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BOSTON “This is Haiti,” CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin told 450 guests at the Museum of Fine Arts on November 19, as she gestured to 25 models sporting looks from Haitian-American designers. Hostin served as M.C. for “Contemporary Haiti,” the first Boston-area fund-raiser for Aksyon, a nonprofit organization aiming to re-brand Haiti and highlight its artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs. Haitian Grammy winner Wyclef Jean was the headline performer of the event, which raised $150,000.
“The goal for the client is to raise dollars for Haiti. Especially since the earthquake, it’s just been so damaged,” said event producer A.J. Williams of Creative Events. “Aksyon’s mission is to re-develop tourism and bring opportunities to the people of Haiti they would not have otherwise.”
According to Williams, another goal was to keep the evening's program short and high-impact while maintaining the focus on contemporary Haiti. Projected images of the tropical country brightened up the museum's wall. Guests could check out an exhibit by photographer Carl Juste depicting scenes of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and its residents. A jewelry showcase held pieces from local designer Kristen Hanson, who offered a group of Haitian students a chance to spend next summer in Boston for a jewelry-making internship.
The V.I.P. reception, with tickets at $500 a pop, included an open bar and dine-around reception with Haitian-fusion bites by chef Todd English. With a live performance from Wyclef Jean, the after-party seemed more like the main event. Its $250 ticket price included an awards ceremony for influential members of the Haitian community and a live auction with prizes such as a trip to Russell Simmons’ Hamptons home and a stay at the Karibe Hotel in Port-au-Prince with airfare provided by corporate sponsor American Airlines. During the auction, Jean hopped onstage and upped the ante by offering another package: a chance to visit his home and have dinner prepared by his personal chef. Ten guests each paid $2,600 for a chance to participate in the experience.
Jean was the first headline act to play at the museum, according to Williams, and working with the singer added a layer of intricacy to the planning process. “Wyclef was in Dubai for the last month, so getting information and being on their schedule was tough,” she said. “We had to talk in the wee hours of the morning to communicate.”