People locally are continuing to find ways to help victims of the earthquake in Haiti. The latest efforts to raise money and awareness center on literature and art.

Laurie Beasley, owner of Ridge Art in Oak Park’s arts district, will be hosting a book signing next week in honor of Women’s History Month.

“It started off as a book signing and it’s becoming quite the event,” Beasley says of the gathering at her gallery on Friday night, March 19, over Suburban Promised Land.

The book, which traces the history of black people in Chicago’s western suburbs, represents a 10-year effort between Soweto West Press and the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest. It was written by Stan West, Peggy Tuck Sinko, Frank Lipo and Yves Hughes Jr.

“The black community was basically firebombed out of Oak Park,” Beasley says, referring to the Mt. Carmel Church fire 80 years ago on what is now Westgate Street. “It’s important for Oak Parkers to read,” she adds.

At the book signing and discussion will be local Haitian-American women Michelle Darang-Coleman, a nurse, and Florence Vincent, a seamstress and mother of Marjorie Vincent, who is an ORPF alum and was Miss America 1991.

Ridge Art specializes in Haitian art and Beasley frequently travels to Haiti. She will be donating her proceeds of the book sales to Ciné Institute, a film school in Jacmel, Haiti.

“Haiti is becoming a test for the world. We as Americans owe them a lot,” Beasley says. Her point is that, at the beginning of the 19th century, a slave uprising in Haiti persuaded Napoleon to sell France’s Louisiana territory to the U.S.

Over on Lake Street in River Forest, a portion of sales from a shop’s window display are going to help Haiti.

Peter Kingston, a longtime Oak Park resident, owns Tulipia Floral Design at 7617 Lake St. in River Forest.

Kingston’s current display is an array of papier-mâché birds made in Haiti. He says he’ll be donating 10 percent of Tulipia’s profits on the birds to the American Red Cross.

“Everyone says they love them, whether it’s one bird or a whole flock,” Kingston says of the response he’s gotten to the display.

The birds come in bright bold colors and are made with low-volatile organic compounds paint.

“I fell in love with the birds. They’re very green-friendly, and then I found out they were from Haiti,” Kingston says. “Each purchase I made already benefits someone in Haiti. We can do something in addition by donating.”

If you go

  • Book signing for Suburban Promised Land
  • 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 19
  • Ridge Art
  • 21 Harrison, Oak Park

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