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Mumia Abu-Jamal's Radio Broadcasts

Haitian Struggle for Freedom

Long version: mp3, 3.8 MBs, 4:41
Short version:
mp3, 2 MBs, 3:34

[Col. recorded 12/22/02]

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 Castro.

For Haitians, 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).

Indeed, when 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.

The victory 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).

The Haitian 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. [p. 70]

The grandsons 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 cousins.


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Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa

 

Text © copyright 2002 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.