After making significant contributions to Haitian scholarship for years, UCSB’s Center for Black Studies Research was named the new headquarters of the UC Haiti Initiative.
The university is now the base for all projects and research programs concerning the developing nation. UCHI — a student-led collective with faculty and alumni support — has collaborated with all 10 UC campuses in order to reallocate UC resources and funds to aid Haiti’s infrastructure.
The organization recently received seed funding from UC Los Angeles to continue their work in Haiti. The money will send many of the group’s leaders — including UCHI’s co-founders UCSB graduate student Nicolas Pascal and UC Berkeley student Tu Tran — to Haiti to work directly with grassroots organizations and local government officials.
According to Pascal, director of the Human Rights Group at UCSB, this achievement put the university on the map as a beacon for change and progress.
“We’re inheriting a really progressive legacy and, in the last year or two, I’ve seen a lot of activism on our campus,” he said. “It was a big milestone when we decided to establish the UCSB Black Studies Research Department as the nerve center for things like web design, coordinating and donations for UCHI.”
According to Pascal, UCSB students collected over $50,000 in donations within a matter of weeks after the earthquake struck.
“It’s great because now the different UC campuses are starting to get some friendly competition going,” Pascal said. “They really want to raise money. Individually and as a whole, the UC system houses world-class resources and talent, and therefore the responsibility to mobilize them toward helping one another.”
The Black Studies Research Dept. — which is one of the nation’s leading institutes on Haitian scholarship and the publisher of the only peer-reviewed journal on Haiti — will house the initiative that focuses on issues such as agriculture, economics, education and healthcare. Additionally, the organization’s efforts will include a partnership with Haiti Soleil for the creation of a library and community center in Port-au-Prince in addition to development of the annual Haiti Flag Week.
The initiative received considerable recognition following the student-run UC Haiti Summit held at UC San Francisco earlier this year. The colloquium hosted more than 230 students as well as a number of noteworthy speakers, including Ambassador of Haiti Leslie Voltaire, leader of the Haiti United Nations Delegation, and UCSB’s own black studies professor Claudine Michel.
The program’s board consists of doctors, engineers and educators who will provide their services to the nation, as well as researchers who will study the conditions affecting the recovery process.
Daniela Governatori, a fourth year global studies major, said the UCSB campus is privileged to be working so closely with the UCHI.
“With everything that’s been going on in the news lately, I feel like a lot of people have kind of forgotten about what happened in Haiti,” she said. “I think it’s great for [UCSB and the Black Studies Department] to get involved. It shows that we still care.”