A second event in the series, “A Forum on Haiti,” begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Illges Hall, room 318, Columbus State University. Admission is free and open to the public.
Cécile Accilien, a CSU professor, has been glued to her cell phone and CNN coverage since the recent Haiti earthquake.
The Haitian-born French language professor’s parents were known to be in Port Au Prince on Jan. 12 when the quake struck.
She couldn’t eat or sleep until hearing two days later from a cousin that Letroy and Veronique Accilien, both in their late 60s, had been seen in Haiti’s Central Plateau region and reported to be safe, according to a media release from CSU.
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Though her parents moved to the U.S. when Accilien was a child, Letroy, in his retirement, has maintained a second home about five hours' driving time west of Port-au-Prince. The couple, not owning a cell phone, previously used a cyber café close to the home in Haiti to communicate with their children.
They were in the capital city transporting a family member to the airport the day of the quake.
“The news that they were seen brought great relief,” Accilien said in the statement.
Accilien and three siblings — living in Maryland, Germany and Afghanistan — are in constant contact among themselves and with friends and other family members outside of the affected region, tracking news on friends and other family members suspected to have been in the city and surrounding, affected areas. While remaining hopeful, Accilien and her network have faced some inevitable bad news, discovering several family members on her mother’s side had been reported dead.
Accilien, co-editor of the book "Revolutionary Freedoms: a History of Survival, Strength and Imagination in Haiti," said the mainstream media doesn’t provide a meaningful representation of her home country. “Most Americans know Haiti simply as a poor, backward country,” she said in the statement. “This series will demonstrate Haiti’s rich history and vibrant culture in art and music, plus its cultural, historical and economic connections to the United States.”
Accilien said she wants to deliver the series both on campus and out in the community to reach as many people as possible.
She also plans to focus her efforts on Haitian society. Since the quake, she has assisted international aid organizations in translating documents (such as a guide for safe drinking water)from English and French to Haitian Creole — the only language spoken by the majority of Haitians.
“Once the news cameras leave, there’s a concern the world may forget about Haiti, but there will be an opportunity for the Haitian diaspora around the world — which I’m a part of — to step up and creatively influence the rebuilding of a decentralized social structure of sustainable communities and schools with less dependence on the national government,” Accilien said.