Convening Haitian Voices: A Local Summit from WNYC
In the days after an earthquake devastated Haiti, New York’s public radio station, WNYC, listened to New York’s Haitian population, the second largest in the country. The community was reeling from the tragedy and there were many strong opinions about how to help the victims.
“As a public radio station who wants to be more involved in the community, we wanted to reflect these voices,” explained Brenda Williams-Butts, director of community engagement and audience development at WNYC. The station responded with The NEXT New York Conversation: Haiti’s Future: New York City Speaks, a special summit held in the station’s Jerome L. Greene Performance Space.
They decided to frame the conversation around the global impact of the disaster and Haiti’s efforts to rebuild. The station solicited activists, experts and everyday citizens from New York’s Haitian population to lead the discussion. Community partners Network Journal and a local social-entrepreneur distributed e-cards and initiated viral promotions to encourage participants to attend the free event.
To bring a global perspective to the conversation, representatives from United Haitians in the United Kingdom watched a live telecast of the event and contributed comments and questions via Skype through WNYC’s partnership with WriteTalkListen, a UK-based production company.
Haiti’s Future: New York City Speaks provided dialog and support for those attending the summit and those who couldn’t, explained Williams-Butts. Topics brought up during the summit informed the station’s news department for reflection in future on-air segments. WNYC also hoped to create tools to help the conversation continue in the community.