When Hurricane Irma churned its dangerous course through the Caribbean this past week, Beverly Knight Sullivan’s thoughts — as they have in previous catastrophes — turned to Haiti.
This time, for once, the impoverished island nation dodged a bullet.
But for Beverly, the wife of Washington Mayor John Fox Sullivan, the Category 5 hurricane, like the catastrophic earthquake that leveled much of Haiti several years ago, has opened up a window for discussion about a third-world country that is near and dear to her heart.
After all, Beverly and John visited Haiti when they were first “dating” back in the 1970s. Since then, she’s been back to the island more than 30 times. And she always brings home art.
Photos by Luke Christopher
“The paintings beckoned ‘Come to us,’ and we went,” Beverly recalls this week at her Washington home, its walls filled, in some cases from floor to ceiling, with every imaginable style of Haitian art.
“About 200 paintings and about 50 objects,” she counts. “We’ve put together an incredible collection of Haitian art that we’ve collected for over 40 years. And we love people to come and see it.”
Now is that chance. Beverly and John and “Voices and Action for Haiti” are inviting all who are interested to join them in a “Conversation About Haiti” at their home from 6:30 to 8:30 pm on Friday, Sept. 29. The conversation is a free event.
“We hope sharing our love of Haiti and its people will encourage others to become interested in this impoverished but culturally rich nation,” Beverly explains.
With the Sullivans’ extensive collection of art as a backdrop, the conversation will include a discussion of both Haitian art and culture led by Toni Monnin, who has operated Monnin Art Gallery in Haiti for the last 40 years.
Guests will also have the opportunity to meet James Duracin, executive director of Voix et Actions, who is visiting from Haiti. Duracin will speak about programs of his organization that seek to provide the men and women of Haiti the means to improve their lives.
And Rappahannock’s own John O’Malley Burns, of Goat Hill Farm, who grew up in Haiti during the 1950s and returned and worked there for 22 years as an agricultural development agent, will also be present to share his experiences.
“Here’s a fun tidbit,” adds Beverly. “There’s a fabulous number of paintings in our hallway that we bought from John Burns’ mother in Haiti in the 1980s. So here’s the small world in which we live.”
Beverages and light refreshments will be provided during the discussion. “It’s going to be very casual,” Beverly stresses. “We’ll have fun, i.e. Haitian rum punch.”
Whether any voodoo spirits will be on hand remains to be seen.