How You Can Help Give a Voice to the Voiceless in Haiti

Published on in Miscellaneous

Nehemiah Records is an international indie record label committed to giving a voice to the voiceless. Nehemiah Records was established by Steph Leigh Limage while she was filming a feature documentary in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. During her adventures she wound up in the projects of Port Au Prince producing beats with artists who were living in tent cities after the earthquake. What she discovered was a pool of extremely talented artists who had no way to support them selves, through this need Nehemiah Records was born.

Learn all about the movement and how you can help.


Q:  Tell us a little about your mission to encourage production talent in Haiti. 

A: We give a voice to the voiceless. We provide on going training and skills development which creates a much needed platform for Haitian artists, filmmakers and musicians to support them selves. We believe in allowing an artist to share their story their way by providing the tools to bring visions and dreams into reality. 

Here at Nehemiah Records we believe in providing opportunities in the arts for the “underdog artists” as well as established artists of the world by creating events geared towards those living on the margins, suffering from the bondage of addiction or other social/economic barriers. Through this we hope to encourage global artistic unity & showcase local/global talent while stewarding the gifts our artists possess to show love to those whom we cater to in a creative way. We accomplish this by working on collaborative projects that focus on causes bigger than our art and our selves.

We partner new & emerging artists with established artists on collaborative projects.

All of our signed artists are associated with a registered charity of their choice to create awareness for the causes they are most passionate about when they are launching a new EP or performing at a venue/event. If an artist is with out a charity we have them come along side Haiti Love Revolution, Nehemiah Records Charity of choice due to our partnership.

Nehemiah records works with people of all denominations, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or race. In addition, we also look for the gifts inside of each person regardless of their past mistakes, geographical location, social or economic barriers & try to accommodate our artists facing social, geographical and economic barriers. 

We have initiatives for artists of all levels & genres.

Q:  What have been the biggest struggles in your efforts and how have you overcome?

A: That’s a hard question; Haiti is full of social and economic challenges. We have a hunger crisis happening in Haiti, many of our artists will not have had a good meal in several days and we found it hard to work with those who are malnourished as they are not able to focus which makes it very hard to train staff. We end up financing meals and travel and even having artists crash at our house after a gig because they couldn’t afford the bus, we end up covering more than our overhead but also covering the immediate needs our artists and staff have, some times that is a sick parent, some times that is a visa to go to the Dominican Republic to earn some money.

It is a case by case basis but since we are a business it makes it challenging when the people you are working with are not able to meet deadlines due to factors that are so easily remedied such as food and shelter…things one can take for granted, however if loaded onto 2 people ( leaders/owners) it can become taxing, which is why you need to have boundaries and appreciate that you can not save the world even though it is heart breaking to experience and suffer along side our artists and staff. It is a process and we are rejoicing in small beginnings while we pioneer knowing that in time if we keep it up we will be able to do more. 

In addition, the social barriers in terms of class between the rich and poor are often an issue when sourcing projects locally, this is a battle of status and skin color that dates back a few hundred years but is still prevalent today. We battle this racial and social division every day and act as a liaison between divided peoples groups and create events where all are welcome, its a new mentality to bring here but the battle is in the mind so this is our biggest fight…the slavery ended in Haiti a few hundred years ago but it is still happening in the minds of the people. It is a touchy topic, just like politics so we try to address it the best we can but are still learning. 

In terms of resources, we currently do not have any investors, not because we do not want any but simply because we believe in timing and allowing things to grow organically so we have been patiently pitching softly over the years and waiting, but in the meantime working and being grateful for what we have. 

In terms of overcoming there have been many times when I have been in the studio going “what the heck am I doing?” but later on I see results and it makes it worth it, some times it is just really frustrating, you have the power go out and the generator does not kick in automatically and you loose half a days work in a session. Or you spend half your day in the Port Au Prince traffic not accomplishing much… There also are security risks; we are working with individuals located in areas that are considered “hot zones” which have a tendency to be quite volatile. I have had to change my expectations, specifically with time and the way North Americans value time, it is not the same here at all. I have had to change and adapt to my surroundings and submit to the culture in order to keep doing this (it helps that my husband is a Haitian music producer and we met in a recording studio making music so he is an excellent mentor) … honestly I could sit here all day and list the barriers and challenges. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere with social and economic barriers that can blow your mind but the good news is there is many people who are devoted to rebuilding the nation and utilizing the arts to do so. 

Q: Why is this so essential right now, and timely?

A: Haiti is full of talent, when you say starving artist that can be taken literally here. We need to create jobs and empower Haitians to break the cycle of poverty that has been plaguing the nation for generations. It is better to teach a man to fish rather than hand him fish, while we do provide food through our Organization Haiti Love Revolution www.haitiloverevolution.org it is only to meet a life and death need of those in our community, it is not a long term solution but a mere band aid…we have a majority of the population here unemployed and they do not want to be nor do they want food hand outs, they want to work. We also have a majority of the population with artistic abilities and those who do not have artistic abilities can be camera operators or lighting technicians…the options are endless…we need the support from the international community to continue to provide jobs for Haitians in the local Entertainment industry that does not involve them abandoning the nation to look for resources and opportunities elsewhere, we need to create opportunities here in Haiti and rebuild the nation from the inside out. The need for jobs is critical, the need for change is un-escapable and absolute, it takes one visit to showcase the many needs of this nation, and it is worth the fight. Haitians were brought here as slaves and were the first independent black nation in the world, there is strength here in the people that you can not find elsewhere and to me that spells potential. 

Q: How can production professionals help? 

A: Production Professionals can help by donating their time to come down and teach a workshop with our artists and also by reaching out to others to sponsor the workshops so we can keep them going and sustainable.

We also need Sponsorships for our upcoming Film & Directing Essentials workshop with Peter D Marshall (July 31st and Aug 1st 2013) so we can offer subsidies to those who have to means to purchase a ticket (youth, students and those on the margins). We also need to continue to put on workshops and have industry experts come here to work with us so we can continue to move the film and art community forward here in Haiti. There is so much talent here to let it go to waste.

Q: What equipment do you need and why? 

A: We need everything, Haiti has nothing in terms of infrastructure to import or export the tools and equipment we need which makes it very expensive. Everything we have we have ordered one by one and patiently assembled the studio. 

We could use:

Sound

* Capture Device: This is either a digital audio recorder (which I almost always recommend), or if you have a digital camera with audio inputs, you can record sound directly to the camera (not recommended, but this is a list of “bare minimum” stuff).

* Shotgun Mic Kit: Including a shotgun mic and a boom to hold the mic.

* Two Lavalier Mics: These are the tiny clip on mics that you can hide under clothing and are perfect for dialogue between two characters.

* Audio Mixer: For multiple sound inputs, this will allow us to mix down our sound as it’s going into our capture device.

* Headphones:  need some good ones.

* Camera: The truth is, just about any camera will work. We just need something that preferably captures at 24 frames per second in a widescreen aspect ratio.

* Lens: This depends on the camera, but if you have one that swaps lenses, at least have one prime 35mm lens. 

* Tripods & Monopods: a poor man’s (risky-man’s) crane/steadycam/dolly when you don’t. 

Light

Using natural light is preferable (because it’s free), but natural light has a couple of shortfalls. First, it’s limited. Second, it really only lends to one look, artistically speaking. So, having a little help is a good idea.

* Light Kit:  any light kit will do. Light kits come in a bevy of configurations, but all of them will include a key, a fill, and a back light. These are handy when we need to supplement the natural light, or just need a little extra heat in the room.

* Gels: We need a bunch of this in bulk. A good rule of thumb is that you want to capture the image you want rather than trying to adjust in post. Gels give us the ability to control the tone of our light, and can be the difference of a scene feeling like springtime or a nightmare.

* Reflectors: These handy things we really need because they give us the ability to manipulate natural light, remove shadows where we don’t want them, and be a master of our lighting domains. 

Tip: we can be sent white foam board. I hear it’s just as good as the pro stuff.

Post-Production

 All we need is another computer and some editing software. Final Cut Studio is a great one, though Adobe has a fantastic offering as well in Premiere and the ubiquitous After Effects. In a pinch, iMovie or Windows Movie Maker can do the trick. We need another Mac Pro Lap Top, some external hard drives for storage of course. 

Misc.

You can probably get away with just what’s above, but here’s some random gear you might want to acquire:

* Sandbags: For those lights and the tripod. We want to weigh stuff down.

* Gaffer’s Tape: Duct tape fixes everything in the real world, but in filmmaking, it just makes a sticky mess. Gaff tape fixes all

Batteries for cameras 

Flash and SD cards

Speakers for the studio & live performances 

Mic’s and Mic Stands

Cables

Shipping Sponsored on Donated Items Please. 

images and content courtesy of Stephanie Limage, Haiti Love Revolution & Nehemiah Records.

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