KOSANBA Executive Board
President (2021–2024): Iyalochá & Madre Nkisi Dr. Yanique Hume
Dr. Yanique Hume is an Associate Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. She is a multifaceted scholar, priestess, dancer, and choreographer with research expertise and specialization in the religious and performance cultures of the African Diaspora. Operating from the disciplines of cultural studies, Africana religious studies and performance studies, Dr. Hume’s research experience and teaching areas include the festive and sacred arts, Caribbean cultural thought, popular culture, migration, and diasporic identities. Dr. Hume is the co-editor of three volumes, Caribbean Cultural Thought: From Plantation to Diaspora (2013); Caribbean Popular Culture: Power, Politics, and Performance (2016); Passages and Afterworlds: Anthropological Perspectives on Death in the Caribbean (2018). Her creative practice extends over 30 years working across the African diaspora with companies such as L’ACADCO: A United Caribbean Dance Force, the National Dance Theater Company of Jamaica, and Danza Caribe of Cuba. She continues to hold international workshops on the sacred and popular dances of the Caribbean and is part of an African Diaspora dance project known as Afro-Feminist Performance Routes.
Vice President (2021–2024): Manbo Dr. Charlene Désir
Dr. Charlene Désir is a professor at Nova Southeastern University. She received her doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Désir’s academic interest is in the social, psychological, and spiritual adjustment of young adults, specifically psycho-social trauma, and how psychosocial issues affect social, cognitive, identity, and spiritual development. Dr. Désir has presented various papers on the topic of Haitian and Diaspora youths' adjustment to the US. She has also published and created programs on the topic of immigrant identity, spirituality, and becoming a reflective researcher. Dr. Désir founded the Empowerment Network (TEN), Global, a non-profit that supports the personal, spiritual, and academic development of women and students in Haiti and the US. Presently she is the co-vice president of Kosanba, an academic association on the study of Haitian Vodou & PanAfrican Religions, and an initiated, member of Sosyete Nago Vodou Community. She was the 2012 president of the Haitian Studies Association and a gubernatorial appointee to the Children’s Services Council in Broward County, FL. Dr. Désir has worked as a school psychologist, K-12 school counselor, school administrator, academic advisor, healer and professor.
Vice President (2021–2024): Manbo Dr. Kyrah Malika Daniels
Dr. Kyrah Malika Daniels is Assistant Professor of African American Studies at Emory University. Her research interests include Africana religions, sacred arts and material culture, race and religion, and ritual healing traditions in the Black Atlantic world. Daniels’ first book (Art of the Healing Gods, under review) is a comparative religion project that examines sacred art objects used in Haitian and Congolese healing ceremonies. Following the Haitian earthquake of 2010, she worked in St. Raphael with Lakou Soley Academic and Cultural Arts Center, a grassroots organization that develops arts-based pedagogy. Her work has been published in the Journal of Africana Religions, the Journal of Haitian Studies, and the Journal for the American Academy of Religion. Daniels serves as a Leadership Council Member for the African and Diasporic Religious Studies Association (ADRSA). She completed her B.A. in Africana Studies at Stanford University, and received her M.A. in Religion and her Ph.D. in African & African American Studies at Harvard University.
Secretary (2022–2025): Iyanifá & Asojú Èsìn ati Àsà Yorùbá Michelle Ajisebo McElwaine Abimbola
Michelle Ajisebo McElwaine Abimbola is an interdisciplinary scholar researching Indigenous Africana narratives from human and Spirit worlds. She is an educator, teacher trainer, and facilitator who works toward educational reparations for the colonial project of “school”. She was instrumental in UNESCO’s 2007 Proclamation of the Ifá Divination System as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, which caused Michelle Ajisebo and Wande Abimbola to establish the Ifá Heritage Institute of Nigeria. The king and progenitor of the Yorùbá people, Ọọnirìṣà, Àrólé Odùduwa, Aláyélúwà Ọba Okùnadé Ṣíjúwadé, Olúbùṣe II, subsequently installed her as Asojú Èsìn ati Àsà Yorùbá, or Asojú Oòdúwà, Ambassador of Yorùbá Religion and Culture. Michelle Ajisebo is currently a Teaching Fellow in African & African Diaspora Studies and a Ph.D. candidate in Curriculum & Instruction at Boston College. She also serves as Director of English Language Education for a public school district. Most importantly, she was recently made whole by the birth of her first grandchild.
Executive Director (1997–present): Dr. Claudine Michel
Claudine Michel served for many years as Director of the Center for Black Studies Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she was also Professor of Black Studies and Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs. She received a BA in Education from the École Normale Supérieure; studied at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, Université d’État d’Haïti; and earned a PhD in International Education from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research has appeared in many scholarly venues and she is the author and co-editor of a number of volumes on education, Black studies, and Haitian Vodou. Her current work reconceptualizes alternative modes of knowledge production and models of pedagogical interventions grounded in both education and religion. She is a former President of the Haitian Studies Association and the long-time editor of the only peer-reviewed journal on Haiti, the Journal of Haitian Studies, published at UCSB for the Haitian Studies Association. Dr. Michel is founding member of KOSANBA, A Scholarly Association for the Studies of Haitian Vodou and Culture and a founding editor of Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies, both housed at UCSB. After the 2010 earthquake, she served as consultant for Direct Relief International on its Haiti community projects and is a member of the Haiti Soleil Board of Directors. Recent awards include an excellence and service award from the Haitian Studies Association and the prestigious Jean-Price Mars Medal from the Faculté d’Ethnologie, Université d’État d’Haïti.
KOSANBA Board Members
President Emerita (2021–2024): Dr. LeGrace Benson
LeGrace Benson currently directs the Arts of Haiti Research Project and is Associate Editor of the Journal of Haitian Studies. Professor emerita from the State University of New York, she holds a PhD from Cornell University and an MFA from the University of Georgia; she also studied at Long Island University (film production) and at the Episcopal Divinity School of Philadelphia. She has held faculty positions at Cornell, Wells College, SUNY-Empire State College, SUNY-Cortland, and Ithaca College. For the Faculté d’Education Regina Assumpta (FERA) in Cap-Haïtien, she taught Art History and English as a Second Language. In 2003–2004 she was a Cornell Civic Fellow, and in 2005–2006 a Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for Black Studies Research, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her work includes documentary films and numerous publications for scholarly journals, chapters in edited books, and art exhibition texts. She recently published Arts and Religions of Haiti: How the Sun Illuminates under Cover of Darkness (2014).
Dr. Rachel Cantave (2021–2024)
Rachel Cantave is an assistant professor of International Affairs at Skidmore College. She is also co-founder of TheEbonyTower.com and co-producer of the documentary Chèche Lavi, a film documenting the experiences of Haitian migrants at the Tijuana, Mexico border. Her research explores the relationship between race, religion, and state politics in Latin America and the Carribean. She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from American University, an M.A. in Public Anthropology, and a B.A. in Individualized Study from NYU. In 2014, she received a Fulbright Research Fellowship to conduct ethnographic fieldwork on comparative religion, morality, and community service in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. Dr. Cantave is published in NACLA Report on the Americas, the Journal of Religious Studies, History and Society, and has a chapter in Embodying Black Religions in Africa and Its Diasporas (Duke University Press, 2021). She was the Madeleine Haas Russell Visiting Professor at Brandeis University in 2021-2022.
Ms. Maniola Charlotin (2022–2025)
Manolia Charlotin is a storyteller and visionweaver whose work feeds spirit and amplifies voices that seek liberation. Throughout that journey she fulfills many roles, including cultural educator, narrative strategist, curator, and multimedia journalist. She is the principal of Kwaze Media, a social impact and multimedia production firm that centers narratives from communities of color; and has helped lead several media organizations including, Boston Haitian Reporter, The Haitian Times, Feet in 2 Worlds, and The Media Consortium. Manolia’s scholarship explores how sacred spaces emerge in the digital evolution of the performing arts; her presentations include Haiti’s Sonic Ambassadors: When the Lakou Goes Digital and Kwaze Tanbou: Haiti’s Sonic Ambassadors and the Evolution of the Drum in Digital Soundscapes.
Mx. Cecilia Lisa Eliceche (2022–2025)
Cecilia Lisa Eliceche (Wallmapu, 1986) is a dancer, choreographer and campesina. They are traversed by more than 500 years of colonialism in Abya Yala and inspired by ancestral times outside of linearity. The territories she walks inhabit her. The culinary arts as well as rituals of death, birth and life sustenance have become central to her work and life. Some of her works include “Unison”, “The Ghost of Lumumba”, “Caribbean Thinkers for a New Europe”. Since 2016, they have been sharing life and work with Brazilian artist Leandro Nerefuh and diving in the deep waters of Ayiti (https://haitioayiti.com/). In 2020, with the guidance of Ruro Caituiro, Cecilia gave birth to divine Toya. Cecilia is thankful to Houngan Jean-Daniel Lafontant, Egbomi Nancy de Souza, Weichafe Moira Ivana Millan, Heather Kravas and Dr.Kyrah Malika Daniels for their teachings and friendship.
Dr. Eziaku A. Nwokocha (2022–2025)
Eziaku A. Nwokocha is an assistant professor in the Department of Religion at the University of Miami. Between 2020-2022, she held a Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Religion at Princeton University. Nwokocha is a scholar of Africana religions with expertise in the ethnographic study of Vodou in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora, with research grounded in thorough understanding of religions in West and Central Africa and the Americas (Caribbean, U.S and Canada) in gender and sexuality studies, visual and material culture, and Africana Studies generally. Her first monograph, Vodou en Vogue: Fashioning Black Divinities in Haiti and the U.S. will be released by University of North Carolina Press in spring 2023. Nwokocha holds a Ph.D. with distinction in Africana studies from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master’s degree in Africana studies from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master’s degree in theological studies from Harvard Divinity School, and a Bachelor’s degree in Black Studies and Feminist Studies from the University of California Santa Barbara.
Dr. Ayodeji Ogunnaike (2022–2025)
Ayodeji Ogunnaike is an assistant professor in the Africana Studies Department at Bowdoin College where he teaches classes on the various religious traditions of Africa and the African Diaspora. His primary research interests focus on the global worship of the Yoruba oriṣa or spirits (particularly in Nigeria and Brazil) and Ifa divination, and he also studies Islam and Christianity in Nigeria, Africa, and the Diaspora. His forthcoming book, Forms of Worship: How Oriṣa Devotion Became Religion in Nigeria and Brazil, tells the story of how traditional Yoruba notions of “religion” were radically different from how it is conceptualized in the modern world, but eventually emerged as the most widely practiced indigenous African religion around the world. He was fortunate enough to have studied with Iya Dr. Funlayo Wood-Menzies, Manbo Dr. Kyrah Malika Daniels, and Dr. Eziaku Nwokocha at Harvard where he received his B.A. in African Studies and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, M.A. in Religion, and PhD in African and African American Studies.
Dr. Kate Ramsey (2021–2024)
Kate Ramsey teaches in the History Department at the University of Miami. She is the author of The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in Haiti (Chicago, 2011), and co-editor of Transformative Visions: Works by Haitian Artists from the Permanent Collection (Lowe Art Museum, 2015). Ramsey’s current research is focused in two ways. One project studies how early writings about Afro-Caribbean spiritual practices shaped and were shaped by medical ideas about the imagination during the final decades of slavery in the British Caribbean. Another project, based on collaborative research with Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique, centers on the history of Vodou objects confiscated by U.S. marines during the 1915–1934 occupation of Haiti, and thereafter acquired by museums in the United States and beyond.
Dr. Kantara Souffrant (2022–2025)
Dr. Kantara Souffrant is the inaugural Curator of Community Dialogue at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Souffrant is a Haitian-American artist-scholar, museum educator, trained facilitator, and curator who brings her passion for community engagement, dialogue, and facilitation to her work as a performer, educator, and community member. She holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, with certificates in Critical Theory, African and Diaspora Studies, and Teaching. Her scholarship examines visual and performance art in the Black Atlantic, African Diasporic visual aesthetics, Black feminist art traditions, and ritual and performance in the Haitian Diaspora. She is humbled to be serving on the board.
Dr. Richard Brent Turner (2021–2024)
Richard Brent Turner is Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and the African American Studies Program at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Soundtrack to a Movement: African American Islam, Jazz, and Black Internationalism (New York University Press, 2021), finalist for the 2022 PROSE Award in Music and Performing Arts; Jazz Religion, the Second Line, and Black New Orleans, New Edition (Indiana University Press, 2017); and Islam in the African-American Experience, 2nd ed. (Indiana University Press, 2003). Turner has been an American Council of Learned Societies Fellow and a W.E.B. DuBois Fellow at Harvard University.
Dr. Lois Wilcken (2019–2022, Secretary) (2021–2024)
Dr. Lois Wilcken, a native New Yorker, has had the pleasure of researching the music of Haiti in Port-au-Prince and New York City's Haitian neighborhoods. As Executive Director of La Troupe Makandal, she develops education, performance, and archiving programs for the public. White Cliffs Media Company published her book, The Drums of Vodou, and one may visit her online Vodou Music in Haiti exhibit at La Médiathèque Caraïbe. She is currently issuing a series of re-releases of vintage Makandal Vodou music recordings and is documenting the life and legacy of the late Master Drummer Frisner Augustin for a web archive and a biography. Dr. Wilcken has served on the Council of the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Boards of the Haitian Studies Association and the Congress of Santa Barbara. She is Editorial Consultant for the Journal of Haitian Studies.
Iyanifa Dr. Funlayo E. Wood (2021–2024)
Funlayo E. Wood, PhD, is a scholar-practitioner of Africana Religions, specializing in the Ifa-Orisa tradition as practiced in Nigeria and among African Americans in the United States. She is the founding director of the African and Diasporic Religious Studies Association (ADRSA) and founding dean of Ase Ire Communiversity, an independent Africana Studies Institute. Dr. Wood received her PhD from Harvard University, and her work has been published in academic and popular venues including the Journal of Africana Studies, the Review of Religious Research, and Medium. Her book in progress, Obi: Death, Divination, and the Divine Feminine, will produce the first scholarly monograph on the kola nut in the context of African religion. A dedicated public scholar, she lectures frequently and has appeared in documentaries for PBS and the National Geographic Channel.
KOSANBA Junior Council
Community Representatives and Vodou Liaisons
Ms. Ariel Dominique (2022–2025) - Port-au-Prince, Miami & Washington D.C.
Ariel Dominique is a Cultural Consultant and Public Engagement Strategist with 20+ years of extensive experience in developing and leveraging relationships to build and support strategic partnerships. She currently serves as the founding Executive Director of the Miami-based Haitian-American Foundation for Democracy (HAFFD), a national organization whose mission is to engage the Haitian-American diaspora in promoting policies that foster democracy, human rights, economic development, and inclusion. Born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and a member of the Haitian American Diaspora for the past 22 years, she is highly effective in framing and developing strategic outreach and advocacy recommendations targeting the Haitian-American Diaspora, Haiti-based collaborators and international stakeholders. As such, she has worked with a vast network of government officials and agencies, not-for-profits, community and spiritual leaders, cultural influencers and civic society groups. She is well known for her ability to connect grassroots and grasstops both in Haiti and in the US. Arielle has worked for Grammy award winning artists and producers and led Wyclef Jean's independent label, Sak Pase Records. For over five years she lived in Washington DC, and worked as a Consultant, Minister Counselor for the Embassy of Haiti in Washington, D.C. In that capacity, she curated cultural and community events at the U.S. White House, the Embassy of Haiti, the Smithsonian African Museum to name a few. During President Obama’s second presidential campaign, she served as a fundraiser and a Victory Trustee. Ariel is a co-founder of the Haitian Ladies Network™, the largest global platform connecting more than 80,000 women and girls of Haitian descent. She leads the External Affairs, Cultural, and Sponsorship Committees for this powerful professional and social network.
Manbo Marie Maude Evans (2021–2024) - Jacmel & Boston
Manbo Marie Maude Evans holds a Master’s in Mental Health Psychology and works as a Health Manager at the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) as well as a Mental Health Clinician at South Shore Mental Health. Previously, she served Boston’s Haitian Community as a child advocate, holding the position of Family Advocate for 10 years. She studied Economics and worked for several years as an accountant for a telecommunications firm; she also obtained her degree in Fashion Design at the Academy Verona, which led her to opening her own business. A native of Jacmel, Haiti, Evans relocated to the US in 1990 and resides in Mattapan, Massachusetts. She is a Manbo Asogwe (high priestess) in the Haitian Vodou tradition and she serves a range of clientele who come seeking spiritual guidance. Part of her work also entails delivering lectures at universities and educational institutions about the tradition. She maintains strong connections to her temple in Haiti by traveling there each summer to conduct initiations, spiritual weddings, feasts, and other ceremonies.
Houngan Jean-Daniel Lafontant (2022–2025) - Port-au-Prince, Miami & New York City
Born in 1962 with the gift of clairvoyance, Jean-Daniel Lafontant was first initiated in the city of Léogâne. Later, he was introduced to the tradition of his maternal ancestors as a Ounsi of Lakou Jisou. Lafontant became a Sèvitè and Houngan in 1997. A couple of years later, he co-founded the sacred temple Na-Ri-VéH 777. While residing in New York in the mid-1980s, Lafontant was intimately involved in the promotion of Haitian art influenced by Vodou. Upon his return to Haiti in 1996, he curated and consulted on many projects and events. From 2014 to date, Lafontant helped shape and produce about a dozen documentary films related to Haiti and its culture. Lafontant is an alumnus of the State University of Haiti, INAGHEI School of Management and Diplomacy and a Marketing graduate from NYIT. He has a long career as a marketing executive for the banking sector of Haiti. He also spent two years as head of communications for the Haitian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and later joined UTE, a decentralized unit of the Ministry of Finance of Haiti. Intermittently in 2010, a few months after Haiti's devastating earthquake, Lafontant served as a communication specialist for the humanitarian sector. For the past seven years, Lafontant has divided his time between New York, Miami, and Haiti, where he devotes all his energy to the culture of Haiti.
Board of Elders
Houngan Dr. Patrick Bellegarde-Smith (President Emeritus) - email
Houngan Dr. Gerdès Fleurant (President Emeritus) - email
Dr. Marlène Racine-Toussaint (Founding Member) - email
Ms. Florienne Saintil (Founding Member) - email
Manbo Jacqueline Epingle (Founding Member)
Dr. Marc Christophe (Founding Member)