About Us / Women of Hayti
Meet the women of Hayti 2020. Recognizing the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage made possible in part by contributions of women of color and we celebrate an historic election year with Kamala Harris becoming the first woman of color to serve as Vice President of the United States. We honor those champions of freedom and civil rights, from Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth to Fannie Lou Hamer and Shirley Chisholm, and all of the beautiful, strong women upon whose shoulders we stand today in unity and in the spirit of Hayti.
Left to right:
Melody Little – Hayti Director of Operations – Melody is a by-the-numbers professional who manages Hayti’s daily financial operations. Her diligence has enabled Program Director Quentin Talley to develop virtual and live streamed events that have been presented since April when the Center closed due to COVID-19. Under Melody’s fiscal management many local artists have been engaged and compensated, and the public has been able to stay connected with Hayti. She provides thorough financial reports for Hayti’s treasurer, Cynthia Carter, and for the full board. She also works closely with our accountant in preparation for the foundation’s annual audit reports. In addition to her work as Hayti’s chief financial officer, she is Hayti’s human resources manager and liaison to our numerous service providers. Outside of Hayti, Melody enjoys DYI home projects, is a devoted mother of three sons, and loves being “Ma-Mel” to her two young grandchildren. She has a great sense of humor, which has been a source of strength amidst the challenges of life in 2020.
WHY HAYTI? Why NOT Hayti? We love this place!
Angel Iset Dozier – Hayti’s Social Media/Marketing Manager – Angel is an activist, creative, educator and founder of Be Connected Durham, a community initiative. Angel has helped keep the community engaged with Hayti since it closed to the public in March. Her posts on facebook, twitter and Instagram, and the newsletter that she distributes weekly, are informative and reflect her artistic flair. Angel loves hip hop film and music and is a world languages instructor and curriculum specialist within public, private and Montessori school systems. Her interdisciplinary training as a Spanish/STEM instructor informs her work designing curricular programming and marketing/communications or arts programming curators.
WHY HAYTI? Because Hayti is our opportunity to rebuild the legacy with compound interest!
Aidil Ortiz – Chair of Hayti’s Board of Directors. She is an independent consultant based in Durham, with 20 years of experience in non-profit work. She is committed to community organizing, facilitation and event planning, and is fluent in Spanish. Aidil has cultivated over 15 years of experience working with youth and young adults in various settings, particularly through her work with YES!, an organization that she co-founded. She has succeeded in efforts from the local to the national level largely due to her commitment to deep listening and asking good questions. Her interest in understanding the story is reinforced by her Master’s in Counseling and Bachelor’s in Journalism and Mass Communication degrees from NCCU and UNC-Chapel Hill respectively. Aidil loves the arts and is committed to making democracy work. She is unapologetic in her efforts to lift up the community. She is also an avid biker.
WHY HAYTI? Hayti is vital to our community in so many ways and is the major hub for black cultural arts in Durham. We have to show our support so that the Center will be restored to its early splendor outside as well as inside as quality programs continue to be presented.
Multazem (Multy) Oliver – Hayti’s intern since the summer. She is a senior at Duke University studying Public Policy, Human Rights and Theater Studies, areas that tie in with her work as a member of Team Hayti. Multy is a core part of our Programming and Communications team. Her service and leadership experience, and arts experience and musical theater training have brought great insight. Her work with Hayti has furthered her appreciation for having culturally relevant, creative outlets for black communities, and she cannot wait to continue advocating for Hayti and representation in the arts after she graduates!
WHY HAYTI? Hayti gives back to communities that deserve to be celebrated!
Robin Emmons – As Hayti’s Development Manager, Robin enjoys a shared responsibility in guarding the cultural cannon of Hayti with the love, creativity and fierceness unique to the majesty of Black femininity. Robin moved to Durham in 2019 and began planting roots. She heard of and made her way to the Center and recalls that Hayti’s Black film, Black poetry, Black dance, Black art, and Black history packaged itself in a beautiful tapestry that called to her. She immersed herself in one of so few spaces purposely codified as Black, and in July 2020 joined the dynamic team of women shaded in every gorgeous tone that represents the rich soil of the earth. Along with a Program Director and Board of Directors, Robin joins the Women of Hayti in the tradition of Black women throughout time. She loves to plant, and to see things grow.
WHY HAYTI? Hayti is the closest reality to Wakanda we can experience, and to that I say with arms crossed against my chest: Wakanda Forever!!!
Sandra Gentry – Sandra is Hayti’s part-time Administrative Support, and loves growing in her role each day. She provides invaluable assistance to the team, from managing Hayti’s database of funders and donors to maintaining a schedule for the Executive Director to recording minutes from team meetings to responding to telephone inquiries. Sandra is committed to faith as a member of Immanuel Temple Seventh Day Adventist Church; to family, especially her three daughters and two granddaughters; to finances having had an independent Avon business for over 20 years and working as church secretary at St. Paul African Methodist Church (AME) in Chapel Hill for over 22 years; and community, directing the Soup Kitchen at Immanuel and blessing so many families every week with abundant, healthy food choices. Sandra has set a personal goal to be more health conscious, and practices a regimen of healthy eating and regular exercise.
WHY HAYTI? I love that Hayti keeps alive memories from the past. I often reminisce about my late husband and his stories about things he and his family did at Hayti. People are still able to participate in activities through technology despite the pandemic, which is great. I love that Hayti has been able to reimagine and adapt to our need for the arts in the current climate!
Lana Garland – Lana is Director of the Hayti Heritage Film Festival, an annual multi-day event that lifts up black southern film and filmmakers. She has worked as a filmmaker, creative director, writer/producer, curator and educator in television and film in the U.S., Europe and Africa. She has created content for HBO, BET, PBS and ESPN in America, and TV2 in Denmark. Lana’s creative practice centers on cultural memory restoration in the lives of African Americans. She is a Fulbright Specialist, having taught at Makerere University in Uganda. She has been commissioned to make films for multimedia live performances such as “Blues Women” which presents the female progenitors of blues music. Lana is producing a documentary, “The Passing On,” about the waning presence of Black funeral homes in America. She is a member of the North Carolina Governor’s Advisory Council on Film, Television and Digital Streaming. Lana enjoys teaching Zumba classes and spending time with family, friends and two precocious cats.
WHY HAYTI? Hayti allows me to be my best self, allowing for the expansion of creativity, community and culture.
Aya Shabu – Aya developed a walking, performance-based tour of the Hayti community and her company, Whistle-Stop Tours, is in much demand. She also, along with her husband Tele, produce the annual Kwanzaa celebration at Hayti. Named for her late father Steven and paternal grandmother Fern, Aya Shabu began her journey as Stephanie Fern Hope. From humble beginnings she began her dance training under her maternal grandfather, mastering the “camel walk” and calypson’s “wine”. Known as “the girl with the red sneakers” Aya was lighting up the soccer field, outrunning and outscoring the league. Receiving the Michael Jordan Sweet Shot Award in honor of her birthday twin only fueled her birthright for flight! With courage, speed and a desire for justice, Aya tackled gender inequality on an all-boys football team head-on. High school basketball coach Laura Lasa unleashed the beast in Aya, demanding that she hit the floor in order to recover the ball and a future of seemingly impossible goals. From the Adinkra arsenal she chose the name “Aya” which means I will not fear. She and her superhero family are currently combating home renovation – again.
WHY HAYTI? Hayti is a haven, a celebration of who we are, a reminder of whose we are, and the promise that our liberation is inevitable.
Angela Lee – Executive Director of Hayti, a position she has held since 2013. Her affinity for the arts began at age 5 with her first tap dance lesson. She has worked with and served on boards of non-profits, is a sports fan and firmly believes that sports are an art form. Angela loves stories, especially family stories passed down by the elders. Like family stories, Hayti stories reflect experiences that shaped lives, and these stories must be preserved in order to deepen our understanding of the past and present, and to guide our vision for the future. Angela is committed to realizing the vision of a sustained Hayti that is supported by staff and board, partners and collaborators, donors and funders, volunteers, artists and the community. She currently is a member of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Board and Durham’s Cultural Advisory Board and is a trustee at her church. Angela is a staunch advocate for the arts, and for local artists of color. She likes to stay active, and recently hiked a portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. She is a student of Krav Maga, an Israeli based self-defense discipline, co-instructs her church’s fitness class. Angela loves her family, a good book or movie, and the color purple!
WHY HAYTI? The arts are vital to our mental and physical well-being. The vision of those who established Hayti in 1975 has enabled us to continue telling our stories through performing and visual arts programs. It is our charge to reimagine Hayti in today’s world so that we can continue telling our stories – and creating new ones – today, tomorrow, and for generations to come.