Posts Tagged ‘daughters’

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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“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”- Shakespeare

I wear a crown/title in my family. I used to love it. I would relish in it when the words spoke from the lips of relatives. It was a badge of honor.

Now, I can’t stand it . It gets a sigh and an eye roll. Soon, it may evolve into a chirp (Haitian style).

Somebody please save from this throne I sit on as “The Good Haitian Daughter”.

I am not sure how old I was when I first starting hearing the phrase, ” Dee, you are such a good Haitian daughter” but at 40, the words just don’t resonate the same.

It was cool when all it entailed was getting good grades, representing yourself well in front of company and in public, and getting married with a bonus of having kids.

I had no idea that I was somehow tied to a list of obligations one of which would be guardian to one of my parents.

A few weeks back, my Dad suffered a serious medical emergency and was placed in a rehabilitation facility. My Dad has since remarried since he and my mom divorced. However, the responsibility for his care was placed on me at his wife’s request not on my three brothers. In her defense, she works several jobs and due to a language barrier felt more comfortable if someone else handled it. She mentioned she had reached out to my brothers but hadn’t heard back (more on that later).

So, I threw on my super daughter cape and made the thousand plus mile trek to New Jersey with my three young kids in tow to sit on my throne again as the good Haitian daughter.

Truth is, I cant be THAT good. I didn’t marry a Haitian man. I diluted the blood line and as a result I should be punished. Strip me of the title. I rarely cook Haitian food (will fry a plantain here and there) and most of my friends who are Haitian are deeply immersed into American culture. Surely, I should get some points deducted for that.

I never really earned the title but probably got it by default since I am the youngest and ONLY girl of four siblings. So, who else could it be? If I had a sister, can we both be good or would she be the bad one or vice-versa?

There are a total of 4 of us so why is this not being divided equally among us all. We can rotate the crown among us. We could even do it by seasons. I can take Summer, someone else Autumn and so on and so forth.

It will never happen. Why? Haitian sons don’t ever have to deal with this. They know it too or perhaps I taught my brothers I will always come to the rescue. All of my brothers live within a 10 mile radius of Dad, yet I was the one that had to travel a thousand plus miles and handle the arrangements.

I need some answers as to how my brothers, and most Haitian sons in general, get to carry on with business as usual. We, daughters, on the other hand are left to be responsible for ourselves, our families, and often times our aging parents.

Now, this is my experience, perhaps it is different in your family, or is it? Let me know if this is a shared experience.

I would be curious to know how things work in an all male sibling group? only male child situation? Do the duties fall on the daughter in law?

So, who wears the crown in your family?

P.S My Dad is recovering and making slow and steady progress ( *adjusts crown on head*).

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(The following post is from guest blogger, KT Velez. You can check out her blog: My name is not Katie.)


My girls will never knew the Haiti I knew…and I will never know the Haiti my mother knew….
My eyes have been welling up all day. I’ve sometimes coughed out a weep out of nowhere it seems. Then it dawns on me that I am going through all the feelings and emotions of mourning. I feel like someone I knew personally has died. I am wearing all black today. My hair is pulled back. I’m not wearing any makeup. Like a good Haitian in mourning should! I wasn’t told to. I woke up and instinctively did it. I realize that I am also having those moments that only come after you have lost something precious.
1.The realizations of what you no longer have. 2.What life will mean to you now that “its” gone. and 3. How will you cope without that thing or person? How will you fill the void? When I got engaged…I realized my mother would not witness her baby girl get married. When I got married I realized she would not see any of my children born and so on and so forth. When I started to earn a decent living, I couldn’t whisk her away on a cruise or buy her nice things. She was gone. Haiti is like that for me and so many others. It IS our mother land. We don’t have to fly all the way to Africa and walk amongst strangers to find our connection with the universe. We have our ancestry right here in our backyard. Over 200years of History as a FREE NATION. When I heard of the destruction of all of our landmarks,the Royal Palace, Sacre Coeur Church, Hotel Christopher, Petionville, Chans Mas, la ville and so many others, I realized that a part of me had also been destroyed.
I had longed for a day to “show off” my country to my husband and my children. Of course, there was never a good time to go. Its too dangerous! You’ll get kidnapped! You’ll get sick! Then our first daughter was born…she’s too little to go. Then we had our second daughter… she’s to young to go. For the “good time” we continued to wait. Now…There is no waiting. We are on hold indefinitely. My cousin and his wife were saving money to one day return to Haiti for good. Who can return now?
What my mother saw, I longed to see…What I saw, my daughters will long to see…but maybe what my daughters see, will be what we have always been waiting for. I pray that we see a New Haiti in our lifetime or in our children’s lifetime. May God watch over Haiti.

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