ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
The recent February 29, 2004 coup d’etat continues the tragic Haitian story by pushing back
the democracy the masses hoped would bring better standards of living to them and less
exploitation by Haiti’s economic elites and the neocolonialist whites.
Books on Haiti and the Caribbean
Hubert Cole. Christophe: King of Haiti. New York: The Viking Press, 1967.
C.L.R. James. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938)
Josaphat B. Kubayanda. The Poet’s Africa: Africanness in the Poetry of Nicolas Guillen and Aime Cesaire (1990)
Myriam J. A. Chancy. Framing Silence: Revolutionary Novels by Haitian Women (1997)
Paul Laraque and Jack Hirschman. Open Gate An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry (2001)
David P. Geggus, ed. The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World. University of South Carolina Press, 2001.
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Dessalines’ Dream for Haiti
By Ezili Dantò The Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network
I want the assets of the country to be equitably divided.Jean Jacques Dessalines
Dessalines fought so that Haitians would live free, politically sovereign and economically independent. He united the enslaved black masses with the free blacks and mulattoes and, AS ONE, they looked outwards together, blocked the divisions the differing white settler tribes were fostering amongst these black folks, of different hues, shades, economic and legal standing.
Jean Jacques Dessalines fought for the dignity of all Africansliberty, equality, fraternity for allno matter their skin color or economic class. He accomplished what no Haitian leader has been able to do since his assassination in 1806. Because of his military strength and fierce and unwavering courage, he had been able to bring together two Black classes with diametrically opposed ideologies – the masses who wanted to end slavery and colonialism, live free in a society where there would be an equitable sharing of resources; and the free blacks and mulattoes who felt they were superior and entitled to the properties and assets of their beaten white French fathers and the assets they had accumulated under the brutal slavery system.
After independence, as the former freedmen tried to reassert the old status quo, Dessalines firmly declared, on behalf of the long-suffering Black masses of Haiti:
“Je veux que les biens de la nation soient équitablement partagés”“I want the assets of the country to be equitably divided.”
For this, Dessalines was assassinated by the mullatoe/Affranchi economic elites. Dessalines’ October 17, 1806 assassination was the first coup d’etat in Haiti’s and it was organized by the mullatoe/Affranchi elites to assure their wealth and keep the masses contained-in-poverty the better to exploit them as they had under the slavery system. Moreover, even within the ranks of the ex-slaves, particularly with the generals and powerful soldiers, emerged a small oligarchy who were barriers to the desires of the masses for inclusion (fraternity) and to share equitably in the bounty of the Island recently liberate from France (See, “La Constitution de 1805…deux cents ans après: Les chants de resistance” by Bell Angelot, p. 76).
The recent February 29, 2004 coup d’etat continues the tragic Haitian story by pushing back the democracy the masses hoped would bring better standards of living to them and less exploitation by Haiti’s economic elites and the neocolonialist whites. In 1806, with Dessalines’ October 17th assassination, the cycle of violent overthrows of duly elected or recognized governments in Haiti had begun. Haiti’s latest, the February 29, 2004 coup d’etat, not only oustered the Aristide/Neptune government, but trashed the 1987 Haitian Constitution.
Accordingly, here’s how Haitian legal scholar, Bell Angelot puts this in his new book: “The October 17, 1806 coup détat did not merely put an end to the life of a man, it also meant the end of a constitution, of a true social contract. It also marked the end of the alliance between two classes ideology diametrically opposed. These differences were manifested throughout the colonial era. Dessalines, for the common good, had agreed to a historical compromise with Pétion. Colonial history reveals that every time the interests of the class composed of previously freedman were threatened, the freedmen negotiated compromises either with the slaves against the colonists, or compromises with the colonists against the slaves . . .
Thus, on October 17, 1806, the era of coup détats and political instability was inaugurated in Haitian history. From October 17, 1806 to February 29, 2004, thirty three coups are recorded. And, it is always the same water flowing. Always the peoples blood flowing. Always the same song that bring tears to the masses (from “La Constitution de 1805…deux cents ans après: Les chants de resistance” by Bell Angelot, p. 125).
Dessalines understood the Haitian masses and their democratic desires for social and economic inclusion. He was one of them. He spoke for them and was able to make a tactical alliance with the Mullato Affranchi, Alexandre Petion, the mulattoes’ leader of that time, and with the Black Affranchi, Henri Christopher, to defeat Napoleon Bonapartes armies, which had come back to either re-enslave them or kill them all. Napoleon’s orders to his brother-in-law, General Lerclec, was to kill all Black men, women and child over the age of ten years old. He intended to root out, once and for all, Haiti’s rebellious seeds.
Dessalines knew that Napoleon had already, with great black bloodshed returned the rebelling Guadeloupe back to slavery in 1802. Martiniques’ revolution was also squashed by Napoleon’s troops. Leclerc was heading to Haiti to do the same. Dessalines vowed he would not be re-enslaved. He vowed “Liberty or death” and succeeded in beating Napoleon in combat to create the nation of Haiti. Jean Jacques Dessalines did what Spartacus couldn’t. But, as soon as the mulattoes and free blacks had, under Dessalines’ brilliant leadership, attained Haiti’s independence from France, they started trying to regain the same economic standing they had in the time of slavery, also claiming for themselves the lands of their French fathers. This, the cultural and ideological roots and similarities of Haiti’s economic elites with Haiti’s mortal enemies, the former colonists and enslavers, has made it impossible for the poor Haitian masses with their roots in Africa, their fathers in Africa, to bring to fruition a nation of Blacks united in brotherhood and dedicated to liberty and equality for all, no matter the class or Black skin hue. The assets of Haiti, have since never been equitably shared. The Black masses struggle to this day to gain their fare share.
L’alliance tactique conclue entre les anciens et nouveaux libres ne fut pas durable, elle fut de nature meme fragile et chimerique. Vite et très vite après l’independance les anciens libres revendiquèrent la saisine des privilèges des anciens colons et la réédition du status quo ante, et meme dans la caste des nouveaux libres de petites nouvelles oligarchies furent émergées et constituèrent de véritables barrieres aux action émancipatrices réeles des masses, véritables acteurs de la revolution de 1804 . . . (“La Constitution de 1805…deux cents ans après: Les chants de resistance” by Bell Angelot, p. 76)
Brotherhood means Haitians must look outwards together, and stop allowing foreigners to divide and polarized Haitian society. If the goal is and independent and free Haiti, as dictated by Haiti’s founding father. If, as Dessalines’ swore Haiti would never again allow a colonist or European to set foot on its soil as master. Then, the answer is the same as it was in the time of Dessalines: Haitians, no matter the hue or class, need unite for the nation’s common good and development. It means, we stop being the architects of our own destruction in ignoring the sufferings of the masses.
For we honor Dessalines and fulfill his revolutionary dream, setting an unprecedented world example if we Blacks uniteL’union Fait La Force; and give substance to this, the reason Jean Jacques Dessalines was assassinated, for he dreamed and he declared: “Je veux que les biens de la nation soient équitablement partagés””I want the assets of the country to be equitably divided.”13 October 2006
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On Sarkozy’s visit to Haiti, the first ever visit to Haiti
by a French president and the Independence Debt
President Jean Bertrand Aristide, the Constitutionally and duly elected Haitian president, was the first President in Haitian history to, as a matter of honor and justice, demand that France repay the $22 billion Independence Debt it extorted, at gunpoint, from defenseless Haiti with the approval and complicity of the other Euro/American settlers and countries.
In 1825, under the threat of re-enslavement and with 12 warships armed with 500 canons, France blackmailed Haiti into agreeing to pay a bounty of 150 million Gold Francs for the lost of men, women and children they had deemed to be “French property” (slaves)Open Letter to the People of France.
The case for restitution was launched by President Jean Bertrand Aristide on April 7, 2003 during the Bicentennial commemoration of the death of Toussaint Louverture. This demand, formulated in the presence of the people of Haiti, the dignified heirs of our ancestors, and in front of MUPANAH (Musèe du Panthèon National HaitienThe Haitian National Pantheon Museum) where the immortal souls of the Black race repose in respect and dignity. Past and present were intimately linked for a historic projection to the future. (http://bit.ly/9IHVMK)
It took Haiti 122 years to pay this mafia debt, the last slave-trade payment was made by tiny Haiti to the most powerful country on earth, the United States of America in 1947. This endless debt permanently impoverished Haiti.
The Haitian peoples request for restitution of the $22 billion is part of the reason for the second coup d’etat and the current occupation of Haiti by the US, France and Canada through their UN military proxy. (Read more about the Independence Debt atDemand France Pay back the $22 Billion Independence Debt and at Campaign 7.) On April 15, 2004, a mere month after the 2004 Coup D’etat/Bush regime change in Haiti, ex-colonial authority and enslaver of Haitian people, France, sent their French Minister of Defense as the first French dignitary of high rank to come to Haiti since the triumph of the anti-slavery, anti-colonialism, anti-profit-over-people Haiti revolution in 1803 to visit Haiti.
As one Haitian lawyer remarked at that time “All the sons and daughters of Janjak Desalin not suffering from amnesia, all the sons and daughters of the colonists enlivened with a liberation spirit, watched this shameful French pageantry in shock and horror.”
Most conscious Haitians saw it as France’s not too subtle further pummeling of Haiti’s disenfranchised majority to gleefully celebrate, on the sacred year of Haiti’s bicentennial, their victory at landing French soldiers on Haitian soil, for the first time since the African warriors of Haiti beat them out of Haiti, in combat, in 1803. The French minister’s visit was an occurrence that had not taken place in 200 years of Haitian history and sovereignty. (See, Haiti, The Rebel and VertieresThe Greatest Battle ever Fought.)
During that bad-omen-visit, Gerard Latortue, the US-imposed Prime Minister to Haiti from Jeb Bush’s Florida, used the inauspicious occasion to publicly and pompously declare that HE was voiding President Aristide’s and the Haitian people’s demand that France pay back the Independence Debt. At that point, Ezili’s HLLN wrote:
Mr. Gerald Latorture is legally incompetent, as a Prime Minister and an un-Constitutional Prime Minister at that! to annul, by a statement, actions taken by a democratically elected Haitian head of state.” (See, Haitian Lawyer’s Leadership Decries Gerald Larorture’s Legal Competence to Denounce the $22 Billion Owed Haiti by France , 2004.)
The bad omen continues for Haiti with the first ever visit, on February 17, 2010, by a French President. Nicholas Sarkozy’s landed today in Western quake-shattered Haiti and was greeted by puppet Haitian President Rene Preval as a brass band played the Marseillaise. He toured a French field hospital, had a news conference on the grounds of the collapsed Haiti National Palace, and surveyed the millions of suffering descendants of the African warriors who defeated his nation in combat through the door of a helicopter, like a flying buzzard circling the air, looking for a free meal down below. ( French President Sarkozy arrives in Haiti (AP), Feb. 17, 2010 and France’s Sarkozy visits earthquake-ravaged Haiti .)
Source: Open Salon
posted 17 June 2010
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Written by Keenan Norris and Alexandria White
Originally performed by Alexandria White and Darold Rawls at Evergreen Valley College, San Jose, CA
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You gotta move
Lyrics by Mississippi Fred McDowell You got to move You got to move You got to move, child You got to move But when the Lord Gets ready You got to move (guitar) You may be high You may be low You may be rich, child You may be po’ But when the Lord gets ready You’ve got to move (guitar) You see that woman That walk the street You see the policeman Out on his beat But when the Lord gets ready You got to move (guitar) You got to move You got to move You’ve got to move, child You’ve got to But when the Lord gets ready You got to move.
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You Gotta Move” is a song written by Fred McDowell and Rev. Gary Davis. Being a well-known song of McDowell’s, covered by The Rolling Stones in their 1971 album Sticky Fingers. The album which included this song was recorded at McDowell’s home in Como, Mississippi in 1964, and in Holy Springs, Mississippi and Berkeley, California in 1965. Personnel: Mississippi Fred McDowell (vocals, bottle-neck guitar); Eli Green (vocals, guitar); Annie McDowell (vocals). CD Release Date: November 30, 1993 / Label: Arhoolie Records
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Alice Dunbar-Nelson: People of Color in Louisiana, Part I. The Journal of Negro History VOL. I., No. 4 October, 1916
The title of a possible discussion of the Negro in Louisiana presents difficulties, for there is no such word as Negro permissible in speaking of this State. The history of the State is filled with attempts to define, sometimes at the point of the sword, oftenest in civil or criminal courts, the meaning of the word Negro. By common consent, it came to mean in Louisiana, prior to 1865, slave, and after the war, those whose complexions were noticeably dark. As Grace King so delightfully puts it, “The pure-blooded African was never called colored, but always Negro.” The gens de couleur, colored people, were always a class apart, separated from and superior to the Negroes, ennobled were it only by one drop of white blood in their veins. The caste seems to have existed from the first introduction of slaves. To the whites, all Africans who were not of pure blood were gens de couleur. Among themselves, however, there were jealous and fiercely-guarded distinctions: “griffes, briqués, mulattoes, quadroons, octoroons, each term meaning one degree’s further transfiguration toward the Caucasian standard of physical perfection.”1
1. King, “New Orleans, the Place and the People during the Ancien Regime,” 333.
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By Theophilus Gould Steward
This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923. This book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide. We appreciate your understanding of the imperfections in the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable book.Amazon.com
The Haitian Revolution, 1791 to 1804. By T. G. Steward. Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1915. 292 pages. $1.25.
Reviewed by J.R. Fauset. The Journal of Negro History. Vol. I., No. 1, January. 1916.
In the days when the internal dissensions of Haiti are again thrusting her into the limelight such a book as this of Mr. Steward assumes a peculiar importance. It combines the unusual advantage of being both very readable and at the same time historically dependable. At the outset the author gives a brief sketch of the early settlement of Haiti, followed by a short account of her development along commercial and racial lines up to the Revolution of 1791. The story of this upheaval, of course, forms the basis of the book and is indissolubly connected with the story of Toussaint L’Overture. To most Americans this hero is known only as the subject of Wendell Phillips’s stirring eulogy. As delineated by Mr. Steward, he becomes a more human creature, who performs exploits, that are nothing short of marvelous. Other men who have seemed to many of us merely namesRigaud, Le Clerc, Desalines, and the like–are also fully discussed.
Although most of the book is naturally concerned with the revolutionary period, the author brings his account up to date by giving a very brief resumé of the history of Haiti from 1804 to the present time. This history is marked by the frequent occurrence of assassinations and revolutions, but the reader will not allow himself to be affected by disgust or prejudice at these facts particularly when he is reminded, as Mr. Steward says, “that the political history of Haiti does not differ greatly from that of the majority of South American Republics, nor does it differ widely even from that of France.”
The book lacks a topical index, somewhat to its own disadvantage, but it contains a map of Haiti, a rather confusing appendix, a list of the Presidents of Haiti from 1804 to 1906 and a list of the names and works of the more noted Haitian authors. The author does not give a complete bibliography. He simply mentions in the beginning the names of a few authorities consulted.
J. R. Fauset.
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By Tracy K. Smith
Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection’s “lyric brilliance” and “political impulses [that] never falter.” A New York Times review stated, “Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we’re alone in the universe; it’s to acceptor at least endurethe universe’s mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith’s pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the books first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant.” Life on Mars follows Smith’s 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet’s second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans. The Bodys Question (2003) was her first published collection.
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By Marilyn Nelson; Illustrated by Philippe Lardy
This memorial to the lynched teen is in the Homeric tradition of poet-as-historian. It is a heroic crown of sonnets in Petrarchan rhyme scheme and, as such, is quite formal not only in form but in language. There are 15 poems in the cycle, the last line of one being the first line of the next, and each of the first lines makes up the entirety of the 15th. This chosen formality brings distance and reflection to readers, but also calls attention to the horrifically ugly events. The language is highly figurative in one sonnet, cruelly graphic in the next. The illustrations echo the representative nature of the poetry, using images from nature and taking advantage of the emotional quality of color. There is an introduction by the author, a page about Emmett Till, and literary and poetical footnotes to the sonnets. The artist also gives detailed reasoning behind his choices. This underpinning information makes this a full experience, eminently teachable from several aspects, including historical and literarySchool Library Journal
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 5 May 2012