By Onz Chery
More than 300,000 people tuned in on Sunday evening to watch Unity Benefit Concert, a virtual event that was livestreamed on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
The concert, organized by The Haitian Times and the Haitian Medical Association Abroad (AMHE by its French acronym) raised funds to help battle the potential disaster the novel coronavirus will cause in Haiti and to assist Haitian New Yorkers in need.
According to health experts in Haiti, the coronavirus pandemic is expected to reach its peak in July, infecting more than 600,000 people. Currently, there are 533 confirmed cases and 21 deaths in the Caribbean country — a sharp increase from the 85 known cases reported on May 2.
Grammy award-winning artist, Wyclef Jean, mirrored those numbers as he sang one of his most famous Creole songs “Yele” during the concert.
“COVID-19, make a gesture, give a donation for health,” Wyclef sang. “Ten thousand coffins, look, all of them are kids. The priests are praying but they’re not going to resurrect. The mothers yelled but the corpses can’t hear.”
Several other prominent Haitian entertainers also performed during the Unity Benefit Concert including, Belo, Harmonik, Ram, Klass, Bridging The Gap. Carel Pedre, founder of Chokarella, was the host of the concert.
Unity was the one theme Haitians couldn’t escape from as they raised funds to help their brothers and sisters in Haiti. Numerous Haitians encouraged each other to donate in the comment section during the virtual concert and shared the post on social media. The concert was shared 648 times on Facebook alone with more than 300,000 views.
“I think that was beautiful,” Queens Borough Advocate Sabine French said. “It was great that everyone kept repeating that message together. Repetition is key. If you think about it, the concert was three hours, within three hours you can’t have just one message [asking for donation] it has to be repetitive to remind the people that the purpose of the concert wasn’t to entertain but to fundraise.”
French shared the concert on Facebook and added a frame to her profile picture encouraging people to donate.
To add to the performances, there were also various speakers such as Dr. Jean William ‘Bill’ Pape, the executive director of GHESKIO; former NFL star, Pierre Garcon; activist Karine Jean-Pierre and other well-known Haitian and Haitian Americans.
One of the speakers who stood out the most was Reverend Philius Nicholas. Nicholas is the former head of one of the largest Haitian congregations in Brooklyn, Evangelical Crusade of Fishers of Men. He’s also a COVID-19 survivor and shared his thoughts on the pandemic.
“I know a lot of people are suffering,” Nicholas said. “Me too, I battled the illness. God healed me. My daughter who’s a nurse took care of me at home. I didn’t go to a hospital.”
He later added: “Now I want to encourage everyone who’s sick, who were sick, or who know someone who’s sick, stay courageous and prudent. There’s hope. Things won’t stay like this. It will change.”
Unlike Nicolas, many Haitians lost their fight against the coronavirus in the United States. Wyclef expressed that he, himself, lost loved ones.
“I lost my uncle,” the 50-year-old said. “My wife lost her uncle. My ex-wife lost her mother, three days later, she lost her father.”
Ten percent of the funds raised will be donated to Haitian families residing in the United States, who were struck by the virus and 90 percent will be donated to the Haitian Global Health Alliance. As of this writing, organizers have not tallied the amount of money raised; however, the goal is to raise $500,000 throughout the duration of the ongoing fundraiser.
Haitian soccer star defender, Mechack Jerome, is assured that the donations will tremendously help his fellow Haitians but was also impressed by the qualities of the performances.
“All the performances were great,” Jerome said. “I love every last one of them. And yes, it will definitely help Haiti out and I’m happy and pleased with how everything went down.”
The concert might be over, but it was only the beginning of the Haitians’ fight versus COVID-19. Donations are still being raised via AMHE’s GoFundMe page.