Celestine drove me downtown to the MUPANAH, a small museum containing historical artifacts of Haiti. I live for this kind of stuff! There were all kinds of things. Some overwhelming, like actual slave irons! I couldn’t believe I was in the presence of the chains that bound black bodies up until 1804. There were artifacts from the TAINO and ARAWAK people that were decimated when Europeans colonized the island. Weapons, swords, rifles, bayonets, and pistols from the REVOLUTION. Absolutely incredible.
I was happy to see a group of young Haitian children being guided through the museum by a curator. They must know the beautiful history of their country, and of their ancestors. I wonder if learning this history is as emancipatory for them, as it was for me?
I knew little of Haiti, other than its current poverty, growing up. In school, we didn’t learn about the Haitian revolution. The first time I learned anything of it was in college when a professor mentioned it to us in one of my sociology classes. He pointed out the neglect of Haitian history in the American education system. I knew that a nation of slaves overthrowing their masters was something incredible, but it didn’t sink in at that point. It wasn’t until much later as a graduate student that Haiti reemerged in my consciousness, as a teacher’s assistant for a course on Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the Modern world (taught by one of my mentors).
Modern Haiti is the result of a system of global white supremacy. First, the island of Quisqueya, now known as Hispaniola, was cleared of the Amerindian peoples that called it home by European settlers. Then, a colonial system was set in place, which utilized slave labor from West Africa. It is estimated that over a million slaves were brought to the island. They were treated brutally, but resistance was the norm. Slaves would flee the mountains often. Perhaps a revolution was inevitable. After the revolution, no nation would see Haiti as an equal, and the new Black nation was deliberately stifled. Then comes government corruption…violence…civil unrest…Now everyone wants to help Haiti from the aid workers to the missionaries.
“If you look just at the decades after 1934, you know it's hard to point to really inspired and positive support from outside of Haiti, to Haiti, and much easier to point to either small-minded or downright mean-spirited policies.” Paul Farmer
Thank God for wikileaks because without them this would all seem like conjecture. Cables reveal that even the Obama administration fought to keep Haiti from improving the conditions of its workers. The Administration pressured the Haitian President Martelly to keep the daily minimum wage under $3 a day for factory workers. The foreign business community of Hanes and Levis claimed that anything above would damage their profits. Really, an hourly wage of .31 cents an hour? Can you imagine anywhere else say in the Europe, Australia, or the United States that would allow this?