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Haiti is in their hearts

BY MICHAEL ARRIOLA | FEBRUARY 23, 2010 7:30 AM

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One moment, audience members were listening to placid piano music. The next, they heard a chant to a voodoo god as lights changed color to resemble the Haitian flag.

As the Benefit for Haiti event opened at the Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington St., two Haitian students climbed to the stage to speak.

Lucy Joseph, who still has family in Haiti, began to cry as she thanked the crowd for their donations and support in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Joseph, a University of Iowa graduate student, said she’s been trying to live a normal life while worrying about family members in Haiti.

The Monday evening event was sponsored by the UI International Programs, Diversity Office, Caribbean, Diaspora, and Atlantic Studies Program, and the Englert Theatre. Ticket prices ranged from $5 for students to $15 for adults, and all proceeds went to Partners in Health and Libraries Without Borders. Toward the end of the evening, around 120 tickets had been sold.

Those feeling more generous could buy tickets for $25, $50, or $100. The total amount raised wasn’t available Monday night. Some local businesses also gave donations, including a grand piano provided by West Music for the event.

Performances ranged from artistic dance and piano composition to Haitian art appreciation and poetry reading.

Pictures of Haitian children flashed on a screen behind many of the performers. The first time the pictures appeared, they were accompanied by a tranquil violin and piano duet.

Two people read a passage from Kingdom of this World, a novel that tells the story of Haiti around the time of the 1791 slave revolution, while two actors set the scene. One of them ended the performance with a voodoo chant.

A table in the lobby held bracelets that said “Haiti in my heart” on one side and “Ayiti nan kè mwen,” the Haitian Creole translation on the other. All proceeds from the bracelets and other items went to the Community Health Initiative, headed by UI clinical Assistant Professor Christopher Buresh, who has made numerous trips to Haiti including after the earthquake.

The goal of the event was a substantial financial donation, said Nicole Nisly, the UI’s interim chief diversity officer. But officials also wanted to add an educational element so people would continue to be engaged in Haiti, saidDowning Thomas, the dean of International Programs.

“It is important to recognize that immediate medical relief is crucial, but there will be ongoing needs,” he said.


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