Haitian Musician Mona Augustin Is Rebuilding His Community With a Little Help From Colorado Friends
Photo courtesy of Greg Cronin
On January 12, 2010, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 hit sixteen miles west of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, devastating the already impoverished nation and killing tens of thousands of people. In the wake of that disaster, Haiti's recovery has been slow; the tragedy displaced 1.5 million people, who were forced to find housing in tent camps throughout the country. Musician Mona Augustin, who performs a free show at the King Center on the Auraria campus tomorrow, has been leading a campaign to re-establish a group of 126 families from the temporary Camp Moyazik to a permanent Village Moyazik. But these efforts have been complicated; the settlement of refugees was on private land — and some of the landowners aren't exactly welcoming.
“We had a law in place after the earthquake that people could settle on certain private lands,” explains Augustin. “And the people owning the land were supposed to talk to the government. But these people gave us trouble, and some people were killed and houses were burned.”
Augustin's early efforts are chronicled in the 2014 documentary Moyazik, directed by John Bougher. The film begins immediately after the earthquake, details the destruction of a settlement in the Port-au-Prince area in December 2012 by local authorities, and continues through the establishment of a more stable situation. Still, Moyazik does not show a resolved situation, but rather the ongoing struggle of people trying to re-establish themselves in their own homeland.
Over the last three years, Augustin has established a working relationship with the nonprofit Yon Sel Lamou, a phase meaning “one love” in Haitian Creole. The organization, founded by Greg Cronin, was inspired by the various political and social justice efforts of Flobots.org, now Youth on Record. In 2012, Yon Sel Lamou brought Augustin to perform in the U.S. for the first time at St. Cajetan's — right before the destruction of the settlement shown in the Moyazik documentary. Because of that visit and playing shows for the right people, Augustin and Yon Sel Lamou were able to raise over $8,000 — enough to purchase the land where the people of Camp Moyazik will ultimately settle in their village.
In 2014, Royalty Free Haiti was established as a way of bringing music education to Haiti, in an effort to empower Haitians through creative work and cultural exchange. Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp and other musicians affiliated with Flobots.org spent a month in Haiti with Cronin, establishing the organization, which is largely run by Haitians. “Over 50 percent of our directors [at Yon Sel Lamou] are Haitians,” says Cronin. “I see myself as more of a secretary that helps to make opportunities happen.”
Augustin and partner Candice Schneider are now in the process of establishing their own nonprofit focused on the work at Village Mozayik. There's already a community center on the purchased land, where some of the 126 families are staying on a temporary basis; now efforts are under way to build housing and to hire engineers to establish water, sewage and electrical facilities for a sustainable community.
Help is coming slowly...but surely.
The documentary Moyazik will be screened at the King Center Concert Hall on Auraria Campus at 6 p.m. Thursday, November 12. The film will be followed by a Q&A session with filmmaker John Bougher, who will answer questions via Skype, and then a live music performance by Mona Augustin. The all-ages event is free; for more information, call the King Center box office at 303-556-2296 or visit the event's Facebook page. Augustin released an album in 2014 called Mamamee; it can be purchased at the CD Baby website.