Speaker discusses problems in Haiti

By Carleen Boyer

Contributing Writer

All members of Haitian society in the rebuilding of the country rather than only the higher status individuals, said a performance artist and anthropologist on Monday.

Gina Ulysse, who was born in Haiti but has since become a United States citizen and professor, gave a performance titled “Because When God is Too Busy: Haiti, Me, and the World” in Bucknell Hall on Monday night. Ulysse’s performance combined spoken word and song into a narrative about the problems facing Haiti.

“The biggest problem Haiti has is that people are not asking the people on the ground what they want, but the people who want to participate don’t have access to participation,” Ulysse said.

Ulysse became a citizen of the United States in 2005. She graduated with a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan and is currently a professor at Wesleyan University. She has written multiple books on Haiti and continues to spread awareness of the societal issues there. Her performance on Monday incorporated personal stories and experiences.

Through her descriptive words, Ulysse made a strong connection with the audience. She included facts in the performance, stating at one point that over 300,000 people perished in the earthquake.

“If you’re going to be honest about change, you have to realize nothing goes on forever,” she said.

In Haiti, 44 percent of people drink untreated water daily, while 75 percent live in hunger. Twenty-eight percent of Haitian families are without shelter.

“Who’s suffering? The same people that have always suffered,” Ulysse said.

“Ulysse’s goal is to bring to light some of the complexities of life in Haiti, including the dynamics of class and gender,” said Coralynn Davis, associate professor of women’s and gender studies and anthropology.

In one part of her performance, she told the story of how only pure white sugar was presented on the tables of restaurants rather than the brown, unrefined sugar.

“Raw sugar had no place on tables–it was colored,” she said. She used this as an example of racial discrimination that she faced.

Nicole Meyers ’11 commented on the unique nature of the performance.

“The audience felt her calls, her chanting and her stories. The performance was not intended to be watched, it was meant to be experienced alongside Ulysee,” she said.

Ulysse integrated current events as dispatches from people living in Haiti throughout her performance. In one dispatch, dated August 5, 2010, “Horror has become an everyday commodity.”

Following the performance, a question-and-answer session allowed audience members to contribute their reactions and thoughts on the issues that UIysse presented.

“The U.S. has had a hand in helping to create many of the problems that Haiti has, but we only see ourselves in the role of savior and rescuer when things go wrong,” Davis said.

Through her work, Ulysse strives to raise awareness of truths of Haiti and to dispel misconceptions.

“She emphasized the impact the media has on perceptions of Haiti, which usually oversimplify social, racial and economic issues that stem back to colonialism,” Haley Thomas ’14 said.

(Visited 45 times, 1 visits today)