Èzili Dantò (formerly colonially named “Marguerite Laurent”) is a Haitian woman inspired, guided, and directed by the strength, legacy and visions of the Haitian warrior goddess, Ezili Dantò.
She is an award winning playwright, a performance poet, political and social commentator, author and human rights attorney. She was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and raised in Stamford, CT. She holds a BA from Boston College, a JD from the University of Connecticut School of law, and, attended the Hartford Conservatory for Ballet, Jazz and Modern while studying Haitian dancing at home and with countless Haitian dance experts in the field.
Award winning playwright and Performance Poet
Èzili Dantò is a gifted spoken word artist who uses Haitian folk dance, performance poetry, theater and creative writing to create the”Red, Black & Moonlight“series, her critically acclaimed one-woman Jazzoetry Vodun dance theater work, which she has toured internationally and also performed at Colleges and Universities, performance art centers, and theaters, including at non-traditional theater venues, such as the United Nations and Carnegie Hall.
She is a member of the Poets & Writers guild and an essayist and educator who specializes in using her writing skills and public presentations to teach about the light and beauty of Haitian culture; the “Symbolic and Archetypal Nature of Haitian Vodun;” the illegality and immorality of forcing neoliberalism policies on Haiti and the developing world; the illegality and human rights violations caused by the U.S. embargo against Haiti during the Aristide and Preval presidencies (1994-2004) and the international crimes currently unraveling Haiti because of the U.S.-Canada-France-supported Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’etat and U.N. occupation; the need for France to repay the extraordinary 1825 ransom it extorted from the Haitian people and the constant Euro-US hostility Haiti faces, endures and struggles to overcome as the first Black Republic in the world after Ethiopia in a Eurocentric world which purposely inflames instability, insecurity, impasse and chaos in the Black republics in order to better exploit their labor and natural resources.
She is the author of three plays, a spoken word and jazz CD and two books of poetry and has received numerous awards for her art, activism and civic contributions. In addition to producing and performing the Red, Black & Moonlight monologues, she teaches, through her production company, Ezilidanto’s Spoken Word Dance Theater Company, master dance workshops on traditional Haitian dance; does in-school and after school workshops and teaching residencies in performance poetry, creative writing and Hip Hop Theater, and, on “How To Create The One-Woman Show.” She has also taught an “Art and Business Law” class as an adjunct professor at various colleges in NY and CT and as a workshop for community and State art councils.
Èzili Dantò won a Connecticut Playwright Fellowship from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, a Vermont Studio Center writing fellowship and scholarship, a Stamford Arts Partnership Grant and many other awards, residencies and fellowships. She has been a Partner Artist with the Bushnell Performance Art Center, Connecticut’s largest performance art center and is an Urban Artist Fellow with the Connecticut Commission on the Arts and the Institute for Community Research. She was trained by Arts Genesis to conduct curriculum based arts-in-education workshops and teaching residencies for the State of Connecticut.
Èzili Dantò has also worked, for over ten years, as an entertainment attorney within the Hip Hop and R&B music, recording, merchandising and independent film industries. She has represented numerous national and international recording artists and independent film directors, producers and screenwriters. She is one of the pioneers of Hip Hop Theater and amongst a select few activist entertainment attorneys who conduct workshops studying and analyzing the impact of Hip Hop message music and African culture globally. Zili has been called a “Hip Hop attorney” for her career-long dedication to assisting independent labels; for advocating economic parity and democracy within the US music industry; and for advocating eventual artist ownership of their masters as well as for advocating for alternative methods of distribution.
Human Rights Attorney
Èzili Dantò (formerly colonially named-Marguerite Laurent), is founder and President of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (“HLLN”), a network of lawyers, scholars, journalists, concerned individuals and grassroots organizations and activists, dedicated to institutionalizing the rule of law and protecting the civil and cultural rights of Haitians at home and abroad.
Èzili’s HLLN is the leading international and Haitian voice against right wing humanitarian imperialism pushing the neoliberal “death plan” and disaster capitalism in Haiti and their corresponding leftist paid-to-lose tenured progressives. In addition, Èzili Dantò and HLLN stands at the forefront in exposing Christian and other foreign missionaries in Haiti playing savior while abusing Haiti street kids and has helped protect women and children, expose sexual predators at the UN, NGOs and hiding in orphanages, including working non-stop for six years to help put pedophile Douglas Perlitz behind bars for abusing Haiti boys funder the pretext of providing charitable help and humanitarian aid. (See – Justice for Haiti prevailed: Perlitz going away for a long time.)
Attorney Èzili Dantò is the most prolific international writer and advocate for Haiti and is internationally known as the foremost legal analyst and commentator/writer of the untold counter-colonial-narrative on Haiti. Zili wrote a judicial reform agenda for Haiti, advised and supervised on numerous judicial reform projects while working as legal advisor and international foreign consultant to Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide between 1993-1995. The Red, Black & Moonlight performance series is a musical memoir based on that story and her life and work in the United States.
Dantò has also worked as an international and human rights lawyer and advocate in various capacities, including as the Coordinator of Donors for the Justice Minister in Haiti, working as liaison between Haiti and the international donor community including France, Canada, the United States, Japan, Cuba and Taiwan in 1995. Or, from 2004 to present, by giving voice and creating alternative solutions to criminalization of the poor, unequally applied laws, deportation or indefinite detention to relieve the plight for some Haitians and Haitian refugees in the Caribbean and United States. Partly due to HLLN’s steadfast defense and efforts, US deportations to Haiti were stopped from September 19 to Dec. 9, 2008. And many Haitians, over the years, have gained a greater understanding of their rights as human beings, of their own historical narrative, story of struggle, courage, resistance and democracy to counter the colonial myths, or have been educated as to which countries in the Caribbean and North America that do offer asylum and better policy treatment to Haitian workers and better equal protection under the law.
Since the 2004 coup d’etat/rendition kidnapping of President Aristide that destroyed Haiti’s democracy and put it under UN proxy military occupation for the US, France and Canada, Attorney Dantò, through her work at Èzili’s Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, has been the leading and most trustworthy international voice in Haiti advocacy, human rights work, Haiti news and Haiti news analysis. HLLN’s work is central to those concerned with the welfare of the people of Haiti, Haiti capacity building, sovereignty, institutionalization of the rule of law, and justice and peace without occupation or militarization. HLLN’s defense and advocacy work paved the way for the release of many political prisoners in Haiti including Prime Minister Yvon Neptune; Haitian human rights worker, Annette August; Catholic priest and civil rights worker, Father Gerald Jean Juste and lesser-profiled others who were illegally imprisoned for years after the illegal and foreign-supported ouster of Haiti’s constitutional government.
In addition to educating defense lawyers who are representing Haitians, providing legal strategy consultations and legal defense referrals for Haitians, HLLN creates leverage, higher profile, greater positive media and congressional interests, for a Haitian people and Black nation that is largely denied human rights, equality before the law and international legal protection, though networking and media, educational and People-To-People campaigns. HLLN’s innovative and avanguard work continues, both through traditional and non-traditional means, including alternative media and the internet, to mobilize international attention, creating people-to-people leverage and networks and letter writing campaigns. HLLN pushes for equal treatment for Haitian refugees (in relation to other nationalities similarly situated), permanent stop to all deportations and for the US to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haiti. HLLN advocates, as well, to designate as “political prisoners” many poor victims in Haiti who are dehumanized, arbitrarily and capriciously labeled as mere “gangsters” or “criminals” for political ends and treated disparagingly or illegally detained since 2004, seemingly indefinitely and without trial or any legal fairness whatsoever, so that the US and Haiti’s rabid elites may silence political dissent and objection to financial colonialism – 1% of the Haitian population (approximately 11 families) owning and controlling 90% of the country’s wealth as feudal lords and modern-day overseers for Western corporate barons. HLLN has presented a policy statement to the Obama Team for a new US-Haiti relationship and is currently mobilizing legislative and international people-to-people support for these US-Haiti policy concerns.
Èzili Dantò, as the president of HLLN, runs the Haitian Perspectives on-line journal, the Èzili Dantò Newsletter, the FreeHaitiMovement, the Èzili Dantò Witness Project and a humanitarian program in Haiti called Zili Dlo: Clean water for all – Dlo pwòp pou tout moun. (Photos).
The Ezili Dantò Witness Program documents human, political, civil, cultural and other advocacy rights issues in Haiti, in context and, from a non-colonial perspective, training and supplying ordinary Haitians-with-no-access with computers, cameras, video equipment, satellites for internet access and English translation, so their suppressed voices may be heard direct from Haiti. The programs’ intrepid young Haitian reporters and witnesses’ venture into dangerous areas, document stories that won’t make the mainstream headlines and films and records foreign meddling, waste, atrocities under the UN occupation/NGO shadow government currently in Haiti and take witness statements as they happen.
HLLN’s internet-based newsletter and mailing list services over 3 million readers per post and its original writings are at the leading edge of advocacy work for an indigenous Haitian population working towards decolonization, reclaiming its own historical narrative and deconstructing stereotypical images and perceptions. Èzili Dantò is a regular commentator and news analysis guest on over 22 radio, on HLLN’s web-cast and through various internet programs serving communities in the US, Europe, Africa, Caribbean, Canada, and Haiti.
Èzili’s HLLN is the only Haitian-led pro-democracy voice on the internet, in print and Haitian and alternative radio to be routinely sited by major papers, in books on current political affairs on Haiti, by Congressional members and invited to analyze and present the grass-roots, poor Haitian majority’s viewpoint not often heard in the mainstream media and Western citadels of power.
Ezilidanto’s Spoken Word Dance Theater Company represents artists whose art is a way for them to empower, honor, respect and refer to their own culture for strength, abundance, self-reliance and expanded awareness and to publicize and promote their own ancestor’s great contributions toward world harmony and liberty. The company entertains as well as brings to application, the commitment, community and compassion that was first displayed by the indomitable spirit of Èzili Dantò’s African ancestors – the amalgamated African tribes who became Haitians in the land of the Taino/Arawaks. The artists with Ezilidantò are representatives of the new Africans who created the first Republic in the Western Hemisphere; who wrote the first Constitution to expressly recognized the equality of men and women and of all peoples irrespective of race, color or creed; who were the first to legally abolish slavery (67 years before the US, 47 years before France), and, who created the Kreyòl language and Vodun psychology that first synchronized the promise of the America’s diverse peoples, and, therefore where the first settlers to apply creative and inclusive vision to actualize humane co-habitation, unity and order in the Western Hemisphere. Ms. Dantò’s company works to bring these ancestral visions to the forefront and to promote their application globally through law, dance, drama, poetry and creative writing.
Telling our own story
Rooted in history, recognizing the Haitian-African ancestors as pioneers in the human rights struggle for freedom, Èzili’s HLLN and Èzili’s media and cultural work promotes and extends, at the core of all that it does, 1). the Haitian right to self-defense decreed by the mother-warrior goddess, Èzili Dantò at Bwa Kayiman and pursued through the Haitian revolution that is continuing today due to the Haitian people’s desire to fulfill their divine right to self-determination and economic democracy; 2). the Bwa Kayiman Call and Prophecy and 3). the Three Ideals of Haiti’s founding father, Jean Jacques Dessalines. To push back and STOP Dessalines’ revolution is the reason for all the imperialist interventions in Haiti since Haiti’s independence.
Èzili’s HLLN is here and calls the Island of Ayiti by its name, not Hispaniola (Little Spain!) – but Ayiti (Haiti)! Se pa kado blan yo te fè nou. Se san zansèt nou yo ki te koule. (Go to: Dessalines ideal #2 – What’s in a name: What Ayiti Calls Forth?).
Essentially Èzili’s HLLN and Èzili’s cultural workshops, bring to the fore that the idea of borders and limits based on race, culture, gender, ethnicity, religion and the traditional nation-state borders and limits areobsolete in this world of globalization and instant people-to-people communication. For instance, Haitians in the Diaspora have the entire world as their oyster and ought to use that passport to market Haiti and its grand culture that is so maligned. The Haitian legacy is that of Pan-Americanism and Pan-Africanism.
Èzili’s HLLN advocates that the people of the Americas must push for ONE American Hemispheric passport. HLLN is the first to articulates this push of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo, and to promote this equitable and just principle for starting to repair centuries of US/Euro financial colonialism, forced assimilation, ethnocide, support for brutal dictatorships, unequal treatment, structural violence and the structural containment-in-poverty of the Black, Brown and indigenous masses in the Americas.