Panel on Haiti attracts a crowd

    Photo by Florence Sit / North by Northwestern.

    In a continued response to the recent earthquake, NU Stands for Haiti hosted a panel with eight professors and non-profit representatives on Thursday night. Approximately one hundred Northwestern students and faculty gathered in Swift Hall to hear the talk, “Haiti: History, Politics, and Culture of a Country in Crisis.”

    The event was one in a series of events organized by NU Stands with Haiti, established less than a week and a half ago.

    According to Doris Garraway, associate professor of French, the student organization has shown “the most substantial degree of activism in [her] 10 years of teaching at Northwestern.”

    Panelists addressed such topics as the effects of Haiti’s colonization and fight for freedom, its current economic and political instability and occupancy by foreign countries.

    Professor Garraway discussed the longstanding history of Haiti, attributing its political and economic volatility to the shaky transition from French colonization and slavery to its struggle to become Africa’s first independent country.

    “It is no accident that we know so little about Haiti, a country that emerged overnight from obscurity to an unprecedented level of visibility. Until now, it was neglected by other countries and was consequently under-developed,” Garraway said.

    Another panelist, Alie Kabba, from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, brought up the recent news of U.S. granting undocumented Haitians temporary protected status. Until the day of the earthquake, when Haitians arrived in the states, they were sent back home.

    “Why does it take an earthquake for Americans to realize that Haitians need protective status in the states,” he asked fervently.

    After the panelists’ speeches, the floor was opened to an engaging question and answer session.

    A Haitian in the audience rose up and expressed frustration that, “Haitians are paying the consequences of our freedom,” and that foreign countries place embargoes and other policies against Haiti, which contributed to its current situation.

    Ehren Dohler, Communication senior, said that he felt compelled to attend the event as he was “generally ignorant of Haiti’s situation and decided it was about time to learn.”

    The teach-in session also attracted college students outside of Northwestern. Emily Williams, a graduate student in gender studies at Depaul University, came to learn from Northwestern students’ examples.

    “I am forming an activist group for Haiti at DePaul, and I came to this event to see what the Northwestern community is doing for the cause, in the hopes of collaborating with Northwestern student organizers.”

    More information about NU Stands with Haiti can be found on their blog.


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