Behind-the-Scenes of the Hayti Heritage Center

The mission of the Hayti Heritage Center, named for its historic Black neighborhood home, is to promote “cultural understanding through events, activities and programs that preserve the heritage and embrace the experiences of African Americans.” Oliver received funding for her internship through the Leadership and Arts Policy Internship Grant, administered by Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy’s Hart Leadership Program.

“We had no idea that Multy Oliver would be such a great fit when we first learned of this internship opportunity,” shared Executive Director Angela Lee. “Such a good fit, in fact, that we extended her time with us through the end of the school year. Multy has contributed to the Hayti team with her creative ideas, her attention to detail, and her ability to complete tasks. She also has a beautiful spirit and lights up a room with her smile.”

The 27th-annual Hayti Heritage Film Festival (HHFF) begins Mar 1 and is centered around the theme “The Hero’s Journey.” HHFF is one of the nation’s longest-running Black film festivals, and this year it will feature both new and veteran artists, panel discussions with industry experts, select drive-in events, and virtual live performances. Duke University is sponsoring HHFF online, together with other community supporters.

The Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) is sponsoring a panel on Mar 4, Skinfolk: Accountability in Film to the Black Community, moderated by Natalie Bullock Brown, producer and strategist for Working Films’ StoryShift initiative. “Having learned so much from Natalie Bullock Brown and Working Films about accountability in storytelling, we are grateful for the opportunity to support the Skinfolk panel and the filmmakers it brings together for deep and thoughtful conversation,” shared Wesley Hogan, CDS director. “We are proud to be a sponsor of the Hayti Heritage Film Festival and to support its phenomenal leader, Lana Garland.”

In honor of the upcoming Hayti Heritage Film Festival, Multy Oliver ’21 shares her experience interning with the Hayti Heritage Center.

Learn More About HHFF 2021

Designed by Multy Oliver.

Multy Oliver ’21

The Hayti Heritage Center is a family. The organization’s mission of celebrating African American art and culture through their programming rings true with every individual who works with Hayti. The Hayti family makes me feel so empowered and comfortable in my work relationships. I’m surrounded by individuals who look like me and share my values for uplifting minority communities through arts and culture, and it’s incredibly refreshing.

“I’m surrounded by individuals who look like me and share my values for uplifting minority communities through arts and culture, and it’s incredibly refreshing.”

I was immediately drawn to Hayti because of the many Black women in leadership positions. Angela Lee, the executive director, and Melody Little, the director of operations, welcomed me with open arms to be their intern this past summer. They were struggling with public engagement during quarantine, but that didn’t shake their spirit and they were always kind and encouraging throughout all of the projects we worked on together.

Part of my job was to help Angela and Melody keep the momentum of the year going with virtual activity packets for families and other quarantine-friendly ways to support the Hayti community while we grappled with the drastic changes. I helped create graphics for virtual events and brainstormed new programs to add to our rotation. We were able to offer virtual dance classes, fitness classes, and even a quilting workshop. The creative minds at the heart of this organization are determined to give a platform to the artists of this community.

The women of Hayti Hayti Heritage Center in 2020. Photo courtesy of Multy Oliver.
Designed by Multy Oliver. Alyah Baker is MFA in Dance student at Duke.

Throughout my time with Hayti, I’ve learned how to foster community within an organization while maintaining efficient and dedicated leadership. It takes a lot of simultaneous moving parts to run a non-profit organization that provides a strong supportive space for the public. The metaphor about how ducks seem so calm and serene as they glide across ponds while their feet paddle ferociously under the water is very fitting for this organization. Everyone always gives 110% to accomplish our goals as an organization. Each person works tirelessly on many different tasks, while outwardly expressing seamless ease.

“I love knowing that I will always have a place at Hayti.”

I’ve also had the privilege of working closely with Lana Garland who is our film festival head. Yet another strong Black woman who heads this team with grace and professionalism. I’ve learned so much about the importance of a unified platform for press releases, social media posts and all promotional material. I really appreciated how willing Lana and Angel Iset-Dozier, our communications manager, were to include me in their process and encourage my ideas for content. I was always met with resounding support or constructive criticism from their expertise that I will continue to benefit from.

I love knowing that I will always have a place at Hayti. I went from being unfamiliar with the organization and its community impact to having the absolute privilege of working closely with almost every member of our team to publicize events, create graphics, and get Durham excited about what African American art and culture has to offer. I know that even if I am no longer an employee at Hayti, I will always be welcome as part of the Hayti family.

Multy Oliver, Hayti Heritage Center communications and programs assistant, is a senior at Duke University from St. Petersburg, Florida majoring in Public Policy with a minor in Theater Studies and a certificate in Human Rights. Oliver hopes to continue advocating for the importance of arts education and the rights of minority communities.

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