Students inspire others with their culture

The International Students Center (ISC) hosted a Global Connect event spotlighting Haiti. The main speaker was a Haitian student, Naphtaelle J. Ashely Smith, who shared Haiti’s history, culture, language and more. 

The French colonized Haiti, making it known for its production and exportation of many valuable products such as indigo and brown sugar. Haiti built its economy around this exportation, and it gained its independence from the French Jan. 1, 1804.

Due to its French history, there are two official languages: Haitian Creole and French. This has also impacted its religion as it is a largely Catholic country, but Smith said that aside from the 55-60% that identify as Catholic, 29% identify as protestant and 2.1% as following the practices of Voodoo. 

Haiti’s French past also influenced its flag as it is a variation of the French flag, missing the white, since it was ripped out after the country gained independence to symbolize its equality. In place of the white strip down the middle, there is a box containing the Haitian coat of arms.

During the Global Connect event, Smith and the other speakers discussed the earthquake of 2010. The earthquake traumatized many and destroyed Haiti’s economy. Many in America heard about the earthquake, but Smith and other panel members experienced it first-hand. After showing a brief video, Smith shared that there was a $15 billion cost from the earthquake. It ruined the tourist market and widely impacted education. 

“My school had to close for several months,” Smith said. “It couldn’t function after the earthquake.” 

On a lighter side, Smith also explained some common Haitian superstitions. 

“If you hit your toe while going somewhere, it means that something bad is about to happen,” Smith said. “You will receive money if your palm itches you.” 

Most importantly, Smith shared what her home country of Haiti has meant to her.

“My country is in my heart,” she said. “It is in my blood, and we go through a lot. But more than everything that I shared today, Haiti is a smile in the middle of despair. It is a bright sun that lights up 24/7. Haiti is a beach where everyone would like to go for the summer. It is full of colorful street art. Haiti is also getting together to fight against corruption, gain liberty and to be the first Black republic in the world.” 

This powerful conclusion transitioned the event into a panel consisting of Smith, Agla Rousseau, Eriance Couamin and Sony Alexis, who answered questions from the audience. 

When asked about adjusting to American culture and some of the differences between America and Haiti, one of the largest differences, according to the panel, was about relationships. In America, it is common to get to know one another for a while before delving deeper. However, this was an adjustment for many of the Haitian students. The friendly dynamic in Haiti impacts all relationships and builds a beautiful community. 

“Children will run to you as if you go way back,” Alexis said.  

The panel discussed Haitians adjusting to America, working through language barriers, family dynamics, the education system and their favorite Haitian dishes. 

To learn more about future Global Connects, other ISC events and watch past Global Connects, visit the ISC website and or Instagram page @luinternationalstudents.

Auld is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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