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.
Day three of the World Social Forum gave us the opportunity to participate in a meaningful discussion about colonization and reparations hosted by the Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires de France (Representative Council of Black French Associations, or CRAN) and the Fondation Frantz Fanon (Frantz Fanon Foundation). While many of the panel and audience members were native French speakers – from France, Tunisia, Algeria, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Quebec, Canada – the Forum had a translator who helped break down the language barrier and enabled us to participate fully. Engaging with people throughout the diaspora about colonialism is helpful to our grassroots organizing in the United States because it showed us that there are international successes and obstacles that we can learn from.