Edwidge Danticat – was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. When she was two years old, her father André immigrated to New York, to be followed two years later by her mother Rose. This left Danticat and her younger brother Eliab to be raised by her aunt and uncle. Although her formal education in Haiti was in French, she spoke Kreyòl at home.
While still in Haiti, Danticat wrote her first short story about a girl who was visited by a clan of women each night. At the age of 12, she moved to Brooklyn, New York, to join her parents in a heavily Haitian American neighborhood. As she was an immigrant teenager, Edwidge’s accent and upbringing were a source of discomfort for her, thus she turned to literature for solace. Two years later she published her first writing, in English, “A Haitian-American Christmas: Cremace and Creole Theatre,” in New Youth Connections, a citywide magazine written by teenagers. She later wrote a story about her immigration experience for New Youth Connections, “A New World Full of Strangers.” In the introduction to Starting With I, an anthology of stories from the magazine, Danticat wrote, “When I was done with the [immigration] piece, I felt that my story was unfinished, so I wrote a short story, which later became a book, my first novel: Breath, Eyes, Memory…. Writing for New Youth Connections had given me a voice. My silence was destroyed co
Andre Michael Berto – (born September 7, 1983) is a Haitian-American professional boxer. On June 21, 2008, Berto became the WBC welterweight champion by defeating Miguel Rodriguez by seventh round technical knockout. He lost his WBC welterweight title on April 16, 2011 to Victor Ortiz via unanimous decision. Berto bounced back in his very next fight on 4th September 2011, to defeat Jan Zaveck and became the IBF welterweight champion, until he vacated it.
Duplessis Jerry – ‘Wonda’ was born and raised in a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. At 14, he began playing the bass. Early influences at this time included Aston Barrett, and James Jamerson. At 16, he was sent to the US and was raised by his father and his aunt who was also Wyclef’s mother. The basement of their family home soon became their home studio.
From church to some time at the Institute of Audio Research, and gigs wherever he could play, their home studio “Booga Basement” was opened serving artists near New Jersey. Wyclef, Samuel Pras Michel, and Lauren Hill would then unite to create a new Caribbean style group ultimately known as The Fugees. Wonda and Wyclef would align to provide production for the group which would be signed by Ruffhouse/Columbia. Label mates at the time would include Cypress Hill and Kris Kross.
Jerry Wonda and Wyclef Jean’s producing would take off with The Fugees. Their cover of the Roberta Flack classic, “Killing Me Softly” sung by lead vocalist Lauryn Hill reached No. 2 on the Pop charts and No. 1 on the R&B charts. Co-produced by Wonda, their album The Score would become one of the best-selling hip hop albums of all time gaining worldwide recognition.
Wonda would divide his time touring as a bassist and musical director with The Fugees and producing for upcoming artists such as Destiny’s Child with a remix of “No No No.” He attributes his musical success to tailoring each of his productions specifically tailored to a particular artist. “When we are on stage every song is different, every show is different, and when working with other artists, I make the beat for the specific artist,” Wonda explained. “I find out what fits each artist before delivering the song.” Several productions ranging from hop hop, pop, r&b, rock, soul, and reggae would follow.
Wonda and Wyclef would make history in 2000. Santana’s Supernatural single “Maria Maria,” which Wonda co-produced, held the No. 1 chart position for 10 weeks. In 2006, the duo produced Shakira’s worldwide hit “Hips Don’t Lie” from album Oral Fixation Vol. 2. It became the top selling song of the 21st century and reached No. 1 in more than 50 countries, leading Shakira to be the 1st female Columbian singer to top Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
There are many places where you can turn your music projects into gold. But who wants to settle for gold when you can have platinum?
Jerry Wonda the founded Platinum Sound Recording Studios in 2000 is a premier recording studio in New York City, in the heart of Times Square. Taking influences from the top studios around the world, Platinum Sound was designed to create a unique, unforgettable studio experience, showing the focus on every detail of the sound and quality. Their goal is to provide great service for every client in a private and near perfect environment to elicit the highest quality of music and creative energy for the artist.
Wyclef Jean – Chances are if you’re a music fan, you know that former Fugees Wyclef Jean and Pras are both of Haitian descent. After the earthquake Wyclef has been leading the relief efforts, raising money for his charity Yele and trying to gain support for relocating 2 million Port au Prince residents. But what other celebrities have Haitian heritage? Plenty. Take a look at the following list.
Pras Michel – Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Pras cultivated an early interest in music. When he was 15, Pras met Lauryn Hill. In 1988, Pras introduced Lauryn to Wyclef Jean. Pras Michel, Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill began to rehearse under the guidance of Kool and the Gang’s producer, Ronald Khalis Bell, and subsequently they formed a musical group called The Rap Translators in 1989 (also known as Tranzlator Crew).
In 1994, before and during the time that The Fugees were recording their first album Blunted on Reality, under the supervision of Ronald Khalis Bell, Pras attended Rutgers College and Yale University, pursuing a double major in Philosophy and Psychology.
In 1996, The Fugees achieved historic crossover success with The Score, which went multi-platinum. Pras has also forged a successful solo career, beginning with an international hit single from his first full-length solo LP, “Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are)”, featuring Mýa and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. “Ghetto Superstar” became a top ten single in 1999, and the #8 most played single; it was received with critical acclaim and earned Pras a performance at the World Music Awards. The hit single was included in the soundtrack for the film Bulworth. “Ghetto Supastar” spent eight weeks in the UK Top 5, peaking at number 2 in July 1998, and reached US #15 a month later. “Blue Angels”, from the same album, was acknowledged as a UK Top 10 hit, reaching #6 in November of the same year.
Pras also featured on the track “Turn you on” by Swedish artist DeDe which was released in fall 2007. “Turn you on” is also written and produced by Pras Michel. After nine weeks on Sweden’s single chart the single went #2. Pras and DeDe has been touring/ promoting “Turn you on” around Sweden and Europe fall 2007 and July/August 2008. He also featured “Pushin’” from the album Equalize by acclaimed Brit-Asian electro-pop band Swami, which was released in fall 2007.
Pras has won numerous awards—including two Grammys, a Billboard Award, multiple Brit Awards, a World Music Award, a Top of The Pops Award and a Video Music Award.
Michaëlle Jean – born September 6, 1957 is a Canadian journalist and stateswoman who served as Governor General of Canada, the 27th since Canadian Confederation, from 2005 to 2010. Jean was a refugee from Haiti — coming to Canada in 1968 — and was raised in the town of Thetford Mines, Quebec. After receiving a number of university degrees, Jean worked as a journalist and broadcaster for Radio-Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), as well as undertaking charity work, mostly in the field of assisting victims of domestic violence. In 2005, she was appointed governor general by Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Paul Martin, to replace Adrienne Clarkson as vicereine, and she occupied the post until succeeded by David Johnston in 2010.
Early in her tenure, comments of hers recorded in some of the film works by her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, were construed as supporting Quebec sovereignty and her holding of dual citizenship caused doubt about her loyalties. But Jean denied separatist leanings, renounced her citizenship of France, and eventually became a respected vicereine. Jean was formally appointed and installed as Special Envoy for Haiti for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on November 8, 2010, for a four-year term. As of February 1, 2012, Jean will become the 13th chancellor of the University of Ottawa.
Unlike all other former governors general who had not already been made privy councillors, Jean was not sworn into the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada following the end of her viceregal service. As a former Governor General of Canada, Jean is entitled to be styled for life as The Right Honourable.
Maxwell – While the neo-soul crooner was raised in Brooklyn, his mother was from Haiti. He recently attended an emergency meeting organized by former President Bill Clinton to develop ways of helping the impoverished people of Haiti.
Arcade Fire’s Regine Chassagne – The singer for indie-rock group Arcade Fire recently wrote a piece for The Observer about her ancestral ties to the island and how she is desperately trying to find out about friends and family. “Everybody I talk to says the same thing: time has stopped. Simultaneously, time is at work. Sneakily passing through the cracks, taking the lives of survivors away, one by one.”
Jason Derulo – The man who went platinum with the hit “Whatcha Say” was born in Miami to parents who are Haitian immigrants. He recently told MTV News: “I’m really proud how the celebrities have kind of come together, especially Wyclef. I mean, he’s always been very, very instrumental in charities for Haiti, but he has really, really stepped up.”
Jean Michael-Basquiat – By combining elements of graffiti and African and Caribbean culture in his paintings, Basquiat brought street culture to high society in the ’80s. His father was Haitian and his mother was Puerto Rican. Although Basquiat died in 1988 of an overdose, Andy Warhol helped make the artist’s tortured work internationally famous. Celeb fans include Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and Russell Simmons.
Jonathan Vilma – The New Orleans Saints’ linebacker is the son of Haitian immigrants and he still has aunts and uncles who live in the country. He just released a newly designed T-shirt that celebrates the Saints’ success (they’re in the playoffs this year) and raises money for victims.
De la Soul’s TruGoy the Dove – While he grew up on Long Island, David Jude Jolicoeur, one-third of the consciousness-expanding rap trio De la Soul, is Haitian-American (as well as hilariously abrasive).
Garcelle Beauvais – Born in St. Marc, Haiti, Garcelle’s mother, Marie-Claire, moved the seven children in the family to Massachusetts after divorcing their father. Garcelle is best known for her roles in “NYPD Blue” and “Barbershop 2.” In this clip, from early in her career, she’s strolling along the beach as Luther Vandross sings “Take You Out.”
Tony Yayo, DJ Whoo Kid and (possibly) 50 Cent – G-Unit members Tony Yayo and DJ Whoo Kid recently spoke to MTV News about their concerns for their ancestral homeland. “It’s confusing, man,” said Tony. ”It shows you how life is — Haiti lost everything in 30 seconds.” While 50 Cent has not widely mentioned a Haitian connection, his mother, who died when he was 12, was reportedly half Haitian (making him one-quarter).
Pierre Garcon – Haitian-American wide receiver Pierre Garcon was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 2008. He spent his first year as a backup and moved into a starting position after other members of the team were injured. During the 2009 season, Garcon became a star with 47 receptions for 765 yards and 4 touchdowns.
W.E.B. Du Bois – You may not know who W.E.B. Du Bois is, but you should. The Haitian-American activist wrote many influential works about racism in America, including “The Souls of Black Folk.” One of his most famous works, “Credo,” begins:
“I believe in God who made of one blood all races that dwell on earth. I believe that all men, black and brown and white, are brothers, varying, through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development.
“Especially do I believe in the Negro Race; in the beauty of its genius, the sweetness of its soul, and its strength in that meekness which shall yet inherit this turbulent earth.”
If there’s anyone you think we should add to this list, drop the name in the comments section.