Crossroads: Haiti, History and Context.

Haiti, I keep learning, has an abundance of art, music and culture. During the panel, our moderator and panelists Professor Ismail Rashid, Ernest Barthélemy, M.D, Sabrina Jaar-Marzouka, JD, MPH, Roger Lefort) discussed Haiti in today’s global climate. On the verbal journey to Haiti’s current state, the panelists told us of the exemplary fight as the first slave colony to successfully revolt against the colonial structures and gain independence. We were made aware of the political and historical ties that Haiti has with countries like United States and France and how the relationship has impacted Haiti today. We also explored some international trade relationships and some ways they had contributed to crippling Haiti’s economy.

The panelists then discussed Haiti as it is presently, and they shared their own thoughts on Haiti’s rich culture and the sense of community and patriotism its people have. For me, one thing that stood out was Dr. Ernest Barthélemy sharing a lot about Haitian culture. He emphasized how Haitians are proud of their language, Haitian creole, and the Vodou culture which ties them together. Despite some of the world's view on what Vodou is, the Haitian people practice it in the use of songs, proverbs and in everyday saying. It is used in their arts which communicate their Haitian identity and pride. Despite the audience itching to talk about the current protest in the country, the panelist focused on Haiti’s resilience and large efforts to stand on its own. It was a very critical and contextual discussion which raised questions that would pave way for more positive transformation within Haiti.

Lila Meade, the co-founder and executive director of the Vassar Haiti Project had this to say with regard to the panel: “Watching the brilliant Haitian panelists moderated by Prof. Ismail Rashid was one of my favorite moments this year in VHP.  Not only did we learn so many things about Haiti's rich history, we actually had the benefit of seeing brilliance right before our very eyes.  Thank you for enriching the Vassar campus and for elevating the conversations. It's a moment I'll never forget.” Certainly, this was a sentiment shared by most, if not all of the attendees, and I hope that VHP continues to foster conversation about Haiti through similar activities in the years to come.

See more content from the event here

by Oluwabukola Oloyede ‘20