the back of the room, a savory mixture of seasonings engulfed the air. Local Haitian restaurant, Mommie Joe’s, has been catering for the annual event since it began back in 2006 and provided food again this year. The spread was filled with traditional Haitian cuisine, including creole chicken, fried pork, shrimp, beans and seasoned vegetables.

Each of the round tables was draped in red and gold and topped with beautiful, floral centerpieces. Haitian postcards were laid out on tables, the backs of which contained facts about the country’s culture and history for guests to read

“It was really cool to see people of all different ethnicities come together to celebrate the value of one in particular,” said junior finance major Alexis Keiper, who attended the event for the first time this year.

Sophomore marketing major and HSA President Baldween Casseus said she is proud of the impact the event is having.

“People are learning more about the Haitian culture outside of the negative media,” Casseus said.

The event truly resembled an authentic Haitian celebration. In looking around at the room, Casseus says, “It’s like taking a trip back home.”