By: Daris Mendez
On January 12, 2010, the country of Haiti experienced an earthquake that greatly affected its structure, as well as its people. Five years later, members of the Haitian Student Association, a Haitian culture based organization at Kean, came together to remember the lives lost and provide reassurance for the Kean Haitian community.
In the form of a vigil, the Haitian Student Association and interested students gathered around the clock tower on Jan. 22 at 4:30 p.m., in remembrance of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that took nearly a quarter million lives.
The memorial was full of Haitian culture, as the executive board members of the organization sang songs, recited poems and delivered speeches with the message of hope for Haiti.
“Since January is very important in the Haitian culture, we want to commemorate the independence and commemorate the earthquake that also happened,” said Jonathan Medor, vice president of the Haitian Student Association.
The vigil also remembered the distinct issues that currently affect the Haitian community.
Medor stressed the fact that Haiti was one of the first independent nations and has been independent for 211 years. Acknowledging this fact, he urged club members to be aware of issues such as bringing back Haitian businesses to Haiti to make them, “Haiti owned not Haiti owed,” as he declared in his speech.
There was also discussion of cultural issues relevant to everyday life. He mentioned how important it is for Haitian men to show love and respect towards Haitian women, as well as the respectful treatment of Haitian men in return.
“Basically today was not a day to shed tears or a day to be sad for Haiti,” Medor said, passionately. “It’s a day to basically empower ourselves as Haitians and for it to be known that unity can make a voice as we work on the unity first. That was the main purpose of the whole vigil today.”
This was the second time the HSA had held a memorial, the first memorial being in 2010 in the wake of the earthquake. Norha Kavanagh, president of the Haitian Student Association, stressed that the purpose of this memorial was to remind the Haitian students at Kean about their history.
“We tend to forget our history and it [the vigil] was also to remind students on campus here who have not gotten the chance to go to Haiti that yes, our country is alive and yes, even if we’ve had something as tragic as that happen, we are still going to keep going,” explained Kavanagh.
“Our goal overall is to educate Kean students that do not fully know the background and history of our culture, and to also educate them of such a tragic event and how we were able to overcome it as a nation,” she continued.
With this goal, Kean students definitely took notice. Darian Deraman, a student who attended the memorial out of curiosity, took notice of this purpose.
“Regarding what’s been happening, I actually feel like, you know, this is a good thing they are doing,“ Deraman said. “It’s not that much because everyone has class and things. It actually means a lot for me to actually come.”
Near the end of the memorial, all those present were asked to take candles in remembrance of all those who lost their lives that day and the purpose of HSA was clear.
“What we hoped as an organization that Kean students take away from this particular event, is that despite the many adversaries that our country faced, we will strive for greatness,” Kavanagh said. “As a country that’s what we do, and we won’t stop.”