Xavier welcomed Professor Lyonel Sanon of The State University of Haiti in Spring 2019 as a visiting scholar with the Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence program. Sanon, a professor of Education and Linguistics worked closely with Dr. Shearon Roberts, an assistant professor of Mass Communication and African American and Diaspora Studies and Dean Camillia Okpodu in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“What I’ve noticed here in New Orleans is we share many cultural aspects,” Sanon said. “Last week I was a part of panel discussions where we talked about culture, and what can be done to get more involved in New Orleans in terms of sharing of cultures between Haiti and New Orleans,” Sanon said.
In addition to participating in panel discussions on campus and in the city, Sanon shared Haitian culture and history in Xavier courses. As a Fulbright Scholar, Sanon has worked on a number of public initiatives in Haiti around education and language.
At Xavier and in New Orleans, he said he was happy to teach the Haitian Creole language and to share his experiences with Xavier students in Latin American and Caribbean studies courses. He participated in various cultural activities where he was part of panels in which he and other professors and foreign cultural enthusiasts spoke on not only culture, but the Haitian creole language. Sanon expressed his ultimate goal of bringing the universities of Xavier and Haiti together. He expressed his desire of expanding the teachings of the critical cultural aspects such as the history of Haiti and learning of multiple languages.
“I’m working on a concept note since in Haiti we are in the process of reforming the State University of Haiti, and I’m trying to see if we can establish some kind of formal relationship with Xavier University, a black university,” Sanon said. “We can share a lot of things, a lot of lessons. You had Katrina 14 years ago and we in Haiti had the earthquake of 2010,” Sanon added.
The shared experiences of natural disasters that hit New Orleans and Haiti were memories that remain for a long time in any community. Sanon said being in New Orleans helped him see how long it can take for communities to recover.
“We also in Haiti suffered a lot during the earthquake of 2010. Imagine that more than 200,000 people died that day. It happened on a Tuesday and the day before I was teaching in the School of Linguistics with more than 50 students in the classroom and all of them died during the earthquake,” Sanon said.
The tragedies and hardships experienced by Sanon such as the lost of his students and sleeping in his car for an entire month helped him to relate to residents in New Orleans and to the Xavier community.
“From my working with Dr. Roberts, I think something should be done in Haiti about the teaching of history. In the secondary schools we focus on Haitian history. I think we have to broaden our perspective. I think we have to include Caribbean studies at all the university levels,” Sanon said.
“For us to better understand what’s going on in the region, I think Haiti should learn about the history, the culture of Latin America and the Caribbean. We do have a relationship with the other Caribbean countries, but that’s something that should be reinforced,” he added.