Remembering Nancy Dorsinville, Haitian Activist and Scholar

Editor's note:

A vigil service will be held at 9:15 AM followed by the celebration of the funeral mass on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at St Ignatius Loyola Church, 980 Park Ave. More information can be found on the Facebook event

Bashar Makhay
April 14, 2021

Haitian activist, leader, and scholar Nancy Dorsinville passed away this week and people across our local community and around the world are expressing their condolences and honoring her legacy. 

Nancy was a senior policy advisor to the United Nations Office of the Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Community-Based Medicine & Lessons from Haiti. She also worked in and with Haiti in the UN Office of the Special Envoy at the time of the devastating earthquake in 2010. In those roles, she represented the government of Haiti to the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Clinton Foundation, among others. Prior to her work at the UN, Nancy worked as the director of Academic Advisement in Global Health at the Harvard Initiative for Global Health and as the director of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Alliance for Positive Change (formerly AIDS Service Center of Lower Manhattan, Inc). She has been a Revson Fellow at Columbia and a MacArthur Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. An anthropologist by training, her expertise included HIV stigma, health disparities, and gender-based violence. 

Nancy Dorsinville and Hillary Clinton with Sunglasses

As an A'Lelia Bundles Community Scholar at Columbia University, Nancy was working on a project to create a “new narrative” about post-earthquake Haiti and Haitians by amplifying the voices of Haitian-Americans, including highlighting enduring contributions from Haitian culture to the Harlem Renaissance, the civil rights movement, and Black identity. In her application to the Bundles Scholar program, she shared that:

"The presence of the Haitians and their influence in the Harlem community although quiet, is very deep and meaningful. As the first Black republic, the influence of the Haitian Revolution on Black identity and as an inspiration to civil rights cannot be minimized. Some of the early and enduring contributions of Haitian culture to the Harlem Renaissance have been celebrated and memorialized over time at Columbia's Maison Francaise. Pillars of Black intellectual and cultural thought in Harlem and at Columbia have drawn from Haiti's history. [W.E.B.] Du Bois is of Haitian decent, Frederick Douglas was U.S. ambassador to Haiti. Zora Neal Hurston and Katherine Dunham brought to Columbia's Anthropology department, fruits of Haitian culture."

The University expresses its condolences to Nancy’s friends, family, and loved ones. Messages honoring Nancy's legacy have been shared by numerous organizations and leaders, a few can be found below.