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Zeina Safadi

Professor Jennifer Johnson

Writing 2

April 17, 2017

When the World Stopped for Haiti

January 12th 2010 marked a day that changed Haiti’s history entirely; it was the day the

country was struck by a 7.0 earthquake, which led to some of the most catastrophic events of the

modern world. The devastation that followed this natural disaster sparked an outbreak of global

attempts to aid the suffering civilians. Two prominent examples of this include the musical

production of “We Are The World 25 for Haiti” as well as a blogpost, titled “Sunday Morning,”

written by an expat volunteer worker who documented the earthquake’s disastrous aftermath.

Although both writings share the fundamental topic of the Haitian earthquake, they differ in their

context and therefore style. While the song was produced in an attempt to urge the public to go

forth and donate to the Haitian cause, the blog post was an account that alerted readers about the

aftermath of the earthquakes. With two different genres of writing, comes differing conventions;

however, the content within each piece is consistent in eliciting a similar emotional response

from audiences.

Within a month of Haiti’s disaster, 81 artists gathered and produced a modern version of

“We Are The World” as a mass attempt to promote donations to the suffering country. However,

this song and its implementation to raise awareness for such a cause was not a new concept. In

fact, the conventions for this a genre had been established 25 years prior, when the same

producer, Quincy Jones, gathered a group of established artists and musicians to perform “We

Are The World” in an alternative effort of showing USA’s support in overcoming famine within
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Africa. However in 2012, the purpose was slightly altered to fit the push to support Haiti. To

fulfill this a goal, Jones chose to preserve the original base of the 1985 song lyrics, but add a

Haiti-themed rapping verse. Naturally, the conventional use of catchy, expressive verses on top

of a pleasant melody allows this piece to fall into the genre of inspirational contemporary music.

This is a subgenre that is renown to possess techniques that motivate listeners to do their part in

changing the broken aspects of modern society.

The reproduction of “We Are The World” aided in fulfilling its purpose of raising money

and awareness for Haiti is through its lyrics. Such lyrics implement the rhetorical device of using

first person to place an overarching responsibility on individuals to help other humans within this

shared world. As the song repeats “we are the world, we are the children” it places all beings

within equal ranking and reminds us that regardless of our social and economic position in

society, we are all part of the same planet and therefore hold the same accountability of aiding

one another (We Are The World). The song further highlights this a responsibility by repeating

the line “we are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving” (We Are The World). It

is this particular line that the main purpose of the production of such a piece lies. Every time the

artists repeat that line, listeners are more encouraged to go forth and “start giving” to the cause;

when one goes forth and donates, the purpose of raising money and mindfulness is then fulfilled

(We Are The World). The chorus of this song possesses traits that are typical to all songs,

whereby a refrain is repeated continuously to ensure memorability. Furthermore, similar to the

chorus of writing pieces: it provides and reiterates a main focus, one that readers (or in this case,

listeners) will remember once the words come to an end. The chorus furthermore sets a hopeful

tone within the entire song, a tone that acts as a basis of further motivating viewers to respond to

Haiti’s restoration efforts. Overall, conventions of this genre include factors such as inspiring
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lyrics, a catchy instrumental melody, and a group of diverse artists. With the combination of

these three factors, success in achieving the song’s purpose is inevitable.

The formation of a diverse group of artists allows an audience of even greater diversity.

By assembling artists from different genres of music, the song became appealing to a greater

array of ages, backgrounds, and music tastes. From Justin Bieber, to Celine Dion, to Snoop Dog,

the reproduction of this song ensured that there was an artist for every listener. This tactic was an

effective way of expanding its potential audience and therefore expanding awareness for the

cause. The audience consisted of essentially any individual who listens to music, regardless of

their environment, as long as they have access to the internet and YouTube. Without limitations

on an audience, the possibility of mass popularity becomes more likely as the song possesses

melodies that appeal to a large array of individuals, whether it be through pop, rock, or rap. The

producers’ focus was not to adhere to a certain group of people; their focus was to take Haiti’s

suffering and elicit sympathy from listeners. It is the audience’s sense of empathy that generates

the obligatory feeling of donating to the anti-disaster funds. With the success of this action, the

producers again succeed in their purpose of aiding Haiti in its revival.

The context of any piece of writing is wholly intertwined with its audience and purpose.

In the case of this song, the context is essentially the occurrence of the earthquake and the need

to raise money for Haiti’s disaster-relief programs. Without this disaster, there would have not

been a great thrust of efforts to aid those effected, and therefore the inspirational song would

have never been recreated by the group of diverse artists. These catastrophic events further acted

as the basis of the custom rap verse that was added to the reproduced song, whereby lyrics like

“when the floor breaks the magic carpet to stand on” are implemented to elicit further sympathy

from listeners (We Are The World). The rhetorical device of metaphorical lyrics naturally
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produce daunting images of both ground-splitting earthquakes and the shattering of human

comfort, which further provokes targeted feelings of sadness and unease within its audience.

Overall, the context of this song allowed the stringing together of emotive words that effectively

encourage all those listening to go forth and contribute to the revival efforts.

While “We Are The World 25 for Haiti” uses a form of art to aid Haiti’s disaster-relief

efforts, the blog entry utilizes anecdotal information to achieve a similar goal. Following the

initial earthquake, volunteers and foreign workers swarmed the country in a desperate attempt to

do their part to help those suffering. One of those volunteers included Isabelle Jeanson, an expat

communications officer who published several online blogposts as she watched the devastating

aftermath of the earthquake unfold throughout Haiti. Although the blogpost shared the purpose

of raising awareness to the tragic situation, it differed from the song in that it did not urge

individuals to donate money to Haiti. Instead, the blog’s goal centered around bringing light to

the darkness that engulfed Haiti.

Like songs, there are conventions to the genre of blog entries; however, these

conventions do not adhere to the ones of music as they lack both structure and repetition.

Nevertheless, the blogpost does in fact follow the pattern of using a rather personal, opinionated,

and informal yet emotionally captivating tone in its writing. In Jeanson’s entry, she writes in a

first-person perspective as she recounts her experiences of “[visiting] hospitals” and “[seeing]

people sleep in an intersection” (Jeanson). Including her opinion on how she too “would be

[angry] if someone was dumping corpses in [her] town” adds to the personal feel that is

consistent throughout blog posts; this a personal tone is further highlighted when Jeanson admits

that she is “a bit worried [herself]” that earthquake aftershocks will continue to crumble her

surroundings (Jeanson). This personal tone enables an intimate relationship between the writer
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and the reader. Unlike the metaphorical verses in “We Are The World,” this entry utilizes more

direct rhetorical devices, such as sensory imagery, to captivate readers and provoke both

discomfort and compassion. Jeanson vividly describes how corpses are “rotting in the heat” and

generating an “[overwhelming] smell” in the street (Jeanson). This imagery illustrates a scene

that almost puts readers in her shoes, leaving them feeling the urgency she is feeling; it is an

urgency catalyzed by the need to act upon the situation and help those suffering. Engaging the

audience through this tone increases the likelihood of them sharing the entry with those in their

lives, and therefore the intention to raise both support and awareness is accomplished.

Blogposts are essentially a way in which writers can communicate their thoughts and

experiences to those who are willing to read them, and therefore responses to such pieces are

meaningful factors in their success. It is through the readers’ ability to respond to the pieces that

the intimacy between the creator and the consumer increases and therefore the goal of raising the

responsiveness towards Haiti is further fulfilled. Similar to “We Are The World,” the blogpost

does not possess a target audience. It is published online and therefore its audience consists of

anyone with internet access and an interest in reading about the events that occurred in Haiti

during January, 2012. Allowing public access to her entries generates a greater possibility in

expansion as there are no limitations on those who it can reach. Readers can not only indulge

themselves into sharing Jeanson’s experiences, they can also leave comments and responses on

each entry. The ability to respond allows a writer’s message to expand in popularity, leading to

greater success its purpose. The fact that readers are able to directly respond to entries acts as one

of the most prevalent differences between the genre conventions of blogs and songs.

In essence, the context of this entry is a blogpost website called ‘Doctors Without

Borders,’ which focuses on documentation of humanitarian efforts throughout the globe. This
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context leads to the utilization common blog features, that of which include catchy titles,

informal register, first person narration, and directly addressing readers. With this specific

blogpost, the context further involves the circumstances of the Haitian earthquake as it is what

the entries are essentially based on. Similar to any other piece of writing, the context is molded

by purpose and audience. The grievous state of emergency Haiti was in provides an effective

context for Jeanson to build upon as she attempts to communicate her dreadful surroundings to

those who were not present in the country. It is through such efficient communication that

Jeanson was able to succeed in her intention of accumulating a sympathetic audience to support

her and the relief attempts within the nation. This success is seen through the plethora of

comments and reactions left by readers at the end of the post; this thus illustrates the fact that

Jeanson fulfilled her goal of highlighting Haiti’s anguish, which further elicited foreign aid.

It is apparent that the 2012 Haitian natural disaster sparked mass online responses, each

of which differed in its purpose, audience, and context and therefore conventions. While “We

Are The World 25 for Haiti” possessed the musical devices of rhythmic and repetitive lyrics, the

“Sunday Morning” blogpost was intimate and anecdotal in its features. Despite the differences

within each genre, both pieces shared the purpose of shedding light on the travesties that

occurred in Haiti in an attempt to increase global cooperation in disaster-relief efforts. With the

distressingly raw events of the earthquake, viewers around the world helplessly watched as

Haiti’s people crumbled. Helplessness is naturally paired with sympathy towards Haiti’s

population, and it is this sympathy that motivated audiences to do their part to assist the revival

attempts, thus the fulfillment of each genre’s intentions was inevitable.
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Work Cited

Haggis, Paul, dir. “We Are The World 25 For Haiti – Official Video.” YouTube. YouTube, 12

Feb. 2012. Web. 10 April 2017.

Jeanson, Isabelle. “Sunday Morning January 17, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.” Doctors Without

Borders, 17 Jan. 2012, www.blogs.msf.org/.