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gros morneOctober 29, 2014

by: Ashley Toussaint

She never talked about what had happened in Haiti. She never talked about why she left home. She did not mention her family much. As a result, I never met my maternal grandparents, my mother’s older sister or her younger brother. She had left Gros Morne, when she was in her late teens, for the Bahamas and then Miami, back in the early 1970s with my father….(Continue reading the original blog here: Gros Morne: The Other Side.)

 

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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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haitaincreole

Creole lessons empower the Haitian diaspora in the small Two Moon Art and House Cafe in Brooklyn by the founder of the Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York, Wynnie …

via Creole, Haiti’s Mother Tongue, Brings People Back to Their Roots.

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My identity crisis began in chemistry lab. The class required a clean white coat and safety goggles. I was instructed to wash my hands for two minutes. The soap made my palms feel brittle while the latex gloves stiffened my muscles. My good eye would squint into a microscope that I could never figure out how to adjust properly. Slides covered in splotches of red and purple stains made me lose my appetite. All of this, three times a week.

My Microbiology professor, a Brooklyn native with a thick Puerto Rican accent recognized my struggles early on but judging from the red marks all over my assignments, had zero sympathy for me. But thanks to Rita, my lab partner, I still passed. Her penchant for getting high right before class made her overlook my incompetence and she gleefully did all the work for the both of us.

Rita’s ability to breeze through each assignment despite her marijuana-induced brain was all the more proof that I was not fit to be a dietician.

I switched my major the next term.

Growing up, the common images of Haitian women in the workplace were in hospitals, nursing homes and medical offices. My mother was a nurse. My aunts were medical practitioners. And almost all my Haitian peers were planning on going to medical school upon high school graduation. Unbeknownst to me, I made a life decision based on an internalized cultural stereotype.

Many people of different racial and ethnic groups will internalize positive and sometimes even negative stereotypes about themselves, even when those perceptions limit their worldview. Although I preferred writing and literature over the periodic table and scientific method, I felt tied to the cultural specific labels placed upon me as a Haitian-American woman. Not to mention that I aimed to please my parents who saw an education in medicine much more respectable than one in liberal arts.

I, like many second-generation Haitian-American children, faced conflicts with my identity. The crushing stigmas, stereotypes and careless media reporting about Haiti and its people played a huge role in this. But my desire to be “outside the box,” or separate from the norm conflicted more with my dual identity. Pressure from my parents who I wanted to please and peers who I wanted to prove my authenticity to, all made me struggle with my identity. But my contention eased when I finally left home.

In  2002, I moved from Florida, which boasts the highest population of Haitian immigrants in the United States, and relocated to Georgia. Once there, it slowly became easier for me to define myself. While my nationality is and will always be a part of who I am, I no longer feel tied to all the cultural norms and traditions typically associated with Haitian-Americans.

Living alone and surrounded by mostly non-Haitian people, I rid myself of the “model minority” mystique. My Cringlish could fall off my tongue without embarrassment. I could dance badly to kompa without looks of confusion.  And despite my below average griot, it was still a hit with my American friends.

The most important lesson I learned is that I can never be one without the other. I am very much Haitian as I am American and both components make me who I am today.

annabella

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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The following post was submitted by Ellen Thompson. Ellen is a Haitian-American medical professional living in Orlando, Florida with her husband and two children.

 

Plate&Fork- 032Throughout my years growing up as a Haitian child, my mother would fix us Haitian breakfast pretty much every morning. My mother had some rules when it came to breakfast. Always eat everything on your plate, never turn down any type of food and you can never eat a man’s food. We as woman were taught that we pile up the man’s plate and don’t eat off it. As I got older, I missed those home cooked breakfasts and I didn’t really cook them when I got on my own. After my grandmother passed away in 2011, my now husband Danny, my son and I went to New York for her funeral and I finally got a chance to have some of that home cooked breakfast that I haven’t had really since my mother moved back to New York a few years ago. But there was one thing I didn’t mention, my husband is a southern black man from North Carolina, who has never had a Haitian breakfast and his best idea of Haitian food is rice and beans.

 

As we traveled on the train from Orlando to New York, he asked a lot of questions about my family and how to act. This is the first time that he had met my family and he was really nervous. I figured he knew the rules, little did I know that I should have explained all of these principles to him. After we got into town and good night’s slept, we decided to have breakfast before we went into the city for a busy day. My mother fixed one of my favorites, Mais Moulin and avocado. I explained to my husband how excited I was to be having this when he asked me “Ellen, what does Mais Moulin taste like?” After thinking about what to say, the only thing that came to mind was Yellow Grits. Little did I know how much he loved Grits?

As we sat down at the table, my excitement grew as my mother fixed our plates and as she laid them down on the table, I saw my husband’s face look deflated like a balloon that lost its air. My mother hovered over us as we took the first few bites, as I took my bites the memories of growing up as a child flowed through my mind and the taste was incredible. When I turned and looked at Danny, it looked like the opened a present on Christmas morning expecting the one thing he asked for and ended up getting a pair of socks. My mother started speaking in Creole, he doesn’t like the food? Danny smiled and said its good Mrs. Michelle. Then Danny leaned over and said “Baby, this isn’t Grits, I have no idea what this is, but this isn’t’ Quaker.” I finished off my food like it was last supper and I looked over at Danny’s plate and he only had taken two bites. Looking a child who was looking for the family pet to come over to eat the food off his plate, I started to take some of his breakfast when my mother and aunt stopped me in my tracks. “Ellen, don’t eat Danny’s food” my mother said. “Danny is the man and he needs to eat all of his food.” He took another bite and he whispered in my ear, “This tastes like gravel and I can’t eat any of this anymore.” I told him that it’s disrespectful to not eat the food that is made and it’s insulting to say that the food is terrible. He explained that he would just have to eat it and that’s it. Danny had the look of a 3 year old was just told the word “No”. I grabbed small spoonful’s to help him out, but he had to put in the work to get it done.

After breakfast was done and we started out on our day, he told me that I only finished the food because I wanted my future mother-in-law not to dislike him at all. But he asked where the nearest pizza place on the way to the subway is.

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This post was written by Wilkine Brutus.  Mr. Brutus is the editor-in-chief of The Vanguard Element: http://www.vanguardelement.com/
He is a poet working on a cross-genre book.  He is also a Vlogger from South Florida, USA and edits from South Korea.

Jean-Bernard-Etienne1-300x206La Misterieuse by Jean Bernard Etienne (Acrylic on canvas)

“Sak pase?”

As a Haitian-American, I grew up with a sharp concern for identity. The American dream, skewed like a broken mirror of slanted reflections or like the bewilderment of a weird nightmare. I’d wake up from it all with an empty stomach, hungry to understand what society was feeding me, fiending for a gluttony of knowledge. Like most inner-city youth, resources were limited. I was often times too apprehensive and distracted anyway–time in the inner-city was like watching a scary movie, buffering at the climax or at the scary moment of a scene. There is nothing more horrific than the constant depreciation of the human soul.

At age 12, the sudden realization of anger and confusion forced me to find an avenue to channel my erratic emotions. I was one of many 12-year-old Haitian-American boys and girls that generally weren’t embraced by Black-Americans. We were also depreciated by the American culture and its hypocritical foreign policy.

In the mid-90s and early 2000s, I use to swallow the stark contrast in treatment between Cubans and Haitian refugees, a double standard US immigration policy that favored the Cubans, which allowed Cuban refugees to stay on American land once they arrived, but would ship Haitian refugees back Haiti. This illogical and racist treatment sparked humanitarian debates, but Black-Americans never embraced or defended the Haitian diaspora, at least not in my neighborhood. There were also historical political and cultural animosity between Haitians and Dominicans, whom both share the island of Hispaniola.  Haitian-Americans were marginalized by black-Americans and Dominicans, hated, frowned upon—and I screamed during a fight, “I’m human, just like you. I’m human, just like you, I’m human just like you,” only to wake up, frantic, with a broken mirror, slanting my reflection—a sharp identity crisis.

It would take years for Haitians and Haitian-Americans to salvage their reputation as “equivalent beings.” I look back and ponder if that time period of injustice and hate was just a complicated era of culture clashes and miseducation.  I don’t know! Evidently, political and economical deterrents were to blame for the madness—a bit too overwhelming for a 12-year-old to understand. Despite my current wisdom, those feelings of neglect and cultural misfortune is difficult to eradicate, albeit moving on in life felt fairly easy. The morals and values that my mother instilled was like a watermark on video—my life, like all humans, has been a montage of trials and tribulations but I own them and I’ve managed to fast forward.

The earthquake that ravished Haiti didn’t create complete sadness, it was ironically another inspiration to uplift and represent the people. However, it was obviously painful to fly to Korea directly after the devastation.

There is a deep fundamental responsibility to understand humanity and the men that alter its very essence. We’ve reduced ourselves into categories and sub-categories and we’ve ignored the universal understanding of love and respect, cordial debates and solution. Our existence is often a battle to claim significance and human contribution, economical strength, fear, and power.  We are, in many ways, still lost in our desperate attempts to find meaning—a matrix of confusion. I am, however, beautifully found—as my purpose, as a Haitian-American in South Korea, is to navigate through preconceived notions and negative perceptions of black males and rectify them. I’ve been wonderfully embraced in doing so, as the universal rule of love and respect applies everywhere. Onelove! -Wilkine Brutus

 

 

 

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This blog post is by Martine, Haitian-American author of the blog ” Taste Buds Required.  Please check out her blog at: http://www.tastebudsrequired.com

 

concord

 

I have a confession: I don’t know much about wine. This was mostly a non-issue for me before moving to Seattle because most of my friends and family in NY didn’t know about wine, either. When I moved here, I realized how much serving wine was actually a part of the culture; having people over for dinner generally meant having wine to serve them.

In keeping with my philosophy that what goes in my mouth should taste good, I’m mostly a fan of picking up brands that I think I’ll find tasty. We could argue that knowledge gives you a different sense of what tastes good, and maybe once you’ve had a really good wine it’s hard to go back to bad ones, but ultimately it’s still just a matter of preference (of course, with my limited knowledge, I wasn’t really thinking about the fact that wine can be used to enhance the flavor of a meal). My mother’s preference was for Manischewitz.

I know what you’re likely thinking, and I wouldn’t entirely disagree. I’m sure most wine enthusiasts would be appalled by this, or the fact that it was actually occasionally served to guests at parties (either that or White Zinfandel), but no one ever seemed to be bothered by this. To be fair, wine (or alcohol in general) weren’t standard parts of the meal. They were very occasional and usually precipitated by someone asking if they could bring something. If someone mentioned wine, though, someone was likely breaking out a bottle of Manischewitz.

With that background in mind, I was at a severe disadvantage when I moved. Most of my guests would offer to bring wine, but I like to make sure my guests don’t have to worry about bringing anything which meant I wanted to be the one to buy the wine.

At one of my very first dinner parties here, I did the unthinkable and actually brought out a bottle of White Zinfandel. In my mind, this was the classy wine, and definitely a step up from Manischewitz. The bottle went untouched as several of my guests (who apparently don’t like showing up empty handed) had all decided to bring a bottle of “real” wine. I was thankful (if slightly embarrassed) for the lesson and to my guests for deciding to bring the wine, anyway. I also realized I was going to have to learn a thing or two about wine.

How do you go about picking your wine? I’m betting that most people aren’t taking long wine classes or even doing massive internet searches for how to pair wine with a meal. I still don’t know much, but at least I’m no longer serving the undrinkable. While I’ve also usually got a bottle or two of wine on hand, for the most part, I’ve decided to let my guests bring the wine, and focus on the things that I do know.

 

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