Nearly a month after a devastating earthquake, shock gave way Friday night to a celebration of Haitian culture and pride.
Wyclef Jean opened the “SOS Saving OurSelves – Help for Haiti” concert and telethon with the Haitian Creole phrase for “It’s all good.”
“I want to welcome you all to Haiti,” the singer and producer told the cheering crowd, before continuing to rap in the language of his Caribbean homeland.
His performance began two hours of pleas for donations and pledges of unity with earthquake victims just 700 miles from the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
Haiti didn’t seem that far away. Former President Bill Clinton said he took the stage just after stepping off a plane from Haiti.
The Jan. 12 earthquake’s lingering affects have been felt even in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood, just north of the arena. Local Haitian-Americans who survived the earthquake or went to assist the relief efforts were highlighted in the audience.
“We’re all in the same boat,” said singer Trey Songz, making an unintentional pun in a city that is the destination for countless Haitian and Cuban migrants.
Interlocking Haitian and U.S. flags provided the backdrop to Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber and Robin Thicke, among other artists. Some brought the red-and-blue Haitian flags on stage with them, and Jean encouraged the sellout crowd to “find something to wave” and join in the dancing.
Images of rubble and dazed survivors briefly filled the big screens, then gave way to footage of aid workers carrying bags of food, nurses caring for small children and Haitians helping each other through the ruins of their country’s capital.
“Such a beautiful nation, such a beautiful culture,” said Busta Rhymes, leading into his performance of “We Will Stand.”
Aware that “donor fatigue” may be setting in, hosts Sean “Diddy” Combs, Queen Latifah and Pharrell urged viewers and concertgoers to remember Haiti’s need for investment in its infrastructure, along with food, water, shelter and medicine.
“Even if you’ve donated before, donate some more,” Combs said. “It’s a different week.”
Before the telethon, “Heroes” actor Jimmy Jean-Louis said Haitians needed to be in charge of their own recovery.
“We have to get Haiti moving by itself, and not just relying on the donors,” said Jean-Louis, who is Haitian.
The telethon aired live BET, MTV, VH1 and Centric, and it was simulcast live in Haiti.
Gloria Estefan, tennis player Serena Williams, filmmaker Spike Lee and former boxer Mike Tyson worked phone banks, talking to donors.
Proceeds will go to aid agencies Yele Haiti, CARE, Project Medishare, Children’s Safe Drinking Water and The Clinton Foundation.
More than 80 million people tuned in to the Jan. 22 all-star “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon on the major networks, which organizers say raised $66 million.