Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, President
Patrick Bellegarde-Smith is professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He obtained a PhD in international studies, history and comparative politics from The American University, and has taught in these fields, African American studies, and women’s studies. His scholarship is presently in the areas of African religious thought and Haitian social philosophy, with an emphasis on national and cultural identities. He has authored, edited and co-edited several books on these subjects and a large number of articles, notably In the Shadow of Powersand Haiti: The Breached Citadel. Some of his work has been translated into French, Spanish, and Portuguese. He is a recipient of the Medaille Jean Price-Mars, from the Université d’État d’Haïti, and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Scholarship from the Haitian Studies Association. He is an oungan asogwe, a priest of Vodou.
LeGrace Benson, Vice-President
LeGrace Benson currently directs the Arts of Haiti Research Project and is Associate Editor of the Journal of Haitian Studies. Professor emerita from the State University of New York, she holds a PhD from Cornell University and an MFA from the University of Georgia; she also studied at Long Island University (film production) and at the Episcopal Divinity School of Philadelphia. She has held faculty positions at Cornell, Wells College, SUNY-Empire State College, SUNY-Cortland, and Ithaca College. For the Faculté d’Education Regina Assumpta (FERA) in Cap-Haïtien, she taught Art History and English as a Second Language. In 2003–2004 she was a Cornell Civic Fellow, and in 2005–2006 a Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for Black Studies Research, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her work includes documentary films and numerous publications for scholarly journals, chapters in edited books, and art exhibition texts. She recently published Arts and Religions of Haiti: How the Sun Illuminates under Cover of Darkness (2014).
Claudine Michel, Executive Director
Claudine Michel served for many years as Director of the Center for Black Studies Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she is currently Professor of Black Studies and Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs. She received a BA in Education from the École Normale Supérieure; studied at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, Université d’État d’Haïti; and earned a PhD in International Education from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research has appeared in many scholarly venues and she is the author and co-editor of a number of volumes on education, Black studies, and Haitian Vodou. Her current work re-conceptualizes alternative modes of knowledge production and models of pedagogical interventions grounded in both education and religion. She is a former President of the Haitian Studies Association and the long-time editor of the only peer-reviewed journal on Haiti, The Journal of Haitian Studies, published by the UCSB Center for Black Studies Research for the Haitian Studies Association. Dr. Michel is founding member of KOSANBA, A Scholarly Association for the Studies of Haitian Vodou and Culture and a founding editor of Kalfou, A Journal of Comparative Ethnic and Relational Studies, both housed at the UCSB Center for Black Studies Research. After the 2010 earthquake, she served as consultant for Direct Relief International on its Haiti community projects and is a member of the Haiti Soleil Board of Directors. Recent awards include an excellence and service award from the Haitian Studies Association and the prestigious Jean-Price Mars Medal from the Faculté d’Ethnologie, Université d’État d’Haïti.
Bamidele Agbasegbe Demerson
Bamidele Agbasegbe Demerson is the Culture and Arts Manager for the City of Austin, serving as administrator for the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center. He previously held administrative, curatorial, and education posts at the Harrison Museum of African American Culture (Roanoke, Virginia) and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (Detroit, Michigan). An alumnus of the University of Michigan, Demerson received undergraduate and graduate training in cultural anthropology with a focus on Africa and the African diaspora. He has conducted fieldwork in Nigeria, Brazil, United States, and Canada. Reports of his research on spiritual beliefs and practices, visual arts, and family life have been presented at national and international conferences, as well as published in anthologies, exhibition catalogues, and journals. Demerson curated New Eyes for Ancient Gods: Yoruba Orisa in Contemporary Art and is conducting research for a forthcoming exhibition, Bags, Brooms, Bottles, and Bedcovers: Hoodoo Folk Beliefs in African American Fine Art.
Dr. Charlene Désir is an associate professor at the Abraham S. Fischler College of Education at Nova Southeastern University. She received her doctorate from Harvard University. Dr. Désir's academic interest is in the social, psychological, and spiritual adjustment of immigrant students in public schools. Dr. Désir has published and presented various papers on the topic of immigrant students' adjustment to the United States. In addition, she co-founded T.E.N. global, an empowerment network for Haitian women and children, and was the 2012 president of the Haitian Studies Association. Dr. Désir has worked as a school psychologist, K–12 school counselor, school administrator, academic advisor, and professor.
Dr. Yanique Hume received a PhD from Emory University in anthropology, with an emphasis on Caribbean cultural politics, African diasporic religions and spiritualities, and cultural performance. She co-edited the important volume Caribbean Cultural Thought: From Plantation to Diaspora (2013), and is presently working on a book for Duke University Press about the Caribbean mortuary complex, based on findings that emerged from a workshop funded by the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. She is also developing a monograph from long-standing research on the Haitian presence in Cuba and Haiti’s place in Cuban cultural politics and the Cuban imaginary. Dr. Hume is a professional dancer and choreographer; she has toured with several companies and continues to teach Afro-Caribbean dance across the world. She is a lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, in Barbados.
Dr. Toni Pressley-Sanon is a professor of African American Studies at Eastern Michigan University. She received her PhD in African Languages and Literatures, with a minor in Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies (LACIS), at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and held a postdoctoral fellowship in Africana Studies at Pennsylvania State University. She is the recipient of several grants and fellowships, including a Fulbright, for her research on memory relating to the transatlantic trade in West Africa. Dr. Pressley-Sanon's publications include The Haitian Peasantry through Oral and Written Literature: Roumain, Alexis, Endore, Carpentier and Fountain (Caribbean Studies Press, 2016), Zombifying a Nation: Race, Gender and the Haitian Loas on Screen (McFarland Press, 2016) and a co-edited volume titled Raoul Peck: Power, Politics and the Cinematic Imagination (Lexington Books, 2015). Her study, Istwa Across the Water: Haitian History, Memory, and the Cultural Imagination, is forthcoming from the University Press of Florida. Toni is a painter whose works have been presented in a number of venues.
University webpage: https://www.emich.edu/aas/faculty/pressleysanon.php
Dr. Kate Ramsey has a PhD in anthropology from Columbia University and teaches in the history department at the University of Miami. Her work focuses on Caribbean history and culture, with a particular emphasis on Haiti. Further interests include the politics of religion, the law, performance and artistic production in the Atlantic world, intellectual histories, social movements, health, and healing. Her book, The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in Haiti (University of Chicago Press, 2011), received the Haiti Illumination Prize of the Haitian Studies Association as the most significant book on Haiti in the social sciences in 2013. Her next book project will focus on Afro-Caribbean spiritual practices and Enlightenment thought in Saint-Domingue and Jamaica. She is a recipient of the Medaille Jean Price-Mars, from the Université d’État d’Haïti.
University webpage: http://www.as.miami.edu/history/people/faculty/kate-ramsey/
Richard Brent Turner is a professor of Religious Studies and African American Studies at the University of Iowa. He received his PhD in religion from Princeton University. His scholarship is in the areas of African American religious history, African American Islam, and African diasporic religious and musical traditions in New Orleans. He is the author of Jazz Religion, the Second Line, and Black New Orleans (Indiana University Press, 2009), Islam in the African-American Experience, Second Edition (Indiana University Press, 2003), and a wide variety of articles. Turner is also on the editorial board of the Journal of Africana Religions.
Lois Wilcken received a PhD from Columbia University, and researches Haitian traditional music and dance in Haiti and abroad. As the executive director of La Troupe Makandal, Dr. Wilcken develops performances and educational programs. These include Rising Sun: A Vodou Drama of Death and Rebirth; The Drum and the Seed: A Haitian Odyssey; and Rele Ountò: The Frisner Augustin Memorial Drum Festival. She is currently annotating collections of her field recordings for the Ethnographic Video for Instruction and Analysis Digital Archives based at Indiana University, as well as documenting the life and legacy of Master Drummer Frisner Augustin. She has published The Drums of Vodou (1992) and co-edited Island Sounds in the Global City: Caribbean Popular Music in New York with Ray Allen (University of Illinois Press, 2001).