February 7, 2010

Campus Group Hosts Latin Salsa Dance Benefit to Rally Financial Support for Haiti

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Approximately 140 supporters of Haiti showed their empathy through salsa dance this past Saturday, at Proyecto Pa’lante’s Salsason Latin Dance Haiti Solidary Benefit.

“It’s always great to go out with your friends at events like these,” said Miguel Angel Tapia ‘12.

Proyecto Pa’lante is a campus group that promotes diversity awareness through salsa and world dance, as well as interactive presentations.

The night began at 7:30, with a presentation entitled “Haiti Solidarity at Cornell and in Ithaca.” The evening officially launched Proyecto Pa’lante’s Cornell-Ithaca Haiti Solidarity Campaign, which is a joint venture with Ithaca Friends of Cuba.

“Our first donation drive produced four boxes of medical supplies, in-kind aid, and $350 in cash donations,” said Michael Ristorucci, who was the event organizer. “Of course, more is urgently needed. And more will be done.”

The presentation featured Alison Bodine, an organizer and spokesperson of Pastors for Peace, who was interviewed via Skype.

“This was one of the event highlights. In addition to the positive developments she discussed regarding the impact and expansion of Cuban-led and other medical camps in Jacmel and Port-au-Prince, she also informed us that some aid groups in Haiti, including some from foreign governments and multinational institutions, are beginning to leave Haiti,” Ristorucci explained. “The Cuban-led effort is only growing. Palante and Ithaca Friends of Cuba will continue its sustained grassroots work in conjunction with Pastors for Peace and the Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees to send medical supplies and doctors to Haiti to work alongside the Cuban medical team”

The event continued with a free “Survival Latin Dance Lesson,” before the dance kicked off at 9:45 p.m.

Dance attendees paid $4 for students, $6 for non-students. Import and draft beers were also provided at the event.

“I guess you could say the Big Red Barn is a good place to get your culture on, have fun with your good friends,” said Matthew Cato ‘12.

Other party goers were motivated by the charity aspect of the event.

“I was going out anyway, and it seemed like the best option for tonight,” Alessandro Bailetti ‘11 said, “It’s the best way to help people in need. It’s cool, I’m here to raise some money for Haiti.”

Organizers were overall happy with the turnout for the night, in light of the importance of the initiative that they have attempted to undertake.

“The energy of the participants at our presentation was great,” Ristorucci said. “All who came brought medical supplies, in-kind aid, or cash donations. They helped get our campaign off to a spirited start. Many responded to the call of Pa’lante to become further involved by setting up a donations box in their place of work, study, or congregation.”

The organization, to be sure, has quite ambitious goals heading into the future. Though their central priority, presently, is coordinating Haiti relief efforts, they are hoping to foster “alternative community formation,” across the university and the greater Ithaca area, according to the group’s online mission statement.

Ristorucci explained what it means to build an “alternative community.”

“A community free from oppression, where people pursue activities that they have in common with each other that are different from the homogenizing and dominating mainstream,” he stated, “For example, if people like to dance they can dance together and they can learn how to together and with each other. It’s about pursuing knowledge for the sake of knowledge.”

To this end, the group has tried to substitute mainstream culture for the more alternative. This is largely the reason why, according to Ristorucci, they opted for a Latin music benefit, instead of a traditional DJ dance. The organization has also lent its support to other grassroots efforts, such as the environmental movement.

Thus far, the group has raised approximately four boxes of medical supplies, in-kind aid and $350 in cash donations for Haiti relief.

Original Author: Brendan Doyle