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A UBC Alumni night for Haiti in Toronto

Sometimes my day job (being dean) and my commitment to Haiti come together nicely and unexpectedly. I heard the other day that the UBC alumni group in Toronto is gathering at the Drake Hotel on Friday November 26 from 6-9 for a Reception to Rebuild Haiti and a silent auction to build a school in Haiti. I was pretty inspired by this, and because I can’t go personally, I was asked to come up with a testimonial to be read. Here’s what I’m sending along:

“Honorary Consul General Dr. Pierre and Mme. Pierre; Alumni of UBC; and friends of Haiti – bonswa mesyedanm ak zanmi peyi dayiti yo [good evening ladies and gentlemen and friends of the country of Haiti].

I am honored to send this warm note of greetings and thanks to you tonight as you gather for a reception and auction to rebuild Haiti. I have only recently assumed the Deanship of the Faculty of Arts at UBC, having moved from Toronto to Vancouver in September. However, I am deeply gratified that alumni of this great university have dedicated themselves to raising funds for so essential and inspiring a cause.

As some of you may know, I have had the pleasure of working on Haitian music for the last twenty-five years as a scholar, a journalist, a festival director and activist. I am grateful to Haitian friends and colleagues for so much of what I hold dear and indeed for so much of who I am that it is impossible for me to imagine my life without this enduring engagement with Haiti and Haitians.

In the words of an old proverb found in religious songs in Haiti, “Jou-m tonbe se pa jou-m koulye” (The day I fall [as a leaf falls on the water] is not the day I sink). This phrase captures for me the enduring spirit to survive and to thrive in the most adverse of conditions. I urge you not just to be charitable toward Haiti, but to be inspired by the strength and beauty of Haiti; not just to help rebuild the country, but to learn from the ability of so many Haitians to face disaster with courage and tenacity.

Vreman, tremblemantè-a te kraze kay-yo men li pat kraze espri pep-Ayisyen-nan. Ansanm ansanm nou kab rebati peyi-a. Pran kouray; kenbe la pa lage’l. [Truly, this earthquake crushed buildings but it didn’t crush the spirit of the Haitian people. Together/united we can rebuild the country. Take courage, hold on (take care) and don’t give up.]

Onè – respè [Honor – respect]

Gage Averill,
Dean of the Faculty of Arts, UBC”

So, if you happen to be around Toronto on the 26th, please stop in and show your support. There will be a Mad Men themed silent auction (where among other things they’ll auction off two of my Alan Lomax in Haiti boxed cd sets and my book on Haitian popular music). Tickets are $23.00 — check it out at

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