Roxane D'Orléans Juste
Born Yves François Lubin (1957-1994) in Haiti, Assotto Saint gained recognition in New York Theatre at the onset of the AIDS pandemic for his sexually explicit brand of radical poetry and choreographed plays. The openly gay man, former dancer and self-proclaimed “low-life bitch” lisped and pranced as he commandeered the page, the stage, radio stations and marches to denounce psychological and physical violence on Black bodies brought on by HIV/AIDS, homophobia and anti-Black/Haitian sentiments. Despite his relevance at the peak of his popularity, Saint’s works are now rarely performed. Assotto’s Child at the Altar rekindles public memory of the activist by connecting his legacy to contemporary queer Haitian and African-American social and cultural histories. The project will simulate a Haitian Vodou rite of reclamation where practitioners resume communication with an ancestor following a requisite mourning and disconnection period that compels the dead to transition to the realm of the Invisibles. The ritual pays homage to ancestral experiences, as a fount of knowledge and a road map for future generations. Prayers, songs, dances, and symbolic drawings enliven the celebration of memory and intergenerational transfer of culture.