CSU Launches ‘Haiti in our Backyard’ Lecture-Film Series

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Spurred by the earthquake in Haiti, a Columbus State University professor has organized a lecture-film series as a guide to contributing to the relief effort and to examine the country beyond its present crisis and break down its stereotype as a “poor, backward society.”

The series, “Haiti in our Backyard,” will run through the spring semester and includes Haitian-born French language professor Cécile Accilien leading “A Forum on Haiti” 7:30 p.m Tuesday, Jan. 26 in Illges Hall, room 318.

The opening program, a Jan. 21 screening of The Agronomist, included a discussion on the present crisis and information about how to support various international aid organizations on the ground in Haiti.

The Agronomist provided insight to key developments in recent Haitian history. Jonathan Demme’s film covers the life and work of Jean Dominique, formerly an agronomist, who became a journalist at Radio Haiti and worked tirelessly to reach out to an exploited population. For his social activism, he was murdered in April 2000.

Accilien, who is leading Columbus State’s Department of Modern and Classical Languages Cine Club in delivering the series, said the mainstream media has not provided a meaningful view of Haiti, leaving most Americans to regard Haiti simply as home to a poor, backward society.

“This series will demonstrate Haiti’s rich history and vibrant culture in art and music, plus its cultural, historical and economic connections to the United States,” she said.

Just 700 miles from U.S. shoreline, Haiti is not only the world’s oldest black republic, it’s the Western Hemisphere’s second oldest republic after the United States, becoming such when it gained independence from France in 1804.

“Many people don’t realize Savannah, Ga. displays a monument commemorating the Haitians who fought in the 1779 Battle of Savannah,” said Accilien, a Fulbright scholar who co-edited the book Revolutionary Freedoms: a History of Survival, Strength and Imagination in Haiti.

Accilien also said the France-occupation factor in history also means many Louisianans share elements of Haiti’s culture, language, architecture and religion. The next date in the series is Tuesday, Jan. 26, as Accilien will lead a 7:30 p.m. “Forum on Haiti” in Illges Hall, room 318. Subsequent series topics, with dates and sites to be announced, include:

• A film screening and discussion of Egalité for All: Toussaint Louverture & The Haitian Revolution, by Sujewa Ekanayake.

• A film screening and discussion of El Tiempo de las Mariposas (In the Time of the Butterflies), by Mariano Barroso.

• A forum on “Rebuilding Haiti: How You can Help.”

Accilien said rebuilding Haiti will take decades. “It’s important to not forget Haiti after the media leave.”

In addition to educating local residents, the “Haiti in our Backyard” series will cover the many opportunities to join with others around the world to contribute to the rebuilding process in whatever capacity in they can, Accilien said.

For more information, call 706-507-8451.