November 2016, Volume 20, Number 5

Cultural Spotlight

New Ways to Say 'My Friend'

Twenty students working collaboratively with MDC’s Miami Book Fair completed a remarkable audiovisual project that captures the nature of Haitian and Cuban cultures in Miami. Using poetry and photographs to express what they experienced, students connected with another way of life often foreign to them. The group worked in diverse pairs that intentionally challenged each student to see the Haitian or Cuban culture differently. Together they visited Miami neighborhoods to not only learn about areas of the city they often had not seen before but also meet the people who live there.

The project, MiAmi, was the concept of Carl-Philippe Juste, an award-winning photojournalist born in Haiti whose storied career includes 25 years at the Miami Herald. The title of the project puns Miami into “Mi Ami,” a Spanish/French portmanteau that would translate neatly as “my friend.”

“Even though the Haitian and Cuban communities have deep roots in Miami, our students still remain curious about the life experiences of people in both,” said Dr. Pascale Charlot, dean of The Honors College at MDC. “This curiosity is further fueled by the courses taken at Miami Dade College that invite them to be critical, inquisitive and reflective as they consider the challenges that each community faces. These experiences gave the students the opportunity to make authentic connections with another culture, which left them with a better understanding of the differences while also recognizing the similarities between places like Little Havana and Little Haiti.”

The project produced a booklet combining the photographs and writing of the students, which was the fruit of their research, workshops and conversations over the course of several months.

“We were delighted to see the bonds forged across cultures among the students who participated from different campuses,” said Magda Castineyra, InterAmerican Campus Honors College director who participated in every session. “It was an absolute privilege to watch their ability to be empathetic toward these communities not only evolve but also be applied to how they treated one another.”

Negotiations are currently in the works for a formal art exposition of the students’ vibrant work.

“We see this as the kind of opportunity that reinforces MDC’s commitment to cultivate changemakers equipped to solve today’s problems,” Charlot said. “This is a textbook example of integrating changemaking into the co-curriculum to meaningfully impact our community.”

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