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Haitian scholar brings awareness

Lynn Sikora | Friday, February 25, 2005

Haitian scholar and activist Djaloki Dessables has been visiting Saint Mary’s campus this week to deliver a series of interactive presentations to discuss the importance of cross-cultural awareness and the vital need to establish cultural diversity for our own survival as human beings.

“I am here to stretch minds and hearts out of the comfort zone,” Dessables said. “This requires us to be in touch with cultures with non-Western roots.”

Dessables hopes to help people understand the world is diverse. There are many ways to experience the understanding of humanity such as through life, reality and truth.

“I am coming with a gift – an unexpected gift for people who don’t know they need to receive it,” he said. “I hope they will accept it because it is something that cannot be forced.”

Dessables believes some of the answers for a sustainable future can be found in forgotten civilizations because they are considered to be poor, primitive and backwards.

Saint Mary’s is the first stop on Dessables’ American speaking tour of schools and churches. The College established a contact with Dessables when the justice education program held a Haiti immersion course during Fall Break 2003. Dessables said he felt very honored to receive the invitation to speak on campus.

“The future of humanity lies in the hands of women,” Dessables said. “I am very supportive of what women can do for a new real world.”

Dessables’ visit is sponsored by the Center for Women’s InterCultural Leadership, Sisters of Nefertiti, Justice Education Program, InterCultural Studies Program, the department of religious studies, Anthropology Club, Residence Hall Association, Peacemakers and the ND Haiti Program.

Justice education program director Jan Pilarski views the visit as a wonderful way to expose students to a culture of people who have great hope and leadership despite the pain and struggle of their country.

“Haiti is a place of real learning – it is a good way to live,” she said. “They have a deep connection to spiritual life and a sophisticated understanding of world politics in relation to their daily lives.”

Haiti Awareness Week is another attempt to introduce students to other kinds of black history. With an influx of Haitians coming to America, it is vital to understand their African and American roots, Pilarski said.

Notre Dame will hold a public lecture at the Snite Museum on today at 3 p.m. about the vodou art exhibit on display.

“Just looking at the art is not enough – you have to understand it too,” Dessables said.