MiAmi, Haiti and Cuba: Twin Heartbeats of Miami, a Youth Leadership Project

(Mi=my in Spanish; Ami= friend in French):

This project, created by Miami Herald photojournalist, Carl-Philippe Juste in partnership with Miami Book Fair, is bringing together 20 students from Miami Dade College’s Honors College – 10 Haitian Americans and 10 Cuban Americans – to collaborate on a project inspired by the forthcoming book, Havana and Haiti: Two Cultures, One Community, which explores the cultures of Haiti and Cuba through photography and essays by more than 40 photojournalists and writers.

Juste has traveled the world, but is most at home in Miami, where Haitian and Cuban cultures twin to become the city’s heartbeat. Haiti and Cuba have shaped Miami, but the two communities have chafed against each other. There continue to be deeply rooted tensions between the two groups that manifest themselves in devastating ways, including discrimination, leadership power struggles, mistrust, resentment and paranoia. Racism, uneven immigration policies, and economics, all served to drive a wedge, but Juste, who is Haitian, and Miami Book Fair Programs Director, Lissette Mendez, who is Cuban, hope that the MiAmi project will create amongst the students the kind of friendship and understanding they themselves share, and that it will lead to an appreciation of each other’s cultures that will reveal the numerous similarities that exist, and which become obvious when the lens is focused and the words are chosen with care.

Student pairs – one Haitian and one Cuban – collaborate on creating photographs and essays that explore each other’s cultures in Miami, with the guidance of established photojournalists and writers. The pairs meet bi-weekly in various locations such as Little Haiti Cultural Center, the Koubek Center, and the Freedom Tower to receive guidance and instruction from their instructors/mentors and to plan where they will go, what they will photograph and what they will write about.

The students–following a curriculum created by program instructors–travel together into each other’s neighborhoods to do the research and execute the work. They share and discuss their life experiences and the work in development with each other and their mentors in an effort to get at deeper truths while dispelling stereotypes and myths, with the goal of creating even stronger and more impactful work. Photography and writing mentors include Juste and photographer, C.W. Griffin. Writing mentors include Anjanette Delgado. During the Miami Book Fair in November 2015, the students will also come together for a conversation with renowned visiting writers and photographers, including Juste and book project director Luis Rios—as well as prominent photojournalists and writers, André Chung, Edwidge Dandicat, Carol Guzy, Ana Menendez, Leonard Pitts, Les Stone, and John Yearwood—to discuss the similarities and stark differences between these two island nations.


The 2015-16 MiAmi Project fellows are:

 Ariana Alonso, Christian Alfonso, Akeem Anglin, Alexander Aspuru, Jennifer Bahamonde, Ana Carrera, Kimberly Chang, Adrian Dopico, Leandro Dorta, Betsabel Garcia, Nicole Garcia, Darlin Gonzalez, Jordan Llanes, Leslie Lopez, Marilyn Machuca, Abel Maqueira, Joseph Martinez, Michelle Montoya, Christina Pierre, Roudely Pierrelus, Andy Rivero, Charles Rivero, Salua Rivero, Zayrha Rodriguez, Riane Roldan and Alejandra Zimmermann.


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