Our Man in Miami: From Haiti to Betty Page with Kimberly Green
That snap you’re looking at is of me and Kimberly Green, top gun at the Green Family Foundation (GFF). A couple weeks back we had the pleasure – and the privilege – of being shot by Francesco Lo Castro as part of an upcoming mural and portrait project the ace visualist is doing at Butter Gallery in concert with this year’s Basel. Kimberly’s a busy gal. In addition to a wide range of work in Miami, GFF is extensively involved in all kinds of great good efforts throughout Haiti – and they have been for well over a decade. That means Kimberly’s either there – or elsewhere – more than she is in her own hometown. So when she does manage to swing through we make a point of doing or seeing something spectacular. The last go ‘round it was the Lo Castro shoot, which was double-plus fun and then some.
This trip happened to coincide with the opening of an exhibit at Miami International Airport entitled “Hands of Haiti.” Set in the recently built South Terminal Gallery and put on by the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance (HCAA), the show features sixty incredibly striking works, all of which were rendered under a barrage of post-quake hardships. The soundtrack consisted of various cuts culled from The Haiti Box; that set of early Alan Lomax recordings that Kimberly executive produced in conjunction with the Association for Cultural Equity. Hearing those circa ‘30s field recordings alone is a bewitching experience; to hear them in the grandeur of MIA’s newest wing amid an exquisite collection of woven vodou flags, Jacmel Carnival masks and other indigenous wonders was sublime.
After hitting the exhibit we decided to grab a bite at Van Dyke so Kimberly could fill me in on the latest in Haiti. Turns out she’d also just met with Miami Beach Cinematheque op Ed Christen, who reps the fabled Bunny Yeager. And he’d dropped off a stack of vintage Betty Page photographs for Kimberly to consider purchasing for the art-soaked home she calls Disgraceland. So while giddily browsing through some very vintage images over the chilled glasses of Prosecco sent by manager Matt Bracher, we got down to what’s up.
Okay, you just got back from Haiti, again, where you held another weekend of Sinema Amba Zetwal (Cinema Under the Stars). Care to fill in the folks? I’d love to. Last weekend was the final two screenings in the tour we’ve been on since February. I work with an organization called Fast Forward, which puts together outdoor screenings of Haitian-made documentaries, and we followed the fault line of the earthquake. The tour was called Food for Souls, because everyone was bringing rice and water and what have you, but no one was really taking care of the cultural core of the people. We had between three and ten thousand people at every screening, all of whom got to hear some of Haiti’s best musicians in addition to seeing a wide variety of film shorts covering everything from gender equity to environmentalism to the “remembrance” pieces Alan Lomax shot back in the ‘30s. The previous screenings were held out in the country, but this last event was held in Petionville, which is where most of Haiti’s private sector is based. So it was nice to be able to show the shorts to those who are in country and spearheading the efforts to rebuild.
Sinema is actually in cahoots with a few of those concerns, isn’t it? Yes, we’re sponsored by Brana, makers of Prestige beer, which is the Haitian beer. Brana also does a fortified milk for children, and we’ve been distributing that at all the events. We also work with Voila, which is one of two Haitian cell phone companies, and Partners in Health, which was founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, who is now the U.N.’s Deputy Envoy to Haiti. At all of our screenings they provide HIV and TB testing, as well as clinic referrals. Then there’s Earthspark International, an American organization that’s bringing renewable energy stores to the country.
Since we just came from catching that airport exhibit which GFF soundtracked, let’s tell everyone what’s what with Alan Lomax’s field recordings. My friend Warren Russell Smith came to me with the project a couple years ago and I immediately jumped at the chance to get involved. It’s a collection of field recordings Lomax made in Haiti back in the ‘30s, and because the sound quality wasn’t as good as some of his later work, they’d been sitting dormant in the Library of Congress ever since. We remastered them and released the set as The Haiti Box back in November of last year; then the earthquake happened, and we decided to use the set as both a fundraising tool and a sort of cultural repatriation. Now we’re working in conjunction with Haiti’s Ministry of Culture and Communications and the Ministry of Education, and we’re creating a full-length documentary along with a series of 12 shorts that will be used as a supplementary educational program throughout the entire school system.
That’s terrific! Aren’t you also involved with former President Clinton and all he’s doing down there? Yes, I’ve been working with the Clinton Global Initiative for many years, but two years ago he founded the Haiti Action Network, which brings together private and public partnership. And recently I was appointed co-chair of HAN’s Cultural Committee. We’re working now to restore monuments and historic buildings. And we’ve also been asked to curate an exhibit in November at the Clinton Library in Little Rock that will feature archival footage from Lomax as well as current documentaries made by Tatiana Magloire of Fast Forward. I’m really excited about this!
I bet! That’s beyond cool. Okay, we’re sitting here on Lincoln Road at Van Dyke Café, and it turns out your father [Steven J. Green] owns the building. What’s that all about? (Laughs) Well, my dad, who’s former Ambassador to Singapore under Clinton, runs Greenstreet Partners, which is an international real estate development company, and he bought the building a few years ago. He says he may have overpaid a little, but he’s a Miami Breach native, and he feels like this is owning a part of our town’s history. He also bought that fabulous Morris Lapidus building where our Foundation is located.
We can’t end this chat without mentioning this incredible Bunny Yeager photos that are sitting in front of us. Man, these are some killer images! Aren’t they? Ed Christen brought them to me; he’s apparently repping Bunny Yeager, and these are outtakes from a few of the series she did with Betty Page. I really dig the shots from the old Lion Country Safari. And I’m thinkin’ they’ll look great in Disgraceland! The demure shots though remind me of the photos I have of my mom [Dorothea Green] back when she was Miss New York and in Miami Beach for the Miss Universe Pageant. That’s where she met my dad, by the way, who was then an aide to Mayor Chuck Hall. They’ve been happily ever after ever since.