Since March 2011, the Rhythm Foundation along with the Little Haiti Cultural Center, have orchestrated a monthly festival of music, art, food, and culture. Over the years, Big Night in Little Haiti has brought some of the most important names in the Haitian community — musicians, artists, and activists — to participate in the free party every third Friday.
After a five-year run, organizers have run out of money and are packing up after April's edition.
When the event was created, it was supported by a $125,000 grant from the Knight Foundation that was meant to last through 2012. As the Miami Herald reports, the Rhythm Foundation was later awarded another $120,000 grant to cover expenses for 2013 and 2014. And in 2015, the Knight Foundation dished out another $60,000. The final donation dried up in September.
The event costs $10,000 a month to produce — an astounding feat organizers were able to put on such a large-scale event for so little. That includes payment for the bands and performers, onsite staff, insurance, security, sound, lights, police, supplies, cleanup, and marketing efforts. The not-for-profit reached out to the community in hopes of collecting enough funds to sustain the event, but the efforts were fruitless.
“In a perfect world, we would have had a title sponsor," Rhythm Foundation director Laura Quinlan told the Herald. "I don’t know why we didn’t get one — it seemed to me like the project was so fundable. I imagined at the beginning that Target or Bank of America would come in and sponsor it.
"It was such a quality production. It was so family-friendly. So many people came every month with their extended families. We had activities for kids and great institutional partners.”
Quinlan holds out hope that one day the Rhythm Foundation will be able to raise enough money to revive the monthly party.
More than two years ago, Brazilian maracatu group Nation Beat performed during Big Night in Little Haiti, marking "the first time in history that a traditional maracatu group has performed in the U.S," the band told New Times in 2013. To celebrate the finale this Friday, compas group Gabel will perform in the plaza.
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Other events put on by the Rhythm Foundation will continue.
Big Night in Little Haiti
6 to 10 p.m. Friday, April 15, at the Little Haiti Cultural Center. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested. Visit littlehaiticulturalcenter.com or rhythmfoundation.com.
Update: An earlier version of this story implied $10,000 was an astounding amount of money to produce an event like Big Night in Little Haiti. The story has since been corrected to reflect $10,000 is in fact very little monies and the Rhythm Foundation made good use of their funding/grants.