University News

Wyclef Jean appointed as fellow

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Former Fugees member, international recording artist and Haitian activist Wyclef Jean accepted an appointment yesterday to be a visiting fellow in the Department of Africana Studies.

Jean, who has been an advocate for victims of this year’s earthquake in Haiti, will be joining the University this academic year to engage in Brown’s Haitian Initiative, according to a University press release. As a visiting fellow, Jean will be participating in events and discussions both on campus and remotely.

“His presence allows us to really think through some of the issues related to Haiti and expand what we are already doing,” said Tricia Rose MA’87 PhD’93, professor of Africana studies and chair of the department.

Rose added that the appointment expands the department’s effort to embrace ideas and hear from people with a broad range of experiences.

“The visiting fellows program is designed to create more dynamic opportunities for dialogue and community building around issues,” Rose said.

Jean rose to fame as a member of the hip-hop trio the Fugees and then went on to pursue a successful solo career. More recently, Jean has worked to establish the Yele Haiti foundation, which has worked to help victims of the devastating earthquake that occurred in Haiti earlier this year. Earlier this year, Jean unsuccessfully attempted to run for president of Haiti.

Rose said that Jean’s experiences in the arts make him a uniquely valuable member of the Brown community.

“His artistic sensibility and his openness to a wide range of ideas honor the academic tradition we’re invested in,” Rose said.

Jean arrived on campus on Monday and was able to attend two events related to the Haitian Initiative — a lecture by public health advocate Paul Farmer and a talk given by Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat MFA’93.

Jean told The Herald that Haiti has many social and political problems stemming from its history, but that he has hope for its future.

“As a Haitian, I do not like dwelling on the past or pointing fingers,” Jean said. “Haiti needs capital, and for that we need to start creating entrepreneurship.”

He also said he hopes Haiti will eventually be able to thrive without depending so heavily on outside organizations.

“I don’t want to see my country as a country of NGOs,” Jean said.

Rose said she believes that the arts are an essential component to Haiti’s recovery and that artists like Jean have much to contribute.

“In a time of crisis, you have to save the body, the mind and the soul,” Rose said. “We communicate with artists because they produce powerful ideas.”

She also said that Jean’s experiences in the real world will provide a useful perspective when examining the situation in Haiti.

“We are very invested in ideas, but also in how they play out in practice,” Rose said. “Visiting fellows allow us to connect learning in the classroom to the broader world.”

— Additional reporting by Ana Alvarez