Voodoo in the Park

Pat Robertson’s least favorite religion comes out in Brooklyn, N.Y., to celebrate the trigger of the Haitian revolution.

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Bazile covers the statue, and instantly, the spirit takes hold of him. Bossou, in Bazile's body, shakes and screams and snorts like a bull. As a crowd circles him and sings the spirit's praises, he greets all comers with an extended elbow, which they take in kind, forming a sort of whole-arm handshake. Bossou then begins spraying rum on people. He twirls them in circles. He runs around, threatening to charge the crowd. And then the trance is gone, and Bazile falls backward, caught by others before he hits the ground.

The ceremony attracted well over 100 people, including the occasional curious passerby, one who cradled a pair of fishing poles and another who beat a football he was carrying as though it were a drum. But no matter how often practitioners put their religion in front of the public, they may be fighting a losing battle in trying to counter negative stereotypes about their faith.

"We're strong mentally, but we don't have the ability to overcome the propaganda," Pierre says. "Even my mom, since 1980, she left Haiti to live here, and she became Catholic. To her, I'm a lost child. She's saying she's praying for me every day."

Calvin Hennick is working on a novel about Haitian Vodou. He can be reached at calvinhennick@yahoo.com.