Prestigious Haitian Music Award still alive despite members breakup;
Ismanie, Erica and Natacha vow to continue it as a tradition
April 16, 2017 | 5h12PM ET
PLANTATION, FL -- Ismanie Exumé had been dreaming for a long time about organizing a Haitian Music Award. When former business partner Kerby Leveillé asked her what she was up to after not seeing her (Ismanie) for a while in the compas industry environment as she used to promote big events, her answer was, "I am not interested in doing bal (Haitian night) anymore. The only thing I have been thinking about is organizing a 'Haitian Music award." She recounted the conversation she had with Leveillé during a press conference held last Friday, April 7, at La Renaissance Hotel in Plantation, FL, to clarify the recent breakup that occurred between her, two other women and Leveillé.
According to Ismanie, since Leveillé knew how capable she is when it comes to organizing successful Haitian parties, he encouraged her to go for it and pledged full support. That was in early 2016. The now 'former friends' set the first edition for January 6, 2017. Ismanie said, she trusted Leveillé since she knew him for a little while. For the female promoter, Leveillé represented an ideal partner who could help her organize the prestigious event. She was largely open to invest in the project by providing Leveillé with the necessary funds to start.
She continued to say that Leveillé quickly shadowed her and took over the event as his own. Continuing to tell her side of the story behind the breakup, Ismanie revealed that Leveillé had later contacted two other female partners, Michena Erika Henry and Natache Clerger, to be part of the team. She then said it was only less than one week prior to the event that the all three women got to know each other as members of the Prestigious Haitian Music Award Association. And it was during a conversation among them that they realized they were all fooled by Mr. Leveillé, whom is well-known in Miami's Haitian Music Industry and the broadcasting community.
Not happy with the way Mr. Leveillé conducts business, the three women put their resources together and did their best to save the event. Ismanie, Natacha and Erika took the last minute challenge by paying the Miramar Cultural Center (they thought the event location was already paid in full by Kerby Leveillé because Natacha had sent him the money). At the end, the event happened, but not the way all the three women expected. Ismanie noted that Mr. Leveillé who was nowhere to be found that Saturday, showed up at the event more than one hour after it started.
Kerby Leveillé, an 'untruthful person'?
The three women had a lot to say about how Mr. Leveillé fooled them. According to Ismanie Exumé, Natacha Clergé and Erica Henry, Leveillé used the money allocated to the preparation of the event for his personal needs. Ms. Clerger particularly stated that she invested $31,000.00 in total in the event and has receipts to back up her statement.
"Imagine that two days prior to the event, I called two artists who were nominated and I was shocked to learn that both of them were not aware of the event ; and Mr. Leveillé made me believe that they already knew about it," said Erica, a Jacksonville resident who recounted that she made eight trips from Jacksonville to Miami to come meet with Leveillé prior the event's date.
"One month before the event, I sent the money to pay the full balance due on Miramar Cultural Center. We were shocked to learn one day prior to the event that we did not have the place because the city had only received the $500 deposit to reserve the theater," said Natacha Clerger. She later added that was her own mistake, reminded of the quote, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Clerger told the audience that she had made a bad business decision with Leveillé back in 2005.
"You can't do business with an untruthful person," said Ms. Ismanie Exumé. "I spoke about the music award with Kerby Leveillé on December 14, 2015, when I told him what I felt was missing in the community. I explained to him what Cinthia Blanc (former promoter of a now defunct Haitian Music award) used to organize for the Haitian artists. He called me months later to tell me that he found a person (Erika) whom we could team up with to put the show together. But Leveillé lied to both of us for a long period of time. For example, Erika and I didn't know that Natacha Clerger was part of the team. It was only two days (Thursday January 5) prior to the event, when she (Natacha) came from Boston, that we (Ismanie and Erika) surprisingly came to be aware of Natacha's big investment as a member. When we all confronted Mr. Leveillé, he just basically walked away. Mr. Leveillé didn't care if the event occurred or not. When we (Ismanie, Natacha, Erika) thought about all the effort and money we already invested in that event, we decided to do all we could in order to make it happen. Yes, it was not a big success, but we delivered."
Moving forward without Leveillé
Looking extremely confident in the future of the event, the three women seem to be serious. They are ready to move forward with the annual event, but without Mr. Leveillé. Knowing their capabilities and limits, especially communication limits, they recently joined forces with a couple of well-known personalities, included JS Montreal and Jerson Joseph (from WSRH 1580 AM) in the media sector to help them organize the second annual of the event set for Saturday, January 7, 2018 at the Miramar Cultural Center.
At the press conference, the three female partners shared with the media copies of the new Florida registered organization entitled, "Prestigious Haitian Music Entertainment LLC" and the contract for Miramar Cultural Center. The organization already launched a website WWW.PRESTIGIOUSHMA.COM where music fans and others will be able to vote for their favorite artists and groups. Michena Erika Henry, Ismanie Exume and Natacha Clerger are the authorized persons to manage the LLC.
Event management backgrounds
Each one of the female members stated that they have a solid background in different levels of event management. Ismanie Exume was very active in the past in promoting and organizing 'Haitian bal'. She had worked closely with multiple Haitian compas bands, such as Djakout Mizik (known today as Djakout #1) and Zenglen.
Erica Henry is well-known in the educational sector in Tallahassee (Florida). She has worked for two years (2009-2011) at Cumulus Radio as an Event Technician where part of her assignments was to travel to different events in the city. She later joined Radio Puissance Inter, a Haitian radio station in Jacksonville as Office Manager (2014-2015) where she also hosted a popular weekly show, 'Détente Tropical' on Friday afternoon. She has been an Administrative Assistant at American Homes 4 Rent since 2012, its Jacksonville branch.
Natacha Clerger is an event planner with twenty four years of experience specializing in Catering, Cake Decorating , Event Coordination, Weddings, Birthday Parties, and Seminars. Even though she studied Public Relations and Sales Marketing in the Dominican Republic, after moving to France she went back to school to study decorating. Ms. Clerger lives in Boston, Massachusetts, and is the owner of two businesses: Full Color Event Planning & Party Rental, and Saveur et Couleur Catering. Passionate about music, she stated that she used to write music for local Haitian artists. Unfortunately, she claims they did not give her the credit she deserved as a poet, except singer-guitarist Ralph Conde who did for a song registered on a Nu-Look album. Natacha also has a background in the media field. She co-hosted a show with well-known journalist Pierre Nazon Beaulière on Radio Mega 1700 AM during the five years she lived in South Florida.
The spirit of the three women seems strong as they spoke with confidence during the 90-minute press conference. They took questions from members of the media, including Pierre Nazon Beaulière, Marc Edner Jeudi, Guylène Berry and Bèl Tifi.
Answering a question from Nènè Jeudi, Ismanie Exume said one of the main reasons they organized the press conference is because they wanted to "set the record straight" after speculation about the Haitian Music Award's future. She added she personally wanted to quash rumors about the event not going to happen anymore, saying, "We want to let the media know that Kerby Leveillé is not part of the organization and the three females are moving forward in good faith and spirit with the annual event."
Erica Henry said they plan to advertise the event starting next month until the first week of January 2018. She also voiced her thanks for the support she received from many people in the communication field, especially DJ Gousse (Master of Ceremony) with whom, she said, she had the pleasure to work with at the first edition.
Backing up Erica's statement, Ismanie added that the new team would be seen at many big upcoming Haitian events, such as Haitian Compas Festival (Miami) and Madame Gougousse Haiti Cup final (North Miami). They also plan to go to Montreal Compas Festival to promote the music award.
Speaking with one voice, Ismanie Exumé, Erica Henry and Natacha Clergé hope that the whole community will embrace the event. "It is time to make the artists, musicians, producers, promoters, and other members of the Haitian Music Industry feel that they are valuable. We are confident that 'The Prestigious Haitian Music Award' will successfully make its way into history," concluded Erica Henry.
Leveillé ready to counterattack
On the other side of this situation, Mr. Kerby Leveillé refuted the various accusations made against him. When contacted by Le Floridien for his side of the story, Mr Leveillé said since his lawyer is working on his case, he is not allowed to talk. All he can say now is that he would see the three female members in court. However, Mr. Leveillé has a little to say about each of his former collaborators.
"I am the one who incorporated the organization Prestigious Haitian Music Association, Inc. and I am the only member. I hired Ms. Erica Henry as my assistant. Her job was to call and make follow-up with the nominees. She has not spent a dime. Since I am a busy person, I gave her the title of Vice-President and she had zero percent of the company share. She is the girlfriend of a friend of mine who lives in Jacksonville, and from what I know, was not working at that time, so I invited her to be part of the organization," said Leveillé.
"Natacha Clerge invested close to $16,000.00 (sixteen thousand dollars). However, it was a boyfriend-girlfriend affair. Natacha and I had a longtime love relationship. As my girlfriend, she came onboard to help her partner/man. Things went bad, when one night while during a conversation she asked me to place one of her friend-artist as the winner in a category, and I rejected the proposition.
"As for Ismanie, she approached me and offered her help. My first contact with her about the event was on the first week of November, 2016. I have documents to prove all I'm saying. Ismanie spent a total of $2,370.00 [ $1,500 on November 4th, $500 on December 10 and another $370 she paid to a company located on 125 Street in North Miami for some plaques]. I gave her 40 tickets, which she sold at $75 each, and she kept the money. Plus she collected money from two sponsors without my knowledge," added Mr. Leveillé.
Mr. Leveillé concluded by saying, "Kerby Leveillé is an honest man, well-known in the Haitian music industry. All they have said about me are false. I do not 'steal' money whatsoever. I think it is important to point out that while I was in Haiti for the coverage of the carnival, as the Vice-President, Erica Henry illegally dissolved the corporation for the Prestigious Haitian Music Association, which I had to reinstate on March 29, 2017. Proof that I am the sole member of that corporation, recently the three women have created a new corporation to mislead people about the event. I can tell that my accountant has all the receipts for the expenses made for the event and legal action will be taken against them very soon."