Looking Back: 2010 benefit concert ‘Haiti-palooza!’ helps those devastated by disaster

Ringing in the new decade in January 2010, Oakland University students did their part to raise money for the earthquake-devastated Haiti through a benefit concert. Hosted by WXOU, “Haiti-palooza!” raised $6,900 for the nation recovering from a 7.0 earthquake that left the country in ruins and hundreds of thousands dead. 

Kirby Hairston, who worked at WXOU at the time, heard about the tragedy and felt a responsibility to do something. Collaborating with her coworkers and the Center for Student Activities, as well as a few other student organizations, Hairston put together “Haiti-palooza!” in just a few days. 

“We wanted to do it as quick as possible and capitalize on the momentum,” Jean Ann Miller, director of the Center for Student Activities, said at the time. “If we wait too long, people might lose interest.”

Hairston wasted no time and quickly called as many local musicians and performers as she could. 

“I got a really good response from everyone,” Hairston said.

The artists involved were eager to give back in any way they could and support a cause they thought was important.

OU alumnus Noah “Noafex” Smith was one of the featured artists at the benefit concert. Smith graduated from OU in 2005, and was excited to be involved with “Haiti-palooza!”

“I think it’s a great idea,” the rap artist said of the concert. “I hope a lot of people come out to support this cause.”

The concert featured 25 performers with a variety of acts from hip-hop to acoustic music to spoken word poetry. Featuring two live performers an hour, each act got a 15-20 minute time slot, and the event ran from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the Pioneer Food Court of the Oakland Center. 

“I think it is very great that people in the music community in Detroit are doing things to make a change,” Detroit musician Quesami Hickerson said.

Hickerson went by the stage name “Rencen CoolBeanz,” and closed out the concert as the last act.

“Dig in your pockets, dig in your soul and give whatever you have to help folks,” he said.

In addition to the live music acts, WXOU had DJs filling the time in between performers. During the event, there were tables off to the side of the stage where WXOU collected monetary donations from any who wanted to give back. The concert was also broadcasted live on wxou.org

Starting a new decade with yet another natural disaster, the spirit of “Haiti-palooza!” is one that is still relevant today. On the other side of the world, Australia is being ravaged by the worst set of fires that the country has ever seen, killing half a billion animals and over 25 people and counting. Over 2,000 homes have been destroyed in the fires, displacing a large percentage of the country’s population. Thousands of miles away, in New Zealand, the smoke from the Australia fires has been causing hundreds of people to fall ill. 

As the decades change, the responsibility felt to help others remains the same. 

“People are still people,” Hairston said. “People should still help people.”