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U.Va. Groups Plan Events About Haiti

UPDATE, Feb. 4: Friday's eventa with Laurent DuBois have been postponed indefinitely due to the winter weather forecast.

UPDATED, Feb. 3, with additional details of Feb. 18 event, and adding Feb. 19 benefit concert.

February 2, 2010 — The prominence of Haiti in the public eye since the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake has spurred a group of University of Virginia faculty members and graduate students to create the Haiti Working Group. The group has planned a series of discussions about Haitian history, politics and culture in light of the challenges of rebuilding the country.

Friday's first event has been postponed due to a forecast of heavy snow. It was to have featured Laurent Dubois, professor of French studies and history at Duke University, giving a talk, "The Aftershocks of History in Haiti." When rescheduled, Dubois' visit will be part of the history department's "Global South" lecture series.

The Haiti Working Group was also to have held a roundtable discussion with Dubois about how the academic community at U.Va. might contribute to the rebuilding of the intellectual infrastructure in Haiti; that event, too, has been postponed indefinitely.

Feb. 15 through 18 will be Haiti Awareness Week at U.Va. Events – all starting at 6 p.m. – include a panel of U.Va. faculty responding to student questions about Haitian history and politics preceding the earthquake (Feb. 15, Newcomb Hall, room 168); a discussion of Haitian identity and stereotypes (Feb. 16, Newcomb Hall, room 168); a screening of the documentary, "The Price of Sugar"; (Feb. 17, Monroe Hall, room 134); and "Taste and Hear Haiti," with Haitian music and food (Feb. 18, Student Activities Building.

In addition, U.Va. student musical groups will perform Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. in the McLeod Hall auditorium to raise money for the family of Stephanie Jean-Charles, the U.Va. graduate student who was killed in the earthquake.

Events are being planned in March and April, including a one-day conference on political issues related to Haiti on April 9.

Yarimar Bonilla, assistant professor of anthropology, is coordinating the series. She said the impetus for the group came after a Jan. 18 teach-in on Haiti organized by the Magnitude Collective.

"Given the current interest within our academic community to become involved in Haiti, we felt that it was important to generate a dialogue about Haitian history and politics so people could have a clearer sense of the society that they seek to help," said Bonilla, who is from Puerto Rico. She said she was heartened to feel such a sense of community around Caribbean issues at the University.

Bonilla took the lead in forming the U.Va. Haiti Working Group with the goal of bringing together "faculty whose research either touches upon Haiti or touches upon issues that are important to the wider conversation about the Haitian earthquake and rebuilding efforts." The group also provides a way to bring together U.Va. students interested in fundraising for Haiti with students who have personal and emotional connections to the area.

"What this earthquake has illuminated most significantly is how connected we are regionally and globally, and that to be informed and compassionately engaged is to look and invest beyond our national borders," Bonilla said.

For a schedule of events, which are still being planned, go to the Web site,

For information, e-mail Bonilla at yari@virginia.edu.

— By Anne Bromley

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