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Rachel Dotson
Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Last modified: Thursday, September 2, 2010

IU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies to take part in city's Haiti Awareness Month

Sept. 2, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- City of Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan has deemed September 2010 Haiti Awareness Month in Bloomington.

Throughout the month, Indiana University's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies will join with other IU units and community partners to host a series of discussions, performances and events that delve into the challenges faced by Haitians in the wake of January's devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Several of the events will also celebrate the country's arts and culture.

Haiti Map

Haiti Awareness Month was conceptualized and coordinated by Kat Forgacs, an IU master's student in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, in conjunction with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. She and Haitian Creole instructor David Tezil, also an IU graduate student, initially discussed the idea for a series of Haiti awareness activities last spring. Forgacs then became project coordinator, working with Beverly Calender-Anderson, Bloomington's Safe and Civil City Director, on behalf of Kruzan's office to receive an official proclamation for Haiti Awareness Month.

Forgacs said that following a global tragedy, life goes on -- and more recent events take precedence in terms of fundraising and public attention. "Haiti has faded out of immediate public awareness," said Forgacs, who also founded "Bloomington for Haiti," a blog that brings together Haiti-related advocacy materials and helps cross-promote Haiti relief efforts in South-Central Indiana.

"Even though it's not our daily reality, it's still the constant reality for people living in Haiti. Our intention is to be sure people don't forget that Haiti still needs our attention," she said.

Ongoing post-earthquake reconstruction efforts in Port-au-Prince are crucial, but earthquake recovery efforts are part of a greater picture, said Bradley A.U. Levinson, director of IU's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. "There are many ways to support Haiti, through grassroots efforts that foster an awareness of 'reforestation as restoration,' but also through gaining a broader awareness of the richness of the culture, the music, the language, the art and the ideas of its people," he said.

Even before the January earthquake, Haiti was the most environmentally degraded Caribbean country and the poorest in the Western Hemisphere; earthquake damage has made feeding Haiti's population more challenging than ever. Haiti has long faced issues of political instability, a high national debt and a host of other serious issues that became even more challenging following January's earthquake. Through growth in agriculture and reforestation, Haiti experts hope to restore both the environment and the food supply, while multiple groups are working on helping to rebuild the country's infrastructure..

Bloomington's Haiti Awareness Month kicks off Friday (Sept. 3) with a 7-9 p.m. benefit concert at Unitarian Universalist Church (2120 N. Fee Lane) at which the Haiti Awareness Month proclamation will be read by a representative of the Mayor's office.

Albert Valdman

Albert Valdman

Print-Quality Photo

On Sept. 8 at 3 p.m., IU Professor Albert Valdman will present a lecture titled "Language and Education in the Reconstruction of Haiti" (IMU State Room East). Valdman is an Indiana University Rudy Professor Emeritus and director of IU's Creole Institute. Among other topics, his talk will delve into the issue of whether the Creole language, spoken by all Haitians (and the sole language for about 90 percent of the population in Haiti), is sufficiently standardized -- and why French is still considered the "standard" language of Haiti.

Emeline Michel, the premier Haitian female vocalist performing outside of Haiti, will speak at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies on September 20 while she's in Bloomington to perform at the 2010 Lotus World and Arts Music Festival (Friday and Saturday, Sept. 17 and 18, 8:45 p.m.-10 p.m. in the Carey Worldwide Limousine Services Tent). Her performances are punctuated by descriptions of the richness of Haitian culture, Levinson said. "She has a stunning voice. She combines traditional Haitian music with social and political themes," he said. "Emeline was extremely surprised and pleased to find out that IU teaches Haitian Creole and has a Creole Institute."

Emeline Michel

Emeline Michel

Michel will also visit with students and community members at Foster International Living-Learning Center, where she will discuss her life and her career.

"When we first conceptualized this series of events, it was going to be 'Haiti Heritage Week' with a focus on sharing the wonderful gifts of Haitian art and culture with the Bloomington community," Forgacs said. When the Unitarian Universalist Church planned a Haiti benefit concert and Lotus invited Emeline Michel to Bloomington, those events were added to the Haiti Awareness Month calendar, and Michel was asked to spend time with IU students at two public lectures.

"The broader focus on reconstruction efforts in events such as Professor Valdman's and Lizzie Cooke's talks, coupled with the length of time since the earthquake and the general recession of of Haiti from media immediacy, indicated a need to expand the scope of the month beyond 'heritage' and into 'awareness,'" Forgacs said.

The following Haiti Awareness Month events are free and open to the public:

  • Wednesday, Sept. 8, 3 p.m. IU professor Albert Valdman lecture, "Language and Education in the Reconstruction of Haiti." IMU State Room East.
  • Monday, Sept. 20, 4 p.m.-5 p.m. "A chat about Haitian music and culture" with Emeline Michel. Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, 1125 E. Atwater Ave. Note: This event will be conducted mostly in the Haitian Creole language.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m. "An Evening with Emeline Michel." Formal Lounge of the Foster International Learning-Living Center, 801 N. Jordan.
  • Friday, Sept. 24, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. "Reforestation as Restoration: An Examination of the Link between Environmental and Economic Restoration in Post-Earthquake Haiti" with Lizzie Cooke, co-founder of Imagine Haitian. Boxcar Books, 408 E. Sixth St.
  • Saturday, Sept. 25, 10 a.m.-noon. Haiti at the Festival del Otoņo Fall Cultural Festival. Farmers' Market, City Hall Plaza.

Haiti Awareness Month is sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, Foster International Living-Learning Center, Bloomington for Haiti, City of Bloomington Office of the Mayor, Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington, La Casa, IU Creole Institute, Boxcar Books, Imagine Haitian, City of Bloomington Community and Family Resources Department, Black Film Center/Archive, and the Haitian Association of Indiana.

For more information, see, e-mail or call 812-855-9097.