Multicultural fraternity plans event for Haiti

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Mecca aka Grimo, a Haitian spoken word artist, will perform in the Alumni Memorial Union Ballrooms at 7 p.m. today.

Following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked Haiti on Jan. 12, the Haitian people mourned, but they also celebrated. They built bonfires, chanted in their native Creole language and danced in peaceful processions through the streets.

Tonight, at 7 p.m. in the Alumni Memorial Union Ballrooms, Omega Delta fraternity will host “A CelebrHAITIAN of Culture,” channeling the celebratory mindset Haitians maintained after the quake’s devastation.

Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor of Africology and Haitian historian, said Haitians are a very proud people.

“Their collective behavior during the (earthquake) shows a great deal of resolve, the propensity to pull together and to face the unthinkable,” he said.

The event will educate attendees on the Haitian culture and the country’s contributions to society, with presentations by Bellegarde-Smith, Youthaiti charity founder Gigi Pomerantz and Marquette alumna Dawn Ribnek, who was in Haiti during the earthquake.

Mecca aka Grimo, an internationally recognized poet and educator, will also engage attendees in an interactive spoken word performance.

Omega Delta members began planning “A CelebrHAITIAN of Culture” when they became frustrated with misrepresentations of Haiti in the media. For many people, the images presented on the news were their first impressions of Haiti, said Omega Delta president Jonathan Viard, a senior in the College of Business Administration.

“That was the only image portrayed of my culture,” Viard said. “It got to me. I wanted to do something to educate Marquette and whoever is willing to listen, about the many things Haitians have given the world.”

Haitian contributions to the world extend from involvement in the Revolutionary War, as Haitians fought alongside Americans, to the first successful slave revolt in history.

“I think people will be so shocked to hear a lot of the things they are going to hear,” Viard said.

Mecca aka Grimo began his spoken word performances in 2004, the bicentennial of Haiti’s independence as a free republic. Mecca said he seeks to educate people about the Haitian culture through entertainment.

Viard, who has seen Mecca’s work, thinks his interactive take on Haitian history will be interesting to students.

“No one wants to come and watch a lecture,” Viard said.

With all the current attention on Haiti, Mecca said now is the time to educate people on the country’s history, heritage and legacy.

“It’s the prime time to actually showcase the island of Haiti,” Mecca said.

Francisco Bravo, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences who is helping promote “A CelebrHAITIAN of Culture,” said the event will unite several aspects of education.

“The event brings together a lot of things — a guy who is inspirational and who connects with youth, Haitian culture with the food and professors who have information (and) knowledge,” Bravo said.

Viard said since the earthquake, the media has left and Haiti has escaped everyone’s minds.

“It’s going to need a lot of help for a very long time,” he said. “Where did the Marquette support go? Why did the support stop? It should never stop.”

Viard said he commends Marquette students for showing the passion they did following the earthquake, but he hopes by educating them about the Haitian culture, “they’ll only become more passionate.”

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