Faculty, students gather to hear first-person stories of Haitian life

By Christiana A. Shyllon

On Jan. 26, Penn State faculty and students gathered in the Global Programs Lounge in 410 Boucke Building to experience the life and culture of Haiti through the pictures and stories of Antoinette Pressley-Sanon.

Pressley-Sanon, Africana research post-doctoral fellow and research associate in comparative literature and African and African-American studies at Penn State, is of Haitian decent. Her presentation opened the audience's eyes to the historic and artistic aspects of a country that has recently been in the news because of a major earthquake. In the aftermath many were left homeless, injured or dead.

Although Pressley-Sanon described the earthquake was a horrible event, she said there is much more to Haiti than the current destruction. "Deye Mon, Genyen Mon: Haiti's Fight for Freedom," the title of her lecture, is a Haitian saying that means "beyond mountains, more mountains." Pressley-Sanon's goal was to share the mountainous country of Haiti with those who know little about it.

Pressley-Sanon told the story of Haiti's history through slavery and rebellion, and also provided vivid details about her personal experiences visiting and living in Haiti.

"The televised 4-H march across the Brooklyn Bridge in 1989 sparked my interest in Haiti," said Pressley-Sanon. Haitians were denied the right to donate blood because of the AIDS scare at the time.

During her undergraduate years, she visited Haiti and "fell in love;" it was when Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president in 1990 that Pressley-Sanon packed up her suitcases and moved to Haiti to join the Operation Uphold Democracy. She lived in Haiti from 1991 to 1993. In the summer of 2008, Pressley-Sanon went back to Haiti for six weeks. She shared many photographs from her recent trip.

Reprinted from The Global Lion, which can be downloaded at http://www.international.psu.edu/publications/global_lion/feb03_10.pdf.

Last Updated February 16, 2010