postal clerk at Wesleyan Station, helps two students send their mail. He was
recently featured on Afropop Worldwide Radio.
Postal Clerk Expert on Haitian Music, Celebration
It’s 20 minutes after noon and postal clerk
Holly Nicolas heads to the Wesleyan Station window. Students begin trickling
into a line. Some want to send letters, others wait to pick up packages.
“When the students get out of class, we really get hit,” Nicolas says in his
pronounced “O-Lee,” is a Haitian native who moved to the United States in
1993. His days begin with sorting incoming mail for the university’s
faculty, staff and students. At 10 a.m., Wesleyan Station opens and Nicolas,
fellow postal clerk Illana Konerding and student workers service the window
until it closes at 3 p.m.
“It’s fun to interact with the university’s faculty, staff and students
every day, and I like when I can put a face with a name,” Nicolas says.
“Working here, you see people’s names over and over and it’s good to know
who they are. The students are surprised when I can know their mailbox
number off the top of my head, but when you look at them every day; it stays
in your head.”
If a mail carrier is out, Nicolas often volunteers to deliver the
campus-wide mail. He’ll also work on mail forwarding and sorting mail
throughout the day.
The heaviest mail season occurs during the first few weeks of the academic
year. During this time, “tons and tons” of packages arrive to Wesleyan
Station containing students’ clothing and school supplies, Nicolas says. The
mail traffic slows, but picks up again around Feb. 14.
“Valentine’s Day is so busy,” Nicolas says, smiling. “There are lots and
lots of flowers to deliver.”
In addition to his mail duties, Nicolas has one other job requirement –
playing the role of deejay for Wesleyan Station. The lifelong music lover is
an expert on Haitian beats, from traditional kompa dance music to band a
pied, which is played with brass horns and drums.
“Holly is a very important person here,” explains Konerding. “He is great
with the customers, fixes anything that breaks around here, and most
importantly, he is in charge of all of our music.”
In February, Nicolas was featured on Afropop Worldwide Radio. The interview
of Nicolas was conducted by Sean Barlow ’79, president of World Music
Productions/Afropop Worldwide Radio in Brooklyn, and freelance guitarist and
Afropop Worldwide host Banning Eyre ’80. The recording is online
Nicholas talked about his memories of Haitian Carnival. The carnival season
begins Jan. 6 on Three Kings Day and runs until Fat Tuesday. During the last
three days of this period, some Haitians dress in colorful costumes and
dance, sing, dance and celebrate their culture.
The celebration was a tradition for Nicolas, who grew up in Ouanaminthe, a
small town that borders the Dominican Republic on the northeast of Haiti.
During one carnival, he recalls, local musicians sang about a woman who
stole a chicken.
“That was funny to me, because I knew that woman. She lived next to me,” he
This is Nicolas’ eighth year working at Wesleyan. In the early 1990s, he met
Wesleyan’s Elizabeth McAlister, associate professor religion, African
American Studies and American Studies. McAlister was in Haiti, studying
Haitian traditions and Voodoo. The couple married and spent three years
trying to get Nicolas’ daughter, Lovely, to America. She is now 20 and a
sophomore at Hampshire College.
Nicolas and McAlister live in Middletown with their children, Sacha, 13, and
Julien, 8. He enjoys cooking Haitian food for his family and playing
He returns to his native country once a year but never regrets moving to the
“Moving to American was a good move for me, but it was especially a good
move for my daughter, who now lives in a safer environment with better
educational opportunities,” he says. “We are both very fortunate.”
Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection