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For Haiti

By Carol Brévart-Demm


Jacqueline Bailey-Ross (right), founder of the new group Coalition for a Free Haiti, reads her poem “Ayiti” during the Jan. 18 gathering of members of the campus community who assembled in support of the Haitian earthquake victims. Other speakers included Associate Professor of French Micheline Rice-Maximin, a native of Guadaloupe who describes Haiti as her “sister island”; Associate Professor of History and Coordinator of the Black Studies Program Allison Dorsey; and President Rebecca Chopp.

When the earth shook in Haiti on Jan. 12, the rest of the world shuddered, too, in shock and horror. And although the spring semester had not yet begun, Swarthmore students, unsurprisingly, sprang into action to see how they and the College could provide relief to the more than three million Haitians affected in some way by the disaster.

A new campus organization, Coalition for a Free Haiti, invited members of the College community to come together, and, assisted by the Dean’s Office, held “A Gathering of the Community: Responding to the Crisis in Haiti” just a few days after the earthquake—which happened to be Martin Luther King Day.

During a three-hour gathering in LPAC’s Pearson-Hall Theatre, faculty, staff, and about 350 students shared thoughts, prayers, and reflections on the disaster.

Coalition member Jacqueline Bailey-Ross ’12, who has studied Haiti and Creole, had been preparing to visit the country the following week with Professor of French Micheline Rice-Maximin to attend a conference on Haitian literature. Bailey-Ross composed and recited the following poem, written in Haitian Creole:

Ayiti, mwen te rele w, men ou pat la
Te genyen selman silans
Pou ki sa ke m ap senyen?
Pou ki sa m ap kriye?
Paske Mwen nostalji
Pakse Ayiti se lwen
Mwen vle ale la
Mwen vle we mon yo
Mwen vle fe yon vire nan Potoprens
Men lavil la te tonbe
Genyen anyen la pou mwen
Genyen anyen men san e lanmo
Ki kote dye?
Pou ki sa li pa nan Ayiti?
Mwen te pedi tout bagay men mwen
pa a dezespere
Paske Ayiti se fo
Gen Kouraj, Ayiti, gen kouraj

Haiti, I called you, but you weren’t there
There was only silence.
Why is my heart bleeding?
Why am I crying?
Because I am homesick
Because Haiti is far
I want to go there
I want to see the mountains
I want to walk in Port au Prince
But the city has fallen
There is nothing there for me.
There is nothing but blood and death
Where is God?
Why is he not in Haiti?
I lost everything but I will not lose hope
Because Haiti is strong.
Have courage, Haiti, have courage.

A series of events to raise Haiti awareness and aid relief during the next weeks includes a concert of Haitian and American musicians, a soccer clinic, and a 5K run, sponsored collaboratively by the College and the Borough of Swarthmore.

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