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By Patrick Sylvain, Contributing Editor
Oct. 8, 2014, Source: Boston Haitian Reporter
http://www.bostonhaitian.com/columns/2014/reflections-death-unpunished-dictator


I was barely five years old when François Duvalier died and his nineteen year-
old-son was sworn in as President in April 1971. This was done after the
Haitian constitution was amended with neither national referendum nor proper
parliamentary procedures to account for the dramatic change in the age
requirement, from forty years of age to nineteen.

I remember my mom dressing me up for school: I had on a new pair of ankle-high
black boots, khaki shorts and a white shirt. We had barely reached the first
bend in the road when my grandfather quickly ran after us, ordering us to come
back. I knew something was wrong, as other families scurried back into their
homes. It was the first time that I recollect seeing my family gathered around
a large radio in the living room; it was then that I had learned of the
passing of a President.

I vividly recall being told that our President was for life, which obviously
he was not. Life went on as I went back to school with a new picture plastered
on the outer school walls. I remember laughing with some of our schoolmates at
how chubby our new young President was. One of the peanut vendors told us that
we would be arrested if we didn’t stop our silliness. We stopped.

Time went on. I became a teenage boy wearing long pants and riding motorcycles
with children from Haiti’s most influential families; I also had very poor
friends with whom I played football or marbles. Sometimes through jokes and
other times through serious talks I learned from them about disappearances,
about wives who were sleeping with military officers or public officials for
political favors, and about who owned guns among the students and how to
become a card carrying member of the Duvalier militia, the Macoute (Volunteer
for the Security of the Nation/VSN).

Additionally, in 1971, in order to assure his power and his legacy as a
strongman, Duvalier formed his private counterinsurgency military group, the
Leopards, which was headed by the Commander Acédius Saint-Louis, and they
carried repressive military operations around the capital that included the
dumping of thousands of bodies in Ti-Tanyen, and also behind the notorious
Lamanten garrison.

The Leopards were equipped and trained by the American Miami-based company,
Aerotrade, whose CEO was James Byers. Let’s not forget Fort-Dimanche where
thousands of Haitians were summarily tortured and starved to death. Duvalier
was proud to let the nation know that “the son of a tiger was also a tiger.”
Namely, that he also possessed the ferocious characteristics of his father.
Indeed, the ferocity of the regime seduced a lot of young men and women who
wanted to have carte blanche to carry out so-called “counterinsurgency.”

As one of my oldest brothers joined the Duvalier militia corps as a Security
Intelligent Officer (VSND), a detective, I witnessed how allegiance to the
Macoute machinery of power was far greater than family ties. My brother became
a brute, a man intoxicated with power and devilishly defending the crimes of
the Duvaliers. As other young men joined the machinery of repression,
childhood friends were torn apart and even betrayals occurred.

I hated the régime. In May of 1980, there was the $5 million dollar national
wedding that was lavishly displayed on public television while Haiti was going
through its first major food shortage and episodes of famine in the
Northwestern region of the country. The famine had commenced after the regime
allowed “creole pigs” to be slaughtered due to pressure that the USAID placed
on the government in a campaign to eradicate swine fever.



There were no cases of swine fever in Haiti. Since the government, as well as
the Haitian bourgeoisie, never had a progressive vision for the country, they
happily participated in the eradication campaign by killing the very
livelihood of the peasants.

From 1979 until today, the floodgate of Haitian boats became a new marker in
the economic as well as political repression of the Haitian people.
Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of Haitians were legally sold to the
Dominican Republic as sugarcane harvesters, the payment per worker added to
the coffers of the National Palace. All the while, Jean-Claude Duvalier – then
known as the Playboy President – was collecting an array of fancy foreign cars
(from Mercedes Benz, BMW, to Audi), and likewise gifting them to opulent
parties – the political gagòt – in order to satisfy his manhood. Perhaps most
insulting of all were the trails of crisp gourdes he left flying to the ground
for the dirt poor to fight over like dogs after his motorcade passed through
disenfranchised neighborhoods.

By the time I left for the United States in December of 1981, Haiti was
constantly in the news and nothing positive was projected. Haiti was portrayed
as a nuisance. At the same time, the United States government continued to
pour millions of dollars into the repressive state due to its anti-communist
policies and extra-liberal international business plans, including Ronald
Reagan’s devastating Caribbean Basin Initiative, which provided zero taxation
to businesses, no rights to unionize, and allowed corporations to change names
within ten years in order to enjoy renewed rounds of free tariffs.

Haiti was a heaven for sweatshops. More Haitians left the country as life
became more difficult and basic hope was handcuffed by corruption, repression
and incompetence. Under the Jimmy Carter administration, things improved in
terms of human rights, but the structural damages suffered by the country were
already too profound. When Duvalier and his cronies finally fell from power in
1986, the United States provided a rescue plan that saw the safe passage of a
notorious dictator to safety in France, and in doing so prevented justice.

And so it was proven to be true: no justice, no peace. The millions of
repressed people spoke the language they had been taught; Haitians were mad
with joy, and that euphoric madness gave way to violence. Thus, the anger of a
repressed people that fueled a bonfire of political uprooting likewise veered
the country toward a continual reenactment of its traumas. Meanwhile, Duvalier
was spending stolen money in a former colonial country that had inhibited
Haiti’s development.

Jean-Claude Duvalier, uneducated in the affairs of governance, just as our
current President and many others that preceded him, ran the country with an
iron fist in order to cover up for the institutional lacunae that cripple its
functioning. Due to our history of slavery, dictatorship, foreign occupation
and more dictatorship, we Haitians have grown accustomed to and accepting of
“the strongman” as a model; thus dictatorship as a mode of operation.

One could argue that the failures of Aristide, Préval and now Martelly rest
squarely in the fact that they have had no model of democratic governance or
economic inclusion in Haiti, and certainly no historical precedent of
government that truly loves its nation in a non-folkloric way. What the
Duvaliers gave us was a folkloric nationalism and “order” based on fear, which
in turn generated a pathological populous that is cliquish, self-centered,
narrow-minded and economically non-productive, constantly looking for a way
out to a foreign country. Because they have never experienced stable and
secure institution, it is no surprise that members of the elite are involved
in kidnapping, drug trafficking and the systematic destruction of the rule of
law. We have never had checks and balances. Haitians know first-hand the
Duvalier rule of iron-fisted-laws and kleptocracy.

The governmental machinery propped by the Duvaliers concerned itself with the
structural control of all aspects of Haiti’s socio-political life, which
included the deputizing of 562 section chiefs who could then hire their own
adjutants and lackeys. Such control was draconian and it created a level of
paranoia as well as various forms pathologies among Haitians, including the
egocentric military patriarch and clientellism (foli chèf and moun-pa).

So should Jean-Claude Duvalier receive a national funeral? No. He was never
voted in by the people, and therefore was never a constitutionally legitimate
president of the country.

Furthermore, with all of the crimes, bribery, and corruptions that occurred
during his reign, by providing him with an “honorable” national funeral, it
would be allowing green light to impunity to all dictators and demagogues who
have soiled the Haitian nation in the name of nationalism. If Martelly and his
pseudo-Duvalierist acolytes would like to pay homage to their “hero” as
private citizens, it would be their rights to do so. But not one dime of the
impoverished nation should be spent on a kleptomaniac while thousands of
people are still homeless from the devastating earthquake.

Despite Jean-Claude Duvalier’s death, the search for justice must continue,
and Haiti must finally be ruled democratically, responsibly, and with human
interests as its core value.

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For many, when they think of the tourism industry, thoughts of increased capital, business growth and new jobs come to mind. And as Haiti slowly recovers from the catastrophic effects of the 2010 earthquake, it seems a revival of its tourism industry makes sense.

For most of our Caribbean neighbors scattered across the Atlantic Ocean:  Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago, just to name a few, tourism is big business.

So when David Toussaint founded Haiti Tourism Inc., in 2011, he and his team aggressively marketed the island as a vacation hotspot for anyone searching for their next island getaway. The company’s Facebook and Twitter feeds regularly feature images of the country’s green pastures, crystal blue oceans and smiling locals. And its aggressive advertising campaigns seem to be working.

Last week, Carnival Corporation, the owner of Carnival Cruise Lines has signed an intent agreement with the Haitian government for a cruise port off the northern coast of Haiti, on Ile de la Tortue. Royal Caribbean already has acquisition of Labadee cruise port, also along on the northern coast. The new venture promises to create 900 job positions.

labadee

While its natural for many to be excited for Haiti’s plunge into the tourism industry, let’s look back a few decades when Haiti was a premier hotspot for vacationers. Bill and Hilary Clinton spent part of their honeymoon there in 1965. Writer Ernest Hemingway once visited. And in the 1954 issue of LOOK magazine, Haiti was part of its travel issue alongside the Florida Keys and San Francisco.

But the country was still in disarray. Soil erosion and deforestation were destroying the mainland. Unemployment was high and the minimum wage, which was just five gourdes, hardly sustained the working class.

Filmmaker Stephanie Black explores what some describe as “neo-colonialist tourism,” in her 2001 documentary Life and Debt. The film examines the economic and social issues affecting Jamaica despite its booming tourism industry. Small companies fail, unable to compete with cheap exports and outside corporations. Beaches become privatized, and homes acquisitioned as land are bought and sold to corporations interested in gated resorts and villas for the rich.

How much will Haitian locals benefit from tourism today? Our Caribbean neighbors remain vastly impoverished despite their decades in the business so it’s important to realize that Haiti may suffer the same fate. It is up to the people to ensure that their needs are met first, and not those on the outside.

Haiti has enough beauty, culture and richness to awe the world. But its people should be first in line to reap the benefits.

This tourism video, made in Kreyol, it sounds like a campaign to get the locals excited and ready for the country’s tourism venture:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Kf1Hj77Msg

Annabella Jean-Laurent is a Haitian-American writer who explores race, media and culture in society. Her current project surrounds an important but little known exhibit called the Negro Building at the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition. Follow her @militantbarbie on Twitter and Facebook. 

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This post was submitted by Carmel Balan, CEO and Founder of Port Academie, an educational portal containing the latest trends and academic news on Haiti. 

blackcorporatewoman

Being Black in corporate America can be very damaging to one’s self esteem. For many, you did all the right things to leverage yourself: received an education, respect your peers and are a great team player, prove and improve your work ethic to land a dream promotion, only to be asked to train someone to supervise you or land the big promotion that you’ve worked so hard for.

You’re an afterthought. You’re the help.

One of my favorite web series on Youtube is “Unwritten Rules”, and I highly recommend you watch it. The main character Racy, allows us to comically follow familiar issues in the corporate world. It also illustrates her battle with other Black people in the office who perceive her as being “too fancy” because she eats things like “pink fish” during lunch. While I laughed through many webisodes, the realities at work are no laughing matter. Many people are struggling through this, and it’s inspiring when I witness their upward movement, especially as trailblazers. I am patiently waiting for Racy’s big break.

Being Haitian also has a profound effect on my psyche and ego while I go through these experiences at work. It’s frowned upon to let others walk all over you and berate you in most societies and cultures, but when you’re Haitian you almost feel like you’re indebted to your ancestors to follow in their footsteps when berated – “Pa kite moun ranse ave’w” even if its on a micro level such as this and has no profound effect on history and a country as a whole. Therefore, I do practice a level of resistance, when my “superiors” go too far. Just like my ancestors’ success, I know that I will have the last laugh when my time comes.

If you’re reading this article, and going through this, know that you are not alone. I hope you turn every bad experience at work into a motivating factor to work harder towards your own goals that will enable you to direct your life towards fulfillment. I personally can’t wait for that day myself!

Blessings.

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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 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!!

If you’re in the NYC area, join us at the Haitian Flag Day Selebrasyon! Sponsored by Haiti Cultural Exchange.  It’s a free outdoor celebration of Haitian culture with live dance performances, workshops by CUMBE, traditional drumming, crafts, and more! Music by DJ Sabine Blaizin, Jocelyne Dorisme, and Nadïne LaFond. Sunday, May 18, 2014 from Noon – 6pm at Parkside Plaza (Ocean Ave & Parkside Ave in Brooklyn, NY).    Check out the whole Haitian History Month lineup at http://haiticulturalx.org/selebrasyon

 

 

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ratchetMrJeffDess is a writer, professor, public speaker and emcee of Haitian descent. Born and raised in Jamaica Queens, MrJeffDess stayed in New York City and hit the poetic and leadership scene full force in 2001 at St. John’s University. Along with receiving a B.A. and M.A. in English Literature his career at St. John’s would mark the beginning of a journey towards a variety of literary genres and leadership types.

MrJeffDess is the author of three books of poetry. He has performed, spoken and presented across the nation at various institutions and universities. With over ten years of performing and student affairs experience under his belt MrJeffDess continues to strive towards helping students reach their highest potential. He currently serves as the Assistant Director of Campus Life at New Jersey City University.

MrJeffDess in conjunction with grew bap books   creates an enjoyable cultural dialogue about growing up as the son of immigrants and the struggle with identity with the publication of Deconstructing Ratchet.

Deconstructing Ratchet, provides a poetic conversation on the complexities of ratchet culture and all that surrounds it. Featuring over 100 haiku, Deconstructing Ratchet will  reshape the way readers define ratchet ideologies and all of its incarnations. The text will specifically look at the impactful influences of music, television and media. The haikus will also address the how young men and women are depicted through a ratchet lens.

Using the art of the haiku poetry, Deconstructing Ratchet evokes humor, paradox and intellectual discourse all while twerking to a dope rhythms and drenched in a hot mess.

clair huxtable haiku

Deconstructing Ratchet will be available in paperback for purchase at www.lulu.com as of March 4, 2014 and www.Amazon.com as of April 4, 2014. EBook versions of the text will be available on April 4, 2014.

For more information visit www.MrJeffDess.com

Follow him on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mrjeffdess

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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.

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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, and after a long struggle against the French army, 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 tell 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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This essay was written and submitted by Marie-Thérèse Labossière Thomas and was first published in April 2013.

 

 

In April 1968, race riots erupted in the US following the assassination of Martin Luther King, and the National Guard was deployed in Washington DC. As social dynamics continued to evolve, the time was ripe for change and learning.  

Several years ago, at an educators’ workshop, I was asked to identify my cultural marker. “My afro!” I answered spontaneously.

afrosilhouette

It was then the ‘90s, long after the huge “’fros” of the ’60s and ‘70s. Mine was still substantial, and old timers would often stop me to comment with nostalgia.

I had arrived in the US in the late sixties, at the height of the Duvalier regime in Haiti and in the midst of the movement for change in this country. The DC-area Haitian community, then small and mostly self-contained, included professionals from international organizations, diplomats, some students and academics, and a few working people. As in the home country, it was cosmopolitan, with some intermarriages with African Americans as well as with Caucasians, and a few families who were rumored to try to “pass” through the color line by keeping careful boundaries between their Haitian and projected selves.

Despite the language barrier, my husband and I set out to discover our new environment. While we had studied English in Haiti, the difference in accents initially made conversation laborious. Thus, as we took the bus and got lost countless times, we also read newspapers, watched a lot of TV, kept notes of new words and their pronunciation, and made liberal use of dictionaries. Often, when hearing us speak, black and white Americans alike would ask us if we were “supposed” to be black. We would then try to explain Haiti’s independence in the context of the slave trade and our African heritage.

During the riots following Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968, 14th Street burned in Washington. In our Adams Morgan living room, we could smell the tear gas used to disperse the looters. The following Saturday, it was a quick dash for food at a neighborhood store where two armed National Guardsmen stood posted at the door. DC was occupied.

The low cost of housing led us to Northern Virginia, despite some warnings from relatives and friends. The first Blacks to move to our street, we initially felt welcome. That started to change, however, as we sought other black families in the neighborhood. When asked about her new behavior toward us, my next door neighbor told me point blank that she had thought we were “different.”

Our foreign language and other skills had allowed us to find employment in the newly desegregated work force, and in my daily bus commute from DC to Virginia, I was generally the only black person onboard. I started to notice that even in a crowded bus, often no one would sit next to me, although it might have been the only seat left empty. I then looked around and realized that while I was the only black person on that bus, my hair had been altered to fit the European model. That is when I decided to fully assume who I was. After some trial and error, I had a huge Afro, and that elicited curious stares one evening as people seemed to take me for Angela Davis, who was then in hiding and actively sought.

The young and militant graduate program at Federal City College (now UDC) later provided content, context, and the PanAfrican framework to explore issues related to the African American community as well as my Haitian culture. The African American bookstores of the Georgia Avenue corridor, the Alexandria Black History Resource Center (now Black History Museum), and other local scholars led me to discover the 19th century African American connection and migrations to the young Republic of Haiti, at the invitation of the then government of the country.

Now adults, my children, while conscious of their Haitian heritage, have also integrated the African American community. And, with the vagaries of celebrity fashion, young people now approach me sometimes. “I like your Afro,” they say. “How do you keep it?”

Simple, easy, and natural. Explore and learn through community and online resources, then style, trim, condition, and maintain. A good pick helps, and I still use an old one that someone brought me as a gift, from Africa.

Marie-Thérèse Labossière Thomas

thesydescayes@yahoo.com

http://www.ahaitianexperience.com

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