`Henry To Haiti`
BSU Documentary Students Get Close-Up View of Haiti Disaster
By Auburn Mann
Three students in the Department of Communications and adjunct Prof. Del Walters traveled to Haiti to witness first-hand the devastating aftermath of the earthquake that shook the Caribbean island nation more than three months ago.
Days after the earthquake hit, students Nkosi Dickerson, Dominique Johnson and Christine Waller began filming in front of the Henry Administration Building before moving on to other sites on campus. The title "Henry to Haiti" reflects their journey in the development of the film, which began literally in front of the Henry Administration building due to its close proximity to a statue that many pass by daily with little appreciation for its significance. This is a statue that symbolizes the oppression of people of African descent in the Americas.
Shooting the documentary was "a great way for a group of African-American students to reconnect with their roots, spiritually and culturally, by experiencing and learning about a culture and people first-hand, whose population is mainly descended from enslaved black Africans," said Walters, who teaches the television and film documentary class this semester.
After all of the international media coverage of the earthquake, the student filmmakers wanted to uncover for themselves the real story of what's taking place in Haiti. After weeks of struggling with just trying to obtain the financial resources and with the support of family and friends the team left for Haiti on April 5 for a four-day tour of the devastation. "Many of the staff and others around us gave us a million reasons why we shouldn't go, instead of a million why we should," Waller said.
As they arrived in Port-au-Prince, they were overwhelmed with emotion. As they were presented with all of the imaginable ills of a disaster-stricken region. With over 2 million people displaced and another 3 million in need of medical aid, it was a miserable sight, the students said.
Throughout their stay, they roomed under the roof of the Jacqueline Joseph and her family who are part of Bethesda Ministries, which hosts disaster relief volunteers. Joseph was extremely patient and giving, said Johnson, who described Joseph as "an angel in disguise."
As they filmed the conditions --- no clean running water in many places, lack of food and clothing, crowded buildings, wide-spread disease and injury --- the students were also active in the relief efforts as they went around to different sections of Port-au-Prince and smaller surrounding towns and villages outside of the city. The provided beans, rice, fish, sandwiches, water, milk and juice to hungry men, women and children. They visited and prayed with children in a local hospital.
"The things we as a society take for granted, and constantly complain about, we forget things could be worse," Waller said. "They have little to nothing and they work with what they have."
Johnson said simply: "This experience was very humbling for me."
The Bowie State team was one of the first HBCUs to go the Haiti since the disaster and among a handful of college students, including teams from Syracuse University and the University of Maryland College Park.
Dickerson said the experience reminded him of "our shared humanity, and how we are all human and have a collective responsibility to come together in times of crisis and aid our fellow man."
Said Walters: "When one person is still shackled we all remained shackled."