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Educator Feature: Fritz Jacques Bernardin

Fritz Jacques Bernardin in New York City, where he lives.

Fritz Jacques Bernardin is a Haitian musician, composer, and educator from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He currently resides in New York City, where he is working on completing his first album and partnering with Zanmitay Collective on translations, interpretations, and workshop-development to decolonize mission work and transform communities with lasting impact. He is the founder and creator of Jeunesse d'Haiti, an online working group to unite and mobilize Haitian youth to transform community independently. He is featured in the award-winning documentary, Serenade for Haiti, which debuted in 2016.

Fritz was born in Port-au-Prince, where he was raised by his mother, a caterer and schoolteacher who is known in her community for speaking truth to power in defense of people everywhere.

At the age of 5, Fritz began playing the Viola and Violin at Holy Trinity Music School in Port-au-Prince. His training instilled in him a passion for Haitian folk music and Haitian cultural traditions. As an adult, Fritz returned to Holy Trinity as a teacher, teaching private lessons and conducting youth chamber orchestras. After surviving the 2010 earthquake, Fritz became a primary translator and interpreter for missionaries and volunteer groups who flocked to Haiti in droves to offer their services in restoration and repair. During this time, Fritz observed a variety of non-profit and charitable practices in Haiti from foreign volunteers and mission workers. His experience connecting Haitians with mission workers and volunteers through language and music inspired his work transforming the relationship between foreign volunteers and Haitians. Fritz' online working group, Jeunesse d'Haiti, Haiti focuses on empowering young Haitian leaders to transform their communities through education, advocacy, and social enterprise. He is a strong advocate and teacher of U.S. occupation and colonial heritage in Haiti, and uses his neo-folklore compositions to reflect on these fraught relationships and to reframe the narrative of Haiti to one of pride, power, and liberation.

Q - What do you hope your students and community will be transformed by in your teaching?

A - I hope they will understand there is room for everyone to be fit in this world. More love, be aware of what needs to be done, help others and always give the best possible.

Q - What inspires you?

A - Life itself is the widest inspiration. To be more specific, cultures, music, history and tradition, youth and elders, love and children.

Q - What advice do you have for U.S. Americans who want to work in "developing countries" and Haiti?

A - Listen and don't do. Just help make it happen.

Fritz Jacques Bernardin educates and celebrates Haitian culture and tradition on his instagram, @fritz_j_bernardin. Follow him to learn more!

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