Woolsey Hall resonated with the echoes of a primal scream at a benefit concert Monday night, as hundreds of attendees joined in the Haitian tradition of wailing over the loss of loved ones.
“My heart bleeds for Haiti,” said Robert Lamothe ’77, who spoke at the benefit and invited the audience to join him in the scream midway through the concert.
In an effort to raise money for victims of last week’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, administrators and Haitian students organized the benefit, called “Help Can’t Wait.” Thirteen student groups performed free of charge, with acts that alternated between solemn and upbeat. Though the organizers did not meet their fundraising goal of $100,000, University Chaplain Sharon Kugler said the event had raised $25,000 as of midnight, but she expected to receive more donations during the night.
Director of Yale Bands Thomas Duffy served as master of ceremonies for the evening, calling the opportunity to organize the event a “bittersweet honor.” As attendees filed into the auditorium, they received what Duffy called a “no-frills” program, an attempt to ensure that all gathered funds went to the relief efforts.
The opening act, the a cappella group Shades, started off by singing “We Shall Overcome,” a key anthem of the American civil rights movement. In her keynote speech, University Secretary Linda Lorimer said the song embodied the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
“I, in my heart, believe we can do something more,” Lorimer said.
Lorimer then called for a moment of silence to honor the lives lost in Haiti.
But later, the drums and yells of the Konjo! African dance troupe made the floor of the auditorium tremble. Heads literally turned when the Schola Cantorum and the Yale Glee Club began singing from the uppermost balcony at the back of the Hall. And in contrast to the musical acts who made up most of the program, spoken word poets evoked the images of ruin and havoc that had struck Haiti.
The performances were punctuated by prominent speakers, who included Lamothe and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro. Halfway through the concert, Duffy asked attendees to try to donate more for the people of Haiti, even if that means sacrificing luxuries people take for granted, such as buying coffee or giving up a meal at a restaurant.
“We can try to give a bit more until it hurts a little to decrease the anguish of our neighbor,” he said.
Two students of Haitian heritage, Jean-Phillip Brignol ’10 and Arlene Barochin ’10, offered anecdotes about their own experiences and thanked attendees for their donations to the relief effort. They spoke about the catastrophe that has struck Haiti — a country they said they call home — and how it has wrecked the lives of their relatives.
“My family is alive but homeless,” Barochin said. “We are fortunate.”
One student, Kristina Guild GRD ’15, said she was moved by the stories of people with personal connections to the disaster. Her friend Ana Lara GRD ’15, who was born in the Dominican Republic, said Yale’s quick response to the tragedy demonstrated the University’s strong sense of solidarity.
After the concert, Kugler said she was thrilled with the end result, and she was already thinking about the next step.
“The wide variety of voices shown tonight makes all the difference,” she said. “You could just feel the love.”
Organizers asked students who planned on attending the concert to donate at least $10 at the door, and $20 or more for non-students. All the donations will be given to the Red Cross and other organizations currently providing relief to the devastation in Haiti.