The video above is a rendition of the Haitian National Anthem, "La Dessalinienne," named after founder of the Republic of Haiti, Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
May 18, 2013 marks the 210th anniversary of the Haitian Flag as created by that nation's first leader Jean Jacques Dessalines. The month of May has been adopted by many as Haitian Heritage Month.
The cataclysmic earthquake that devastated the Island of Haiti caused endless death and suffering to a nation already steeped in a history of poverty and turmoil. Usually that turmoil has been the consequence of policies by Western Powers who would forever feel the need to punish Haitians for their nerve in being the world's first Black Independent Republic born of a violent slave revolt.
In watching that earthquake devastate the ancestral homeland of many throughout the Haitian diaspora, there was one positive thing I realized that would come from this disaster: The world would finally learn the glorious history of this noble people and the way their struggle for freedom would be the single most important factor in shaping the geopolitical trajectory of the Western Hemisphere since Columbus.
"But the prejudice of race alone blinded the American people [to] the debt they owed to the desperate courage of 500,000 Haitian Negroes who would not be enslaved." -- Henry Adams, direct decedent of John Adams and America's foremost Historian of the 18th and 19th centuries
This claim may seem bold to many non-Haitians. Though the Haitian revolution was significant, how could it be the single most important factor in shaping the geopolitical trajectory of the Western Hemisphere since Columbus? I will share two facts with little effort that will prove this point without going into the multiple ways in which Haiti was crucial in shaping the west. First, had it not been for the Haitian defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte and his subsequent loss of over 1/4 of his army, the French General would have had no reason to consummate the Louisiana Purchase with Thomas Jefferson and the United States would not have obtained the windfall of gaining all the land west of the Mississippi for 14 cents per acre. Hence, the westward expansion, manifest destiny and all that came along with it that made America the nation it is today would have been a historical nullity, and a Franco-American Empire would probably be the most dominant global force in the world today as opposed to the current Anglo-American Empire.
"Should I not let it be known to later generations that Alexander Pétion is the true liberator of my country?"-- Simone Bolivar
Second, Simone Bolivar, known as the George Washington of South America, came to the Island of Haiti to receive the military assistance and material support from Haiti's then president Alexandre Petion to liberate South America from the Spanish. That Bolivarian Revolution allowed those South American countries to subsequently be assured political independence and economic trade advantage for the United States after the United States implemented the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. Bolivar liberated Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador and Bolivia. Those nations would be protected by the United States via the Monroe Doctrine from any interference by any European Empire which had previously been involved in the region. The Monroe Doctrine is one of the most lasting American foreign policy initiatives that would be put to use well into the 20th century. Theodore Roosevelt's "Roosevelt Corollary" was an addendum to the Monroe Doctrine used to further justify American dominance over its Spanish speaking neighbors. Such geopolitical advantage to the United States would have been spurious had Simon Bolivar not achieved the liberation of South America through the necessary support of Haiti's then president Alexandre Petion.
The ultimate irony of the Monroe Doctrine and the United States desire to assure the newly independent Spanish nations liberated by Bolivar security from European domination is that such courtesy was not extended by the United States to Haiti. Though Haiti's efforts in helping Simone Bolivar were the crucial factor giving rise to the policy's creation, the Monroe Doctrine would not be extended to cover the Independent Republic of Haiti from the threats of France constantly menacing the Black Republic with re-colonization, to the point that -- without any opposition by the U.S.--Haiti, in 1825 under the administration of Jean-Pierre Boyer, was forced to pay a 150 million Franc indemnity to France, its former colonizer and literally former slave master, in solid gold bouillon for the right to exist free from attack and enjoy the luxury of limited recognition and trade. The original 150 million Franc indemnity was then 10 times Haiti's annual revenue. This debt would not be completely paid off until 1947 and would in total equal 12.7 billions U.S. dollars as of 2009. And you ask why Haiti is so poor?
These facts alone demonstrate the importance of Haiti and its history as the worlds first nation born of a slave revolt. After constant U.S. intervention and destabilization starting with American occupation in 1915 which facilitated the birth of the 20th century version of the always noxious Haitian military, combined with the U.S. assistance in usurping presidencies of leaders who seemed to have some inkling of concern for the betterment of the masses of Haitians, such as Dumarasais Estime in 1950 to Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004, who though far from a Saint, cannot be denied in his desire to Help Haiti's poor, the United States has been more of an enemy than a friend to the larger aspirations of the Haitian people. The documentation and lists of damaging policies the U.S. implemented toward Haiti could fill volumes. One must really ask on the 210th anniversary of the Haitian Flag, is the notion of Black people wanting to be free really that offensive? I think the actions of Western powers towards Haiti answers that question better than platitudes about charity and foreign aid.
L'Union Fait La...
In this video, Yvette Carnell of Your Black World discusses Obama's budget proposal, which includes a plan to cut Social Security and Medicare, with me. This move by the Obama White House is being viewed by some as a move to pre-emptively negotiate with Republicans, but as I point out, Democrats aren't progressive, and are just playing on the legacy of the New Deal. Even former President Bill Clinton was caught on tape telling Republican Rep. Paul Ryan that he hoped Democrats would cut entitlements. This plan by Obama to cut entitlements was detailed in the following video.
In addition, in a 2007 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Barack Obama said everything should be on the table, including raising the retirement age and cutting benefits, as it relates to fixing Social...
"Ethiopia will soon stretch forth her hands onto God, that Africa's redemption shall soon be accomplished..." -- a common quote of 19th Century Black Nationalists found in The Golden Age of Black Nationalism, by Wilson Jeremiah Moses.
A major aspect of black political history stems from a concept that has maintained a profound and lasting position in the discourse of black leadership, as well as racial diversity discourse relative to black politicians. The concept is called "The Politics of Redemption." The politics of redemption is a direct consequence of the perverse relationship blacks had to white slave owners in the United States upon their arrival after the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Because the African was denied any vestiges of his identity and culture, he was given a new identity by his white masters. His station was defined by his master, as well as his purpose in the context of plantation society. The consequence of this horrid reality created a need for validation from his white master and at times a desire for approval. Hence, the politics of redemption is premised on the need for blacks to constantly seek the validation and approval of whites.
It is a doctrine held by many good men, in Europe as well as in America, that every oppressed people will gain their rights just as soon as they prove themselves worthy of them; and although we may justly object to the extent to which this doctrine is carried, especially in reference to ourselves as a people, it must still be evident to all that there is a great truth in it.--Frederick Douglass, 1848 from a speech, "What Are the Colored People Doing for Themselves?
Upon emancipation, this tragic dynamic manifested itself in blacks often feeling the need to prove their humanity to whites, to give evidence of their capacity, and show clear signs of black value. This is the basis of the politics of redemption. It is premised on the notion that blacks must always work to show whites that they are worthy and can redeem themselves from their "wretched African backwardness." The concept has a more damaging assumption that blacks must illustrate they can be trusted to govern their own affairs, perform fundamental tasks, and engage like any other citizens.
Besides being terribly humiliating as a construct, the politics of redemption is a bankrupt world view, and an even more repellent political strategy for several reasons. First, the concept is innately defeatist, demobilizing, and counter-intuitive to progress towards human liberation. As long as the oppressed group views its oppressor as the fountain from which all approval and validation comes, there can never be any true achievement of justice based on eliminating the authority of the oppressor in that power relationship. More bluntly, as long you accept as black people that we need to first "prove" our worth and capacity to white people before they inure us with rights as equal citizens you officially give credence to whites being the barometer by which your freedom is measured, and furthermore, in what increments your freedom is doled out. Moreover, the politics of redemption is void as a political construct because it causes the type of empty feel good politics that leads to elections of "symbols" of achievement that end up being "examples" of status quo oppression. The presidency of Barack Obama is a perfect example of this. So much aspirational tripe was spewed about how his presidency would not only show America what blacks could achieve, but serve the other purpose of "redeeming" America from its legacy of racism and slavery. After Obama's 2008 election victory a most interesting statement was made by a renowned black Harvard University professor:
Henry Louis Gates Jr. appeared on Oprah Winfrey's celebratory post-election special. After learning the news, Gates says, "we jumped up, we wept, we hooped and hollered." It is hard to overestimate the historical significance of the election of the first black U.S. President. For many blacks, and certainly for much of the country and world, Obama's victory is an extraordinary step toward the redemption of America's original 400-year-old sin.
This thinking, which is still common among some of America's thought leaders, enables insipid aspirational wish fulfillment and feel good politics while obscuring the noxious bone crushing status quo agenda Obama has administered and continues to deliver.
The third and perhaps most damaging aspect of the politics of redemption is that it never ends!! Status quo forces of oppression do not concede rights and political viability to those they oppress because token symbols of achievement and demonstrative humanity have been shown by those on the margins. The oppressor simply keeps dangling the carrot, moving it farther and farther down the road, as you continue to do every seemingly morally upright thing he demands to achieve that coveted "equality." Such politics are rancid, and the fact that after 150 years of emancipation, black folks have encapsulated all that is repugnant and wicked about this politics of redemption into the symbolically aspirational yet pragmatically crippling presidency of Barack Obama is proof positive of collective black political demobilization and actual regression. The black community must wake up out of the "hope and change" induced stupor in order to mobilize effective oppositional politics that challenge the planned global order of neoliberal privatization, corporate finance hoarding of wealth, and deadening global austerity under the guise of things like the current sequester. We have no choice, and the future will not wait.
ascend to prominence on the shoulders of mass support.
Although genuinely popular leaders are now
emerging, most are still selected by white leadership,
elevated to position, supplied with resources and
inevitably subjected to white control. The mass of Negroes
nurtures a healthy suspicion toward this manufactured
leader, who spends little time in persuading them
that he embodies personal integrity, commitment and
ability and offers few programs and less service.
Tragically, he is in too many respects not a fighter for a new
life but a figurehead of the old one. "
Martin Luther King, Jr....
In perhaps one of the most important biographies of a civil rights leader published, Professor Barbara Ransby has conveyed the epic life and struggle of a woman whose sheer skill, leadership, and ability to mobilize the marginalized and dispossessed to full participation in their...
With the black community still facing excessively high unemployment, the racial wealth gap between blacks and whites expanding to numbers higher than recent history, fully one third of the black community in abject poverty, and overall rates of poverty as high as...
As we see in this video, staunch left-wing journalist Kim Ives gives his interpretation of Haiti's history. Ives, like many left-leaning Haiti sympathizers, has a rather romantic depiction of Aristide's stewardship of the Republic, failing to mention some of the more violent methods by which Aristide used to silence opposition to his second term as president. Moreover, little discussion is had of the role of drug trafficking, murder of journalists, and oppression of dissenters during Aristide's administration.
Barring those glaring omissions, Ives gives a rather accurate depiction of how Western economic interests have been manipulating Haitian politics throughout the 20th century. Ives also explains how this pattern of exploitation is being continued even after the earthquake of January 12, 2010.
At some point, the progressive forces who seek to liberate Haiti from this constant cycle of detrimental Western influence will have to get beyond their political differences. Most of these differences revolve around either support or opposition to Arisitide's Lavalas party. Lavalas has provided the dominant political ideology in Haiti for the last 20 years. Many who agree with the importance of an independent Haitian economy, development of the agricultural sector, and a decrease in using Haitians as sweatshop workers being paid slave wages share those points of view with many of Aristide's supporters. However, those progressive forces also refuse to give any credence to the Lavalas movement with its concentration on demagoguery, empty rhetoric, occasional violence, and poor governance.
With the coming elections in Haiti in fall 2010, the need for Haitians to transcend these political divides becomes even more critical. Collectively, Haitians must get beyond their traditional political loyalties to determine who is best able to govern their country in a way that provides economic empowerment to the large mass of Haitian people, while ensuring the viability of benign commercial interests without constant fear of recrimination.
The only way Haitians can engage in such decision-making is to get beyond political ideology, demagoguery, and the toxic Haitian classism that has crippled the country for more than a generation. Without such efforts, Haiti will continue its free fall into a political and economic abyss from where it may never return.
Hopefully it will not take another earthquake to shake up the consciousness of the Haitian...
As the only nation created from a successful revolt of African Slaves, Haiti has been a beacon of light for oppressed people around the world. Ironically that same proud history of struggle through its valiant fight for liberty from the French in 1804 resulted in policies brought forth by its...
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In the picture above Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Brother Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. walks in a procession at Hofstra University in 1965 where he was about to receive an honorary degree and make a memorable speech on campus.
This past weekend...
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My fellow heirs to the Haitian Revolution:
The future of Haiti hinges upon more than its people developing strong political and physical infrastructure. If those who seek to develop a new Haiti are unwilling to confront certain aspects of our old society and culture, we will fail. There are phenomenon...