People and Community University

Students honor Haiti earthquake victims

Planet Kreyol and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs host a remembrance ceremony to salute victims of the 2010 earthquake with songs, poetry, dance, and more.
Planet Kreyol and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs commemorate victims of the 2010 earthquake with dance, song, poetry, and more.
Louis Herns Marcellin, associate professor, delivered a moving keynote address during a remembrance ceremony in honor of victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

Ten years ago, a massive earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti, forever changing the lives of many, including Jordi Polycarpe, a junior at the University of Miami. Her cousin was one of the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in the catastrophic disaster. 

“My cousin was just five-years-old,” said Polycarpe, a musicianship, artistry development, and entrepreneurship major. “This time of the year is difficult for my family and I, and it’s just really important to come together and remember the good things.” 

On Wednesday, the Haitian student group on campus, Planet Kreyol, hosted 10 Years of Growth, a ceremony commemorating the earthquake and celebrating Haiti’s growth. Students, faculty, staff, and members of the community gathered in the Shalala Student Center ballroom for a program that featured poetic performances, dance selections, and remarks by Patricia A. Whitely, vice president for student affairs, and Louis Herns Marcelin, associate professor in the departments of international studies, anthropology, and public health sciences.

“It kind of feels like an out-of-body experience to be in charge of planning something like this, alongside Sara,” said nursing and psychology major Herveline Saintil, referring to her Planet Kreyol co-president Sara Stjuste. “This is a big deal and it’s an honor to be able to host such an event. It’s something that we do in commemoration and out of respect for those who have fallen.” 

Two days before the earthquake destroyed Haiti, Marcelin and three University of Miami students, who called themselves Soley Ini—creole for united suns—were in Haiti for meetings as they prepared to open a youth-to-youth project in Cité Soleil that would provide education programs, cultural activities, and mentoring. 

Now a decade later, Haitians are still in turmoil as the country is currently crippled by fuel shortages, scarcity of food, and rising inflation. Marcelin said the island is searching for ways to balance two dynamics that are working against each other. 

“Ten years later, the fragility has been compounded, the poverty has been compounded by governance and political issues, an international community has created dependency, and several other disasters have happened in between,” said Marcelin, founder of the Interuniversity Institute for Research and Development. “While at the same time, young people are trying to do what they can and create an environment for their future. Through community-based organizations and social media, they are trying to create hope for the future.” 

Despite the country’s history Marcelin still has hope that things will get better. As he wrapped up his keynote speech, he encouraged the youth in the audience to continue supporting research and leadership and to civically engage to help rebuild Haiti.

“You are in a position of power,” he declared. “There are a lot of things that you can do. Think about the leadership you want to see. Your vitality and your knowledge are critical for the future.”