Jallica Jolly ’14, Prof. Singham, and Vero Igance ’15, are here pictured (right) with Dr. Serge Pierre-Louis and Dr. Paul Farmer after Prof. Singham’s panel on Lessons from the ground: NGOs, the Haitian Government, and the new hospital in Mirebalais (Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais/HUM).
The panel was part of the 25th silver anniversary Conference of the Haitian Studies Association, held for the first time in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. What a trip! Prof. Singham chaired a panel with guest speakers Michele Pierre-Louis (the first woman Prime Minister of Haiti under President Preval, 2008-2009), Paul Farmer (founder and head of Partners in Health, doctor, internationally famous health activist), David Walton (Doctor, PIH, and head of the project building the new hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti), Paul Namphy (one of the heads of cholera control in Haiti today, and also active in several NGO’s working in conjunction with the Haitian government to ensure water safety and sanitation), and Mark Schuller (Professor, anthropologist, activist, author of Killing with Kindness and other works examining the role of NGO’s in post-earthquake Haiti).
Jallicia, Vero, and Prof. Singham had the opportunity to hear and meet famed Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck, whose new film, Assistance Mortelle, reveals the mostly negative work foreign and American NGO’s have played in Haiti, as well as numerous important academics, including Carolyn Cooper of the UWI and Gina Ulysse of Wesleyan University. At night, we got to hear rocking, rabble-rousing Haitian folk music (Rara Fanm) and the world famous band, named after Haitian revolutionary voodoo marroon chief, Boukman, Boukman Eksperyans. Prof. Singham’s friend, Serge Pierre-Louis a, Haitian doctor currently residing in Chicago, attended the Conference, en route to a project he is working on giving high school students in the countryside a yearly medical examination.
Unlike most American academic conferences, the HAS conference was decidedly activist in orientation, focusing on the conjunction of the study of Haitian history, literature, and culture, with the real life experiences facing Haitians today. In that sense, it was very much in the tradition of the Black Studies that gave rise to today’s Africana and African-American programs. Perhaps best of all, however, was our visit to Vero’s family Temple, founded in 1877, one of the oldest in Haiti, in downtown Port-au-Prince, where we got to meet her family and friends, and learn about the long and proud tradition of Voodoo in Haiti. Afterwards, we stopped to take a picture with Neg Mawon, The Unknown Maroon, symbol of the incredible struggle the Haitian people engaged in to take on French imperialism and the system of slavery in the New World in the 1790’s, a struggle that resulted in the only successful slave revolution in history. “RASAMBLÈ!”
You can see more pictures from the trip and the conference here.