Abu-Jamal's Radio Broadcasts
Struggle for Freedom
Short version: mp3,
2 MBs, 3:34
The images of
young, healthy, desperate Haitians, jumping overboard into the roiling
Florida surf, burns itself into the American mind, evoking differing
responses, depending on one's perspective.
To many Euro-Americans,
the image is a terrible one, which seizes the heart in the icy grip
of fear. To many African-Americans, however, the images evoke compassion,
sorrow, and the shared feelings of loss for their Haitian cousins,
who feel compelled to brave the terrible threats and dangers of
the sea, to start a life of hope in America.
To them, the
treatment of Haitians, who are routinely encaged in demeaning conditions
of confinement in de facto prisons upon their arrival, contrasts
sharply with the felicitous treatment accorded their Cuban neighbors,
who are encouraged, nay Invited! to brave the churning
waters of the Caribbean Sea to make it to the Southern tip of Florida.
The U.S.-Cuban policy, with it's origins in the dark days of the
Cold War, is a remnant of the American determination to stick their
finger in the eye of their perennial thorn-in-their-side, President
the flight to the shores of America must be bitter-sweet. Shortly
after the Haitian Revolution ended, around 1802, Haiti was the proud
historical inheritor of the distinction of a Revolution against
tyranny, oppression and slavery, and emerged as the second independent
nation in the Western hemisphere (after the United States), and
the first people in history to stage a successful slave revolution.
Their freedom came after the armies of Toussaint L'ouverture and
General Henri Christophe defeated the French and English imperial
armies in what was once called Saint Domingue (or San Domingo).
the Americans were fighting the British for their independence,
they had help from Haitians, who fought on the side of the American
revolutionaries. Indeed, Christophe, when a younger man, fought
in the Battle of Savannah, in the regiment of Compte D'Estaing,
and was slightly wounded.
After the Revolution
though, the Haitians became victim of a dreadfully 'bad press' by
the Americans. Instead of being seen as a fellow member of the small
confraternity of free nations, and welcomed, it was seen as a Terror,
and shunned. That's because the U.S. was a 'free' nation, only in
name; but a slave nation in the heart, and in fact.
of the Haitians so dismayed the French imperial designs of Napoleon
that he quickly sold the Louisiana Territory to the Americans for
a song (thus doubling the size of the United States).
Revolution sent shock waves throughout America, precisely because
the U.S. was a slave society, that talked about freedom and liberty,
but meant white freedom, and white liberty (and really only meant
white men of means and wealth). It gave a spur and a spark to the
anti-slavery movement on these shores, as the brilliant W.E.B. DuBois
wrote in his "The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to
the United States of America: 1638 to 1870":
The role which
the great Negro Toussaint, called L'ouverture, played in the history
of the United States has seldom been fully appreciated. Representing
the age of revolution in America, he rose to leadership through
a bloody terror, which contrived a Negro "problem" for
the Western Hemisphere, intensified and defined the anti-slavery
movement, became one of the causes, and probably the prime one,
which lead Napoleon to sell Louisiana for a song, and finally, through
the interworking of all these efforts, rendered more certain the
final prohibition of the slave-trade by the United States in 1807.
and granddaughters of the 'Great Toussaint' are now the subject
of mass media demonization in every report on Haiti. They are projected
as the permanent 'Other', those strange folk who believe in a strange
religion, the very name of which has been the synonym for weirdness
(remember Bush I's rant about "voodoo economics"?).
When they arrive
on the shores of the nation that their ancestors helped free, they
are thrown into Krome Correctional facility, or hauled back into
the hells of a Haiti that has been economically choked to death.
Yet, the images
haunt us, for they tell us how we are perceived in the eyes of our
Check out Mumia's
"Faith of Our Fathers: An Examination of the Spiritual Life
of African and African-American People" at www.africanworld.com
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© copyright 2002 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.