Valerie Bellande, second from the right, with fellow '09 graduates of the Program in African and African-American Studies
VALERIE BELLANDE, ’09, sent the following email Jan. 15, addressed to Stanford students KICHELLE WEBSTER and GABRIELA SPENCER, and to JAN BARKER-ALEXANDER, director of the Black Community Services Center, just before Stanford’s Caribbean Students Association was to meet to develop a strategy for responding to the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti. Bellande, who is Haitian-American, is studying for a master’s degree in international relations at the University of Cambridge. An excerpt of her letter, which she granted Stanford permission to publish, follows:
“I just wanted to send a short letter to express my deep appreciation for the concern that you and the general Stanford community have shown toward the situation in Haiti in the past few days. . . .
“First, I wanted to say that the past few days have been difficult, bewildering and heart wrenching for me, my family and other young Haitian-Americans. At first, I was certain, due to some miscommunication and my mounting anxiety, that my dad had passed away. I was afraid to call my mother as I sat frozen for hours after having arrived in England just that morning. Finally, a friend contacted me to tell me that my dad was safely in Miami. I have never experienced a relief so huge.
“Unfortunately, once I realized that my father was fine, I began to focus obsessively on the aftermath of the earthquake, never tearing my eyes away from the news and compulsively checking Facebook messages and calling close friends on Skype. I continue to grieve for the cousins that I have lost and every single family whose members are buried under the rubble.
“Equally startling for me and other young Haitians is the loss of our heritage, of the buildings that grace our memories and of the homes that sheltered us.
“While most of us were pushed by economic and political hardship to come to the United States, it was reinforcing to know that on our island we were welcome. It was comforting to feel that we had homes waiting even if we seemed to be perpetual immigrants. However, in the midst of our grief, the reactions of students like you have brought much needed comfort and empowerment.
“Those of you who are familiar with Haitian history and culture know that we are a strong and enduring people. Many times, as a nation, we have stood alone and isolated and this has been foundational in our understanding of our identity. Yet, your presence at this meeting today, your emails, your kind words and your prayers continue to bring to Haitian-Americans and Haitians a sense of human solidarity, strength and hope. For all that we are a resourceful, spiritual and creative people, this moment would be absolutely debilitating to face alone. So thank you, again, for being here and for taking the time to let your compassion guide your actions. . . .”
More news about the campus response to the earthquake is available on the Stanford Haiti Information website.