An Evening with Edwidge Danticat

Brenda Prince Charles and Edwidge Danticat

When critically acclaimed Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat took the stage at the One Book One Philadelphia event, she began her speech with, “When you’re in the presence of greatness, you should acknowledge it.” She was referring to the presence of legendary poet Sonia Sanchez and author Lorene Carey in the audience. And in this same fashion I use the same quote to address Edwidge Danticat.  And last night I was definitely in the presence of greatness.
Edwidge Danticat’s new release Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work was featured for One book One Philadelphia’s 10th year anniversary. The Q&A session with the author was the finale for a series of discussions, films, and musical performances held around the city from Jan 25th to March 17th. I had the opportunity to attend this evening with my new book club Mahogany Mamas and this was actually my first time coming to an event.
The evening started on a high note with a superb performance by Haitian American violinist/composer Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) accompanied by pianist/composer Yayoi Ikawa. Many of DBR’s pieces were influenced by Haitian music sprinkled with rock and  hip-hop undertones. Among some of the memorable pieces played by Mr. Roumain; a musical nod to Fela Kuti (Nigerian musician/composer), an ode to his mother in “Simone”, and a soul stirring rendition of The Haitian National Anthem (La Dessalinienne). I have to admit, I got a little teary eyed. If you haven’t heard of Daniel Bernard Roumain, you should be ashamed. His lively performance was peppered with storytelling, poetry, and funny anecdotes from his childhood.
The belle of the ball, my she-ro, Edwidge Danticat was personable, charming, and elegant. She read an excerpt from her new book on the postscript written a year after the earthquake devastating hundreds of thousands in Haiti. She was interviewed by author /journalist Veronica Chambers in a sit down conversation where she discussed coming to America at the age of 12, discrimination against Haitians, and her first published piece as a teenager.
Afterwards we lined up for the book signing and although my bladder was bursting, I dutifully waited in line to get my book signed and my picture taken. Dubbed the title “Student of Edwidge” by one of her staff, I went forward to finally tell one of my favorite authors what I had been rehearsing in my head for the last two weeks. Only what came out sounded nothing like what I wanted to say but it was heartfelt nonetheless. I received my signed book from Edwidge and a few words of encouragement that I will treasure forever. All in all my evening with Edwidge Danticat did not disappoint.

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