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When I was a child in school, Black History Month was when I first learned about African-American heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas and George Washington Carver.  While it was refreshing to learn of these people and their contribution to history, I also learned how very unfairly Blacks were treated in the United States before the Civil Rights era.  Even in the midst of celebrating “us”, the “Black as the underdog” thing was looming and stayed in the back of my mind.  Honestly, Black History Month was one of the few times I didn’t so much mind being “different” or more like my African-American counterparts.  As a Haitian-American child, I knew that my parents didn’t have the same history that I was learning about.  I was still “different” — but this time I felt like maybe it wasn’t so bad.

As a parent today, I hate that my children have to learn that their country didn’t (and in many cases still doesn’t) treat Black people and other people of color fairly because of the color of their skin.  Although the list of Black Heroes that my kids are learning is longer than what I remember being taught growing up, I wonder if Black people being the historical underdog looms in their young minds as well.

blackhistorymonth

Isn’t Black History Month supposed to uplift?  Without discounting what our kids are already being taught about the historical contribution of African-Americans, why aren’t they also being taught more uplifting stories about Black people? Why aren’t they learning about Egyptian Kings and Queens? Why isn’t Haitian History part of the curriculum? It’s a more recent history.  I am of the belief (and yes, I might be biased) that Haitian history is not just for Haitians — it is literally BLACK history — a story of redemption for all people of color who have ever been enslaved.  Is the story of the Haitian Revolution too militant?  Surely it’s not more militant than the story of white settlers coming to a foreign country and taking what wasn’t theirs to begin with (i.e. American history).   I suppose we shouldn’t depend on the hunter to tell the lion’s story.

Article_didyouknow

I make it my business to share that history with my children — and whoever else will listen. (When my eldest was in Kindergarten, I spoke to his class about the Haitian Revolution during Black History Month).  Haiti’s history is all too often ignored in terms of its importance and significance. What a momentous event!  The story of the Haitian Revolution is an event that has significance, not only for Black people, but for all of humanity. When the slaves revolted in mass in 1791 after a long struggle against the French army, they were able to proclaim Haiti’s independence and the end of slavery in 1804.  It was the first time that a whole people (Black people!) extended the notion of freedom to everybody. Not only that, they also demonstrated that slavery is the unnatural state, and freedom is the natural state of people.  They rightfully took back what was theirs!

We need to boost our kids’ self esteem with this story.  Obviously the schools are not going to to it, so it is our responsibility.  My children have both African-American and Haitian ancestors, and I think it’s my job, as a Haitian American parent, to make sure they know something about the history of both sides of their family.  I think even if half of their family wasn’t Haitian, this is a story worth telling — especially to our Black children.  Haitian History is BLACK history.  It is a victorious history of an oppressed people who fought for — and won — their freedom.  This should be part of the Black History curriculum.   Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter (even when the hunter wants you to think it’s all about the lion for a month).

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flag

Happy Haitian Flag Day!

The first Haitian Flag I knew was Black and Red with vertical bars and had the coat of arms in the center.  I remember In 1986 when I was 13, shortly after the departure of Duvalier, the “new” Red and Blue flag with horizontal bars was introduced.  Despite the fact that my parents had been living in the States for 16 years,  their excitement was contagious.  Without knowing a whole lot about Haitian history at the time, I immediately thought the new flag was so much better than the Black and Red one — it looked so much happier and more festive — and it came with a huge celebration.  My parents explained to me that the “new” Haitian flag was actually an old Haitian flag and that Haiti was happy to be rid of the Duvalier dictatorship and the Red and Black flag that represented that era.

Today’s Haitian flag (as described in the 1987 Haitian Constitution, Article 3), has two equal-sized horizontal bands: a blue one on top and a red one underneath.  The coat of arms of the Republic is in the center on a white square.  The coat of arms of the Republic are a Palmette surmounted by the liberty cap, and under the palms a trophy with the legend: L’Union Fait la Force (“In Union there is Strength”).

After doing some research, I learned that Haiti has actually had 9 different variations of the flag in its history.  Here’s a brief recap (courtesy of http://www.haiti.org):

1697:

flag-1697

When Spain formally recognized French control of the western third of the island, until February 1803, the French flag ruled over the French colony of Saint-Domingue. In 1793, Toussaint Louverture, black leader, and precursor to Haiti’s independence, aligned with the French tri-colored flag. In 1801, Louverture is nominated governor of the entire island, and with the Constitution of July 8, 1801 becomes governor for life. In June 1802, Toussaint Louverture is captured by Napoléon Bonaparte and deported to, and jailed in France where he dies.

1803:

flag-1803

Jean-Jacques Dessalines, chief of the black rebels, and Alexandre Pétion, leader of the mulattos, decided in February 1803 to stop fighting alongside the French. Dessalines, on May 18, 1803, removed the white band from the French flag – which was used in Haiti during the French rule, and thereby created the first Haitian flag, symbol of the alliance of blacks and mulattos in their fight for freedom. Dessalines, ordered that the phrase “Freedom or Death” be inscribed on the flag. A relative of his, Catherine Flon, was entrusted with the task of sewing back together the blue (hoist side) and red bands of fabric to form the new Haitian flag.

1804:

flag-1804On November 18, 1803, French troops capitulated in Vertières; Haiti was independent. On January 1, 1804 the generals of the revolution decide to change the flag so that the bands are now horizontal. This is the first flag of the free and independent republic. This new bi-colored flag is confirmed by article 192 of the Constitution of 1843.

1805:

flag-1805

On October 8, 1804, Dessalines proclaimed himself Emperor and took the name Jacques I. On May 20, 1805 he adopted a new flag of two vertical bands; one black, for Death, and one red, for Freedom.

1806:

flag-1806After the assassination of Dessalines at Pont Rouge on October 17, 1806, the country was divided in two for 14 years; the north ruled by Henri Christophe and the south and west ruled by Alexandre Pétion. Pétion immediately reverts to the blue and red flag of 1804, to which he adds the inscription “L’union fait la force” (strength in unity). At the center, the coat of arms of the Republic, adorned with the Phrygian hat (liberty cap), is placed on a white square background. This flag was hoisted at the National Palace for 158 years, until 1964.

1811:

flag-1811On December 27, 1806 General Henri Christophe became president and is recognized in the North, North West, and in 1807, Artibonite Departments. On March 28, 1811, he proclaimed himself king and took the name Henri I (1811-1820). The self-made monarch kept the colors of the imperial flag of the Kingdom of the North (1805), but changed it slightly; red in the hoist and black in the fly with, at the center, a shield with a phoenix under gold five-pointed stars, all on a blue background; the shield bears a crown and the Latin inscription ‘Ex Cineribus Nascitur’ (« From the ashes we will arise »). In 1818, Henri and his kingdom were vanquished by Alexandre Pétion’s conquest of the North. Pétion, who had been proclaimed president on March 19, 1807, imposed the horizontal blue and red flag to the North. On October 8, 1920 he was succeeded by Jean-Pierre Boyer who maintained the same flag.

1822:

flag-1822In February 1822, Jean-Pierre Boyer annexed the Spanish part of the island (present day Dominican Republic), which a few months earlier, on November 30, 1821, had proclaimed its independence from Spain under the name of “Republica del Haiti Espanol” (Spanish Republic of Haiti), as well as declared its alliance with Colombia. The flag of the Spanish Republic of Haiti was raised in the early weeks of 1822, but the new Republic would soon be dissolved by Boyer.

1849:

flag-1849An attempt to reinstate the black and red flag failed in 1844. In 1847, Faustin Soulouque was elected president, but proclaimed himself Emperor under the name Faustin I (1849-1859). The 1849 Constitution kept the blue and red flag but replaced the coat of arms by the shield. The Empire of Faustin I ended on January 15, 1859 and the coat of arms of the Republic regains its original position at the center of the flag.

1964:

flag-1964In 1957, François Duvalier, Papa Doc, was elected president, and in 1960 seized all powers. In 1963, he established a single party system and a new Constitution was adopted on May 25, 1964. The new Constitution returned to the black and red flag, although this time the coat of arms of the Republic remained. This flag became official on June 21, 1964. On April 21, 1971 Duvalier died and was replaced by his son Jean-Claude, who was proclaimed president for life. Following a popular uprising, Jean-Claude was removed from office in February 1986.

1986:

flag-1806On February 17, 1986, 10 days after the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier, the Haitian nation reverted to the blue and red flag, which was ratified a year later by the official adoption of the March 29, 1987 Constitution.

Today’s Haitian flag has come a long way.  Haitians in Haiti and abroad proudly celebrate it today — join us!  Bring your Haitian flags out and wave them in the air!!

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This post first appeared in the Haitian Times at the following link:

http://haitiantimes.com/6-haitian-women-to-celebrate-for-womens-history-month-10666/

March is Women’s History Month. Take a look at these six Haitian-American women who are sure to earn their place in history for their work in the Haitian community and in their respective fields.

Charlene Bathelus made history in 2012 when she became the youngest Haitian American elected to public office in Elizabeth, NJ. Bathelus, who serves on the Elizabeth school board, is also an active community leader in New Jersey. Bathelus is also the community partnership coordinator for Prevention Links and supervises two local civic groups where she educates the public on the importance of civic engagement and leading a productive and healthy lifestyle.

Executive director of Haiti Cultural Exchange (HCX), Regine Roumainworks tirelessly to promote Haitian culture through her organization. Located in Brooklyn, HCX hosts events ranging from open readings from emerging and celebrated Haitian writers to art exhibitions and live musical performances. Her mission is to bring all realms of Haitian culture to the masses to celebrate it for the beauty it has to offer.

Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre was elected in 2014 to the 11th assembly district, which includes Wheatley Heights, Lindenhurst and North Amityville. Jean-Pierre is an active member of the Haitian community. She is the former vice president of Haitian Americans United for Change (HAUC). After the 2010 earthquake, she led a relief team to provide emergency support to those affected by the quake.

Blogging and marketing maven Karen Civil has made a name for herself in the entertainment and hip-hop industry. In 2014, she put her notoriety to work for Haiti when she traveled to Haiti and made a $41,000 donation to build the Live Civil Playground.

Elected in 2013, Valerie Cartright was the first Haitian American elected to office in Suffolk County. She is serving her first term as councilwoman for the Town of Brookhaven.  An attorney by trade, she has an impressive legal career that spans 10 years.

Fabienne Colas is a modern-day Renaissance woman. The actress, director and producer founded the Montreal International Black Film Festival, Canada’s largest black film festival. “Considered by many as the most popular actress in Haitian cinema, Fabienne started out as a model, was crowned Miss Haiti in 2000 and has represented Haiti in numerous beauty contests around the world.”

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When I was a child in school, Black History Month was when I first learned about African-American heros like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas and George Washington Carver.  While it was refreshing to learn of these people and their contribution to history, I also learned how very unfairly Blacks were treated in the United States before the Civil Rights era.  Even in the midst of celebrating “us”, the “Black as the underdog” thing was looming and stayed in the back of my mind.  Honestly, Black History Month was one of the few times I didn’t so much mind being “different” or more like my African-American counterparts.  As a Haitian-American child, I knew that my parents didn’t have the same history that I was learning about.  I was still “different” — but this time I felt like maybe it wasn’t so bad.

As a parent today, I hate that my children have to learn that their country didn’t (and in many cases still doesn’t) treat Black people and other people of color fairly because of the color of their skin.  Although the list of Black Heros that my kids are learning is longer than what I remember being taught growing up, I wonder if Black people being the historical underdog looms in their young minds as well.

blackhistorymonth

Isn’t Black History Month supposed to uplift?  Without discounting what our kids are already being taught about the historical contribution of African-Americans, why aren’t they also being taught more uplifting stories about Black people? Why aren’t they learning about Egyptian Kings and Queens? Why isn’t Haitian History part of the curriculum? It’s a more recent history.  I am of the belief (and yes, I might be biased) that Haitian history is not just for Haitians — it is literally BLACK history — a story of redemption for all people of color who have ever been enslaved.  Is the story of the Haitian Revolution too militant?  Surely it’s not more militant than the story of white settlers coming to a foreign country and taking what wasn’t theirs to begin with (i.e. American history).   I suppose we shouldn’t depend on the hunter to tell the lion’s story.

Article_didyouknow

I make it my business to share that history with my children — and whoever else will listen. (When my eldest was in Kindergarten, I spoke to his class about the Haitian Revolution during Black History Month).  Haiti’s history is all too often ignored in terms of its importance and significance. What a momentous event!  The story of the Haitian Revolution is an event that has significance, not only for Black people, but for all of humanity. When the slaves revolted in mass in 1791 after a long struggle against the French army, they were able to proclaim Haiti’s independence and the end of slavery in 1804.  It was the first time that a whole people (Black people!) extended the notion of freedom to everybody. Not only that, they also demonstrated that slavery is the unnatural state, and freedom is the natural state of people.  They rightfully took back what was theirs!

We need to boost our kids’ self esteem with this story.  Obviously the schools are not going to to it, so it is our responsibility.  My children have both African-American and Haitian ancestors, and I think it’s my job, as a Haitian American parent, to make sure they know something about the history of both sides of their family.  I think even if half of their family wasn’t Haitian, this is a story worth telling — especially to our Black children.  Haitian History is BLACK history.  It is a victorious history of an oppressed people who fought for — and won — their freedom.  This should be part of the Black History curriculum.   Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter (even when the hunter wants you to think it’s all about the lion for a month).

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A huge part of my childhood memories involve witnessing my dad and his male friends discuss and debate Haitian politics.  To be clear, woman are sometimes involved in these discussions as well, but from what I can tell, it was primarily a male pastime.  In fact, I’d venture to guess that Haitian Politics probably made up about 90% of what Haitian men discuss among themselves (I’m guessing, of course — I’m a woman).  It doesn’t matter that they’ve been out of Haiti for decades — the topic of Haitian politics is always current and heated.

If you were upstairs during one of my dad’s domino games in the basement with his friends, and you didn’t know better, you’d think there was some huge argument going on downstairs or that a few of the guys were going to come to blows — but that was standard fair.  That’s just how politics was discussed at my house:  loudly and passionately.  But it wasn’t just discussed at home — politics was discussed everywhere: at first communion parties, baptisms, funerals, you name it — wherever they got together was fertile ground for a political discussion.

And if they weren’t discussing and debating Haitian politics, they were listening to a discussion about politics direct from Haiti (or sometimes from a studio in New York or Miami) on the very loud, and perpetually staticky shortwave radio.  (Oh, how I dreaded the noise that comes out of that thing.)  When they couldn’t take “just listening” any more, they’d have no choice but to call in to the radio show to give their two-cents, and the heated discussion will ensue.

As a child, I didn’t really get it.  What’s the big deal?  Why are these men getting all worked up about whatever is going on in Haiti when they live in the States now?  As I matured, I learned that although you can take the man out of Haiti — you cannot take Haiti out of the man.  Despite the fact that these men have emigrated decades ago — and swear that Haiti will never get better — they all hold on to a hope that maybe, just maybe, it will.  They dissect what they think needs to happen to make it so; what players should have done what, etc.  They try to make sense of what has happened and is happening to the homeland they left…the one that many of them had planned to leave only temporarily, oftentimes for political reasons, yet find themselves still away two decades later.  I realize now that a Haitian man’s obsession with Haitian politics is a byproduct of their love for Haiti…and how can you deny them that?

How have YOU viewed the relationship between Haitians and their politics?

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This article first appeared in TRAVEL WEEKLY at http://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Travel-Agent-Issues/Haitian-agent-showcases-land-of-her-birth/

 

 

Dina Simon, Haitian-born and New York-bred, holds a master’s degree and a high-level position with New York City’s Department of Corrections.

Simon also is a home-based agent and the founder and manager of My Haiti Travels, a boutique firm based in Huntington Station, N.Y., that seeks to connect travelers with Haiti and Haitians through a blend of civic and social interactions and safe, meaningful and fun experiences.

It took a devastating event years after she had left Haiti to rekindle her connection — or reconnection — with the country she left at 9 years of age when she moved with her family to the U.S.

“It was my birthday,” she recalled. “I was on vacation in Mexico, sitting on the beach when the earthquake hit Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. In those first days after the quake, I could not get the images out of my head of the utter destruction and havoc caused by the quake.”

She returned to New York, but the images stayed with her.

“I kept asking myself: How can I help with the rebuilding of Haiti? I couldn’t work for an NGO [nongovernmental organization] because I had no background in that,” she said.

In August 2010, eight months after the quake and with the country still in ruins, Simon visited Haiti for the first time since she had left as a child.

“I hadn’t kept a connection with Haiti through all those years,” she said. “But when I was there on that visit, I saw things. I posted photos, and my friends saw the photos and wanted to go to Haiti. They wanted me to show them Haiti through my eyes.”

And she, too, wanted to return.

Unable to find a reliable source of guidance for where to stay, where to eat and what to do in Haiti, Simon founded My Haiti Travels in 2012.

“The goal was to promote local businesses, support local shops and restaurants and build relationships with local professionals and experts across Haiti’s hospitality and tourism sectors,” she said. “We want to educate travelers by showing them the different sides of Haiti.

“We try to change the perception of Haiti by focusing on the positive but not ignoring the struggle. We have to tell Haiti’s story. We’re aware of the challenges facing Haiti, but the time has come to take a different path and do something new.”

In 2013, My Haiti Travels launched Impact Week, its signature annual expedition coinciding with the Martin Luther King federal holiday on the third Monday of each January.

A key feature of the five-day/four-night program that year, this year and continuing Jan. 15 through 19, 2015 is Project Day.

“We spend time in Port-au-Prince and on one of those days, we travel to Zoranje not far from the capital. It’s a new settlement born from the earthquake, with housing and public schools for families who lost homes,” Simon said.

On the first visit to the school in 2013, Simon’s tour group planted a tree and met and talked with the students.

This year, My Haiti Travels returned to the same elementary school.

“We included three breakout sessioHaiti tour - shoppersns this time where we painted with the kids, sang nursery rhymes with the younger ones and had a real talk session with the eighth-graders,” she said.

The discussion was simultaneously illuminating and heartwrenching.

“They asked us why we didn’t come back to Haiti more often,” Simon recalled. “‘How can we maintain hope?’ one of them asked us.”

One of the tour participants on the first trip, a teacher, was so moved by the experience that she now returns once a month and conducts teacher training sessions at the school.

“We’ve seen that what we do makes an impact, Simon said. “Kids meet us, and they see us return. The favorite moment of Impact Week for all of us is the day we volunteer.”

A repeat client who has booked the 2015 trip is bringing laptops for the students.

The group’s time in Port-au-Prince includes trips to the Iron Market to see (and buy) handicrafts from the vendors, plus visits to several museums and art galleries.

“I want them to see artifacts, like the anchor from Christopher Columbus’ ship in the National Pantheon Museum,” Simon said. “I want them to understand and appreciate the history of Haiti and our people.”

Although the basic itinerary for each Impact Week remains the same, Simon makes a point of patronizing different restaurants, hotels and hot spots on each trip.

“We eat at local restaurants,” she said. “We hear local bands and visit clubs and nightspots. We stay at a different hotel each year. This year was the Best Western, last year was the Royal Oasis. We are constantly meeting and talking with Haitian entrepreneurs. We have three local guides who travel with us who speak Creole and know the hidden places to go.”

A 45-minute drive from the capital is a beach area where an afternoon is spent swimming and sunning.

“We do a hike,” Simon said. “It’s optional, but 19 of the 30 people in the group this year opted to do it. We passed through a village and ended at a spring and natural pool ringed by watercress. It was magical.”

Tour participants span all walks of life, from nurses, executives and teachers to Haitian diaspora who want to share the country’s culture and history with their preteen and grown children.

Most are from the New York area, although Simon has had participants from Texas, Maryland and Florida.

“On these trips, I try to show the other side of Haiti,” she said. “It’s important to me that these visitors see Haiti in a new light, a positive light, and to make them repeat visitors. There is still poverty, a lot of it, but I see changes and progress.”
Haiti tour - volunteers
Because many in the tour group wanted to stay longer, Simon tweaked the 2015 itinerary and added the option of two more days that will include Haiti’s annual Jazz Fest in Port-au-Prince as well as tours of the Citadelle in the north.

My Haiti Travels also offers an annual Memorial Day five-day/four-night package that visits Jacmel, the thriving art community a three-hour drive south from Port-au-Prince, and Petion-Ville outside the capital.

Land-only rates for Impact Week are $1,299 per person, double; the Memorial Day package starts at $1,199 per person, double.

Both are all-inclusive packages, except for alcoholic beverages.

“I don’t book air,” Simon said. “I book the hotels, arrange the tours, hire the guides, scout out the restaurants and accompany my groups.”

JetBlue, American and Delta serve Haiti from several gateways, and tour participants meet up in Port-au-Prince.

“I believe travelers are looking for a different type of vacation,” she said. “The days when people are confined to a resort are gone. Haiti offers a mixture for people who want adventure and authenticity and who want to discover culture and history.”

The best way to support Haiti is to visit, support local businesses and give back directly to the people in need through volunteer efforts, according to Simon.

 

Learn more by visiting http://impactweekhaiti.com

 

 

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By: Militant Barbie, Blogger

October 13, 2014

Source: http://militantbarbie.com/post/99945133850/in-defense-of-history-frederick-douglass-manifesto-to

 

 

arawaks Arawaks were indigenous people of Caribbean islands, such as what is now present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic

We should not forget that the freedom you and I enjoy to-day; that the freedom that eight hundred thousand colored people enjoy in the British West Indies; the freedom that has come to the colored race the world over, is largely due to the brave stand taken by the black sons, of Haiti ninety years ago.”  -Frederick Douglass’ speech “Lecture on Haiti,” at the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition, Chicago.

As I’ve written in other publications, the African-American presence at 19th and 20th century world fairs and expositions, explores an important part of U.S history that didn’t make it into the textbooks. When I first learned about the Atlanta Negro Building, a 25,000 square foot black arts and cultural exhibition space that was the birthplace of the New Negro or Harlem Renaissance movement, I was dumbfounded. How did I, nor most people I asked, not know about this? Since then, the history of black people in world fairs and expositions has led me in many different directions and on this day, the one where we are forced to celebrate yet again, a man who committed the genocide, enslavement and pillage of dozens of indigenous groups in America, (by the way, Happy Columbus Day) it was only fitting that I travel back to another world fair, this time, in  Chicago.

On May 1, 1893, the city hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ “discovery,” of the “New” World. Blanketing more than 600 acres in mostly Jackson Park, the fair attracted many high-powered civil leaders, politicians and tycoons who hoped to bring economic growth and new opportunities to the White City. Its neighbors, New York City, D.C, and St. Louis contributed to the fair’s efforts, which presented an image of American industrialism, expansion and architectural beauty to the some 27 million visitors that year. Like Atlanta’s Cotton States Exposition two years later, Chicago’s World Fair was an important means of bringing people together to recognize and celebrate America’s growing regions.

The irony of celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage is that the World’s Fair Expo also made room for an exhibit hall called the Haitian Pavilion. A space dedicated to the country of Haiti, it was one of 46 international countries that participated in the fair. On January 2, 1893,  Frederick Douglass, a U.S Minister and Consul General to Haiti, delivered his riveting speech, “Lecture on Haiti,”  to some 1500 people inside the Haitian Pavilion.

But maybe it wasn’t ironic. After all, the island of Hispaniola was where Columbus first landed in 1492, when he thought he reached an island off the coast of China. Inhabited by an indigenous group called the Arawaks, the explorer described Hispaniola as a mountainous region with “plains and pastures, both fertile and beautiful… [and] many spices, and great mines of gold and other metals…”  But not for long. Soon after landing, Columbus built a fort, which historian Howard Zinn considers the first European military base in the West, and enslaved its inhabitants.

By 1497, 125,000 Arawaks were dead.

By 1550, 500 Arawaks were left.

By 1650, no record of the Arawak people existed.

Douglass made many visits to Haiti in his consulate position, and he had a deep appreciation for the country as the first and only nation to ever successfully revolt against slavery. As a former enslaved person himself, Douglass was inspired by Haiti’s revolutionary ways and credited its people as models for African-Americans, as they fought their own battle for freedom and equality. Douglass also highlighted Haiti’s beauty despite its fragile political and economic state, which he believed was capable of better days:

 “NO OTHER LAND HAS BRIGHTER SKIES. No other land has purer water, richer soil, or a more happily diversified climate. She has all the natural conditions essential to a noble, prosperous and happy country.  Yet, there she is, torn and rent by revolutions, by clamorous factions and anarchies; floundering her life away from year in a labyrinth of social misery. Every little while we find her convulsed by civil war, engaged in the terrible work of death; frantically shedding her own blood and driving her best mental material into hopeless exile. Port au Prince, a city of sixty thousand souls, and capable of being made one of the healthiest, happiest and one of the most beautiful cities of the West Indies, has been destroyed by fire once in each twenty-five years of its history. The explanation is this: Haiti is a country of revolutions.”

Douglass discussed Haiti’s evolution from a slave colony to a free black republic following 1804 Haitian Revolution. He encouraged the U.S to improve its relationship with Haiti because the country had great growth potential.

Haiti did more than raise armies and discipline troops. She organized a Government and maintained a Government during eighty-seven years. Though she has been ever and anon swept by whirlwinds of lawless turbulence; though she has been shaken by earthquakes of anarchy at home, and has encountered the chilling blasts of prejudice and hate from the outside world, though she has been assailed by fire and sword, from without and within, she has, through all the machinations of her enemies, maintained a well defined civil government, and maintains it to-day. She is represented at all courts of Europe, by able men, and, in turn, she has representatives from all the nations of Europe in her capitol.

Douglass understood the racial and political reasons why Haiti was having a difficult time creating partnerships with its European neighbors. The1804 Revolution was so fierce, so bold, so extraordinary, that enslavers across the globe imposed new laws to keep blacks from forming future uprisings. This small island forced whites to think harder about the foundation of slavery, as they watched it burst in flames throughout the deep mountains of Saint Dominigue. Despite the chills Haiti gave many white supremacists, Douglass unapologetically praised the nation and urged people to recognize its potential:

With a people beginning a national life as Haiti did, with such crude material within, and such antagonistic forces operating upon her from without, the marvel is, not that she is far in the rear of civilization, but that she has survived in any sense as a civilized nation…

Already she has added five hundred schools to her forces of education, within the two years of Hyppolite’s administration. [Applause,] In the face of such facts; in the face of the fact that Haiti still lives, after being boycotted by all the Christian world; in the face of the fact of her known progress within the last twenty years in the face of the fact that she has attached herself to the car of the world’s civilization, I will not, I cannot believe that her star is to go out in darkness, but I will rather believe that whatever may happen of peace or war Haiti will remain in the firmament of nations, and, like the star of the north, will shine on and shine on forever.

What might happen if schools also taught history from the perspective of the Arawaks? How would our views of Columbus Day change? My exploration into world fairs and expositions has challenged everything I thought I knew about history. The abridged narratives that were selected for me  in college and high school were mere half-truths, fluffy tales of great white knights, and stories of the good cowboy versus the bad Indian. By digging deeper, I learned that history is a collective effort, that involves more than just a “Top Ten List,” of people and places and things. More than just a simple tale of a Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. Douglass teaches us in “Lecture on Haiti,” that every person, every group and culture, had a role in shaping the globe.

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