“Privilege is something I process and I check myself with frequently all the time,” Haitian-American hip-hop artist Sol says as he reflects on growing up in America with his family living in Haiti. “Even going there. Going, and being able to leave at my own will, is something that some of my family members are not able to do. My mom sacrificed a lot to be able to leave and for me to be able to be in the position that I’m in.”
Back in 2010, after a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake ravaged Haiti, Sol organized a relief show at Neumos to benefit the country’s people. On November 17 the Seattle-born rapper will again bring a talented lineup of local artists to Neumos for a benefit concert. This time, the goal is to rebuild schools in Abricots that were decimated in last month’s Hurricane Matthew, a community Sol describes as “the poorest part of the poorest country in the world.”
The 10 schools that were destroyed are the life work of Sol’s aunt, Madame Michaelle de Verteuil. “My eldest aunt, who is my closest mentor, moved back to Haiti from Montreal in the ’70s,” he says. “She moved to a village in the southwest with my grandfather and her husband. There were no schools out there at the time, and she started one. She dedicated her life to education, literacy, and fighting poverty. Forty-one years later she now has 10 schools. She’s my hero.”
Madame Verteuil is the founder of Friends of Paradis des Indiens, an organization dedicated to bringing education to one of Haiti’s most isolated regions. The schools provided uniforms and shoes, as well as free lunch, to children who otherwise would have no access to education. “When she started her first school in Haiti, it was actually the law that you had to be able to afford a school uniform to attend school, as well as pass a preliminary French exam,” Sol explains. “Although French was the official language at the time, most Haitians didn’t speak French, they spoke Haitian Creole, and if your parents didn’t go to school they didn’t learn French, and if they didn’t know, how could their kids know?”
Sol, whose mother left Port-au-Prince at 24 to study as an undergrad in Puerto Rico before going to the University of Washington to get her master’s degree, has a deep understanding of the power education can hold. ”Education,” Sol says, “is how you break the cycle of extreme poverty.” Sol Haiti Relief Show with the Physics, Gifted Gab, Ariana DeBoo. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., neumos.com. $25. 8 p.m. Thurs., Nov. 17. All proceeds go to Foundation Paradis des Indiens.