During the Caribbean Studies Association 2016 conference I met a number of brilliant young Haitian-Americans, including a 20-something Cornell PhD candidate whose project focuses on Black feminist political theory in contemporary novels by Caribbean authors. Her mother emigrated from Haiti before she was born and left the country permanently in the early aughts. I had to admit to her my ignorance of the precise details of Haitian history that motivated her mom to leave Haiti.
Clockwise from left: author Zora Neale Hurston, Hurston and her partner Percival Punter, and Haitian “zombie” photographed by Hurston during her fieldwork 1936-1937.
On the tap-tap (Port-au-Prince take on the dollar cab/combi/collectivo) from Touissaint Louverture airport yesterday, I had the good fortune of running into Prof. Daphne LaMothe of Smith College. An expert in African American literature, Prof. LaMothe shared with me that Zora Neale Hurston wrote the essential novel Their Eyes Were Watching God here in Haiti in just seven weeks.
January 1, 1804 the Haitian revolution succeeds. To learn more about Haitian history, Progressive Pupil suggests The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James and The Uses of Haiti by Paul Farmer. What are some of the biggest misconceptions we have about Haiti today?
This is a picture of Toussaint L’Ouverture, he led the only successful slave rebellion during the Haitian Revolution. Though I learned about Toussaint L’Ouverture growing up, the entirety of his contributions to Latino culture, and Haiti’s relationship to Latinidad, was not emphasized until I was older.
Like many other people of color in this country, I was not specifically taught about my cultural history during my K-12 education. Once I reached college, everything I knew about Latino culture and history was gleaned from either social interaction, segments of history class, movies, and my parents. I had to purposefully seek out courses on Latino history to know even the little bit that I know today.
January 1 is the day to celebrate independence in Haiti. On that day in 1804 the slave revolt prevailed against the European colonists, and the Caribbean island was declared independent and slavery-free. The Haitian Revolution is marked as the first and only slave revolt that has led to the founding of a state.
October marks the 76th anniversary of the Haitian Massacre, in which more than 20,000 Haitians were killed near the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, ordered the national army to kill anyone that could not pronounce the letter “r” in the word “perejil” (parsley). Creole speakers were known to have trouble pronouncing this sound. As a result of this test, the massacre is sometimes referred to as the Parsley Massacre. Many of the Haitians killed were actually Haitian-Dominicans, Dominican citizens that lived in well-established Haitian communities in the Dominican Republic.
Montreal, Quebec, houses the largest Haitian population in Canada. As of the country’s latest census there are over 100,000 people of Haitian origin living in the city. Moreover, since the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Montreal has become a viable destination for many people as they try to escape the circumstances in their home country and the number of Haitians in Montreal is only expected to increase.
Black and Cuba cinematographer, Ashley Panzera, is currently in Haiti working on Noise Runs, the forthcoming documentary about a team of young, Haitian journalists who spark social change in the tent camps of Port-au-Prince as they produce a radical Kreyol-language newspaper.