“Dr. Jack Cunningham: The Man Who Inspired Me to Become a Professor”

“Dr. Jack Cunningham: The Man Who Inspired Me to Become a Professor”

The guy in the photo is called Jack Cunningham. He is 80+ years old now. Dr. Cunningham inspired me and empowered me to become a College Professor. He marked my life through his passion for teaching, his breath of knowledge, and his deep commitment to student learning and the intellectual and spiritual growth of his students. As an undergraduate student, he became the most influential educator in my life and a model of excellence, grace, and piety. I wanted to become a “Model Professor and Educator” like him, and that has been my passion because of his transformative teaching and creative pedagogy.

For my undergraduate degree, I went to a small Liberal Arts Christian College in Panhandle Florida. Professor Cunningham was my Education and Leadership Professor. I may have taken three to four classes with him. He was a Master Teacher, absolutely a passionate and energetic one. What I observed the most about him was his humanity, incomparable hospitality, profound interest in students, and his non-negotiable promotion of the dignity of all people, especially that of his “Black and minority students.” There were just a few of us on campus.

He started to call me “Professor Lou” (I believe he was the one who gave me the nickname) in the very first class I took with him. He gave me books to read, pushed me to go to Graduate school, and mentored me throughout my undergraduate years. He was the first one to have written a letter of recommendation when I applied for the Masters degree in Philosophy at the University of South Florida (USF), and he also wrote a splendid letter of recommendation for me to pursue my Master of Divinity and another brilliant one for my M.A. at the University of Louisville. He had great expectations of me and taught me with great patience how to think cogently, write clearly, and how to cultivate the life of the mind and the life of faith.

I miss him very much and wish to visit him soon.

“A Carrier of Love”: A Morning Poem

“A Carrier of Love”

I wrote this morning poem 😻

What shall I say about this unending feeling?
A carrier of love, of surpassing value
On frightful days,
in voiceless nights,
Cheerful springs surrender to your Himalayas of praise.

To what shall I compare you?
A carrier of empathy, on rough winters solitude
you shine forth in hot summer days
healer of fresh wounds
when sorrows win the day
where darkness conquers the night.

What shall I say about your sober gaze and smile?
A carrier of glory, of the farthest galaxy
a star of light in loveless spots
a glowing cathedral in the midst of damaged hearts
I speak untold emotions to delight in your peace.

“Less Prayers and More Revolutionary Actions:On Gun Violence, Mass Shootings, and Racially-Motivated Hate Crimes”

“Less Prayers and More Revolutionary Actions:
On Gun Violence, Mass Shootings, and Racially-Motivated Hate Crimes”

As a person of faith, I confess that prayer is a form of human action and a significant aspect of the religious experience. I would argue that human prayers to God could be construed as both radical and revolutionary human reactions to the catastrophes of war, famine, exile, and imperial exploitation and conquest as well as the problems of human suffering, pain, and anguish in the world; we find such textual examples in the book of Psalms of the Hebrew Bible. The book of Psalms is a testament of radical human actions transmitted through the transformative power of human prayers and petitions to the Divine. Nonetheless, this is not the type of human activism and agency I would like to advocate in this essay. By contrast, I am supporting the imposition of the rule of law, another form of radical and revolutionary human actions, which would contribute to improving the existential dilemma of gun violence, mass shootings, and racially-motivated crimes in the American society.

Fundamentally, in this essay, I am suggesting that the American people need to stop praying to God for the end of gun violence and mass shootings in this country; rather, rational and concerning citizens and lawmakers should take radical actions to end mass shootings and racially-motivated crimes in society. Both mass shootings and racially-motivated crimes have now been incorporated into the American experience. Whenever I see the disturbing manifestation of evil in this country, in the form of racially-motivated hate crimes and mass shootings in schools, worship centers (i.e., churches, temples, synagogues, mosques) and public spaces, I refuse to ask the most natural human question where was/is God? As a committed Christian, I also resist to do the most natural Christian response to gun violence—a form of human tragedy and terror—the Christian prayer. I do not believe incessant prayers to God to eradicate deliberate actions committed by volitional agents resulting in mass murder or mass killing of innocent individuals and children have worked effectively in the history of this country. By any means am I discounting the power and role of faith in both civil and political society.

Instead, I would argue that “American prayers” have been a meaningless, ineffectual, even vain endeavor in the history of racial and gun violence. Prayers without human responsibility and action will not change a thing and have no ability on their own to move God to revolutionary action. From this perspective, God is not a magician, and prayer is not a magic or a form of human sorcery to improve the human condition in the world. When American politicians, lawmakers, and gun manufacturers do not act humanly, responsibly, and morally in the urgency of time, they send a clear message to the American pubic: they misconstrue the meaning of life, and through their failure, they make human lives more vulnerable and disposable to internal threats and acts of terror.

The purpose of God is not to fix all human problems that could be easily resolved by human agency and intervention or through the rule of law. Correspondingly, the function of religion in society is not to be a substitute for common sense actions and (human) reason. I would like to put forth the idea that the decision to remove “Christian prayer” in America’s public schools, for example, does not contribute to the spread of gun violence and hate crimes motivated by racism, bigotry, and xenophobia; I counter this long-standing fundamental ideology and Evangelical Christian tradition regarding the relationship between religion and the state or the function of religion in the public sphere. Public piety apart (from moral responsibility and emancipatory human-centered activism) associated with the American model of “secular religion” and “post-postmodern faith” does not impress the Divine.

The aim of human prayer to God without showing intentional human responsibility and (potentially) emancipative actions is like to wish for the light switch to be turned on without proper electricity infrastructure or technological arrangement. As the light switch requires a human hand to turn it on, prayer without human effort and moral agency will not move the hands of God nor will it stop gun violence and hate crimes. Prayers without radical human interventions and legal actions to restrict the easy accessibility and (re-)distribution of guns to private American citizens is akin to this illustration. This is a matter of existential urgency for the American people to campaign for rigorous judicial actions and moral interventions that will center upon the preservation of human life, especially the life of innocent children found in most vulnerable places in society, such as schools, daycares, worship centers, and marginalized communities.

A Great Moral Problem
Given the long history of gun and racial violence in the American society, it is disingenuous to continue to look for the Divine in the midst of human-made chaos and disorder, especially when the American government, powerful American citizens, and BIG corporations have the power, equipment, and resources to create a more dignified society and an alternative and safe future for American children and students, especially. To ask where God is in the midst of human terror and orchestrated acts of violence and human cruelty—manifested in the form of mass shootings or gun violence—is to shy away from our ethical responsibility as Americans to create an uninjured environment for all people. The future our school children and marginalized and vulnerable communities deserve is one in which they will not be traumatized by another potential act of racial violence or mass shooting. The sacredness and urgency of human life in this moment is an adequate reason to compel those in seat of authority and power to do more than asking for more public prayers, taking a 2-minute pause of reflection, and making good wishes to the families of the victims and those who wish to live peacefully and in safety in both the present and the future. Any type of human prevention to safeguard life is a moral action, and any human attempt to block any potential threat to eradicate life should be a non-negotiable and permanent commitment to sustain all lives in society.

Moreover, I would like to contend that instead of “uncaring politicians,” “lighthearted lawmakers,” and “hurting citizens” asking for more public prayers and petitions and questioning where God was in these recent mass shootings or the ones that transpired in the last fifteen years, I would like us to consider the following ethical and moral questions:

• What is the moral responsibility of this country’s lawmakers and politicians to protect American children and citizens from gun violence, mass shootings, and racially-motivated crimes?
• Where is the moral outrage of BIG corporations (and their networks) that are manufacturing guns and making deadly weapons effortlessly accessible to violent people and those with mental illness?
• Where are they? And where have they been in the midst of national mourning and acts of terror threatening national peace and collective joy?
• Does gun ownership come with certain moral responsibility and rights?
• What is morally right in this country? And what is ethically wrong in this society? Do they have anything to do with or linked to the mass obsession of gun ownership and egocentric individual freedom?
• When will the American people make the distinction between what is morally evil and what is ethically valuable to the promotion of the common good and human flourishing in society?
• At what cost would personal liberty and individual happiness contribute to the possible destruction of the welfare and safety of the collective? In other words, is there an ethical framework that holds individuals accountable for libertarian freedom and actions—in respect to gun ownership and the leniency of gun laws in this country?

Unhealthy Ideologies
Further, I would like to say that this country’s collective impulse concerning national conversations on gun violence and hate crimes grounded in racial ideologies include the following propositions:

  1. Traditionally, the emotional capacity of the American people is high (or always maximizes) in tragic moments in our (dark) history, and such a moment is akin to this contemporary one: the moment of pain, the moment of despair, the moment of national mourning. When our collective emotions go high in such a moment like this one, they will inevitably decline in strength and public expression. The problem of the American psyche in catastrophic times like this lies in its ability to produce permanent human endurance and robust resistance to cultural productions of evil and to various sources of the American wound. The American indignation or response to the problem of cultural evils does not prevail in times of trouble; to our great despair, it vanishes swiftly before a common solution is found. This shared attitude also lies in the collective reaction to find an “easy way out” of complex American problems; as a people, we prefer to use the Amazon’s Prime model to engage in existential crises that have negatively affected the human experience in this country and lessened human dignity in society.
  2. The American resistance or response to structural violence and human suffering in society is inadequate and not robust to lead to genuine structural transformation and radical cultural renewal. This is a profound matter rooted in the indeterminacy of the collective will of the American people—the will to power, the will to enact radical change, and the will to sustain the sacredness of human life. In other words, we are resisting our own will to do what is morally good for our families and our neighbor and what is ethically constructive for this country and the common good of all people.
  3. The American fixation on gun ownership and the triumph of individual freedom transcend any human feelings associating with collective love, group empathy, and national peace.
  4. The American people’s protest against gun violence and mass shootings is characterized as a “temporary feeling” to change gun law legislations, but it has never been deeply rooted in the collective will and the common purpose toward radical transformation. Unfortunately, the moral indignation and collective drive of the American people toward national safety is too weak, pathetic, even fragile; arguably, it is a shared crisis of (lack of) passion.
  5. The moral restraint to the production of evil in society shall not be to have “more religion” or to shout for “more public outcry” for rapid divine intervention through prayer and petition. While I believe in the transformative power of faith to effect social change and improve the human condition in the world, I reject the emotional dependency on the potentiality of religion as a substitution for ethical human responsibility, human behavior, and emancipative moral activism.
  6. Religion as a social construct was never designed to broadcast good news, promote human flourishing, and effect peace and unity between peoples of different religious expressions or those of no religious affiliation or identity. What we need at this existential moment in our dark (American) history is less religion in public, but more national moral outrage that would lead to robust legal restraints and human-centered judicial interventions against all forms of public productions of evil (gun violence, white supremacist ideologies) and the potential production of social evils (hate crimes, mass shootings) in society. Arguably, the rights to own a gun has been abused the same way the performative function of religion and prayer in public in moments of gun violence and mass shootings have been misdirected and exploited.

Substituting Public Prayers and Good Wishes
with Radical Collective Actions and Judicial Interventions

I must admit that I do not have the best solution to the existential catastrophe of gun violence, mass shootings, and racial-based crimes in this society. Also, I have yet to devise a plan or the most radical actions politicians, lawmakers, gun-manufacturers (and their networks) should take to get us out of this national dilemma, an American crisis. Nonetheless, what I am suggesting in this piece is to substitute public prayers and good wishes with radical collective actions and judicial restrictions against the easy access and distribution of guns. I refuse to believe there is not a national solution to the enduring problem of gun violence and mass shootings in this country. For example, the question is not the lack of (government or private) funding, human resources, intelligent people, mass support, adequate policing, etc. Perhaps, it is matter of strategic plans and human-centered intelligent thinking or design from the highest offices to the lowest governmental offices.

The intervention we need to preserve life in the most ethical, legal, and moral sense must be a collective solution and national action. To get us started, I would like to make the following two suggestions to help reduce popular violence through individual gun ownership:

  1. Public Schools and the Safety of school children: since school children have been of the most vulnerable groups and victims of gun violence and mass shootings in this country, American parents should demand the state government and local school authorities to close schools until (local) politicians and (federal) lawmakers take drastic measures to make American schools and educational centers a safer environment for school children. For example, parents should keep their children at home until stricter gun control laws are passed both at the national and federal level. Parental protests should also include the following: 1) keeping children at home for 30 to 60 days, even an academic semester; 2) collective street peaceful protests at the national level; and 3) and giving lawmakers and local politicians a deadline to produce measurable goals and learning outcomes associating with gun safety at schools and gun ownership.
  2. Centers of Worship & the Safety of religious people: (churches, temples, synagogues, mosques): people in sacred places or places of worship should be able to gather together in safety and to worship in peace without having to worry about getting shot or being slaughtered. Recently, religious centers have become the second most target places by internal terrorists and white supremacists. Religious people should also use the power of non-violent protest to campaign for stricter gun regulations and gun ownership, both at the national and federal level. Another way religious people could use protest as a human force is to close the places of worship; for example, instead of gathering on Sundays or Wednesdays for spiritual meetings, religious leaders, and ministers (rabbi, pastors, imam, priests) should use designated times for street protests.

Closing thought

I must admit that what might be considered a “radical” action for some individuals may not be interpreted as so for others. The radical actions and judicial interventions that must be taken nationally and federally must be truly “radical” and genuinely “revolutionary.” Whenever something radical occurs in a society, the people will interpret it as a radical shift—in the form of a consensus; correspondingly, whenever something revolutionary happens in a culture, the citizens will construe it as a revolutionary shift that gives birth to a new age, a new era in the human experience. Those examples are voluminous in the American experience. For example, in our (American) history, we talk about the radical nature of the American Revolution (1774-1783); the Declaration of Independence (1776); the revolutionary nature of the American civil war (1861-1865); the radical nature of the Emancipation Proclamation (1863); the radical nature of Women’s suffrage (1919); the revolutionary sense of World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945); the Cold War (1946-1991); the Vietnam Wars (1954-1975); the radical nature of Legal Abortion (1973); the revolutionary sense of the Civil Rights Movement (1954-1968); the Feminist Movement of the 1960s; the radical nature of the end of Racial Segregation (1964); and the legalization of Same-Sex Marriage (2015).

Truly, these historical antecedents should serve as models to put an end to mass shootings, gun violence, and racially-driven hate crimes in society while maintaining spiritual passion and religious fervency.

Day 24 in Haitian Heritage Month: The “Indemnity” of 1825: The Haitian Receipts

Day 24 in Haitian Heritage Month: The “Indemnity” of 1825: The Haitian Receipts

In the spirit of celebrating Haitian Heritage Month, I thought I would write a follow-up post to show the historical accounts penned by Haitian historians and writers who have provided detailed accounts about the indemnity of 1825, which Haitian president Jean-Pierre Boyer (1818-1843), in recognition of Haitian independence by Haiti’s former master, France, paid an indemnity of 150 million francs to the imperial France.

The literature on this issue in Haitian studies in the French language is voluminous; for the sake of convenience, I have selected the works of fourteen major Haitian historians and writers to substantiate my previous claim that Haitians have not been silent about their own history. Hopefully, this will serve as an archival reference for the New York Times to acknowledge Haitians in public about their own stories and histories and to cite them next time they write a piece on Haitian political history or the diplomatic relations between Haiti and the United States or the West. All the sources listed below are accessible online for free. For each referenced work, I provide the page numbers to locate the history of the indemnity.

Thomas Madiou, the father of Haitian history, in a volume published in 1848, was the first Haitian writer to recount the history of the indemnity. Probably, the second major Haitian historian to have written on the issue in 1860 was Baubrun Ardouin. Two early Haitian diplomats and lawyers, Joseph Anténor Firmin and Jacques Nicolas Leger, wrote in 1905 and 1907 respectively about the indemnity. Hence, good people: we just have to dig deeper and go to “the source,” that is, the “Haitian archive” to find the receipts of what we are looking for.

“In Their Own Words: 14 Major Haitian Historians on the Indemnity of 1825”

  1. Thomas Madiou, Histoire d’Haiti: 1819-1826 (1848); pp. 507-510, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Histoire_d_Ha%C3%AFti_1819_1826/LW8KAQAAIAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=1.%09Thomas+Madiou,+Histoire+d%E2%80%99Haiti:+1819-1826&pg=PA78&printsec=frontcover (Free Google book)
  2. Baubrun Ardouin, Études sur l’Histoire d’Haïti. Tome Dixième (1860) ; pp. 333-339, https://www.google.com/books/edition/%C3%89tudes_sur_l_histoire_d_Ha%C3%AFti_suivies/sMUtAAAAYAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Baubrun+Ardouin,+sur+la+debte+de+l%27independance+haitienne&pg=PA334&printsec=frontcover (Free Google Book)
  3. Joseph Anténor Firmin, M. Roosevelt, président des États-Unis, et la République d’Haïti (1905) ; pp. 323-324, http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/firmin_antenor/Roosevelt_et_Republique_Haiti/Roosevelt.html (Free PDF version)
  4. Jacques Nicolas Leger, Haiti: her History and Her Detractors (1907); pp. 180-183, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Haiti_Her_History_and_Her_Detractors/cRVnAAAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Jacques+Nicolas+Leger,+Haiti:+her+History+and+Her+Detractors&printsec=frontcover (Free Google book)
  5. Jean Price-Mars, La République d’Haïti et la République dominicaine. Les aspects divers d’un problème d’histoire, de géographie et d’ethnologie (1953) pp. 176-195, http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/price_mars_jean/Republique_Haiti_t2/Republique_Haiti_t2.html (Free PDF version)
  6. Dantès Louis Bellegarde, Histoire du peuple haïtien (1492-1952) (1953) ; pp. 131-2, http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/bellegarde_dantes/histoire_du_peuple_haitien/histoire_du_peuple_haitien.html (Free PDF version)
  7. Benoît Joachim, Les racines du sous développement en Haïti (1979) ; pp. 75-81, http://classiques.uqac.ca/contemporains/joachim_benoit/Racines_sous-developpement_Haiti/Racines_sous-developpement_Haiti.html (Free PDF version); also, see the major article on the same issue by the same author, Benoît Joachim, « La reconnaissance d’Haïti par la France (1825) : naissance d’un nouveau type de rapports internationaux » (1979) ; pp. 369-396, https://www.persee.fr/doc/rhmc_0048-8003_1975_num_22_3_2324 (Free PDF version)
  8. Alex Dupuy, Haiti in the World Economy: Class, Race, and Underdevelopment Since 1700 (1989); 93-95, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Haiti_In_The_World_Economy/FKubDwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Alex+Dupuy,+Haiti+in+the+World+Economy:+Class,+Race,+and+Underdevelopment+Since+1700&pg=PT13&printsec=frontcover (Free Google book)
  9. Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Haiti: State Against Nation: Origins and Legacy of Duvalierism (1990); pp. 60-61, https://books.google.com/books?id=xd1WCgAAQBAJ&newbks=0&printsec=frontcover&dq=Michel-Rolph+Trouillot,+State+Against+Nation,+pdf&hl=en&source=newbks_fb#v=onepage&q&f=false (Free Google book)
  10. Leslie F. Manigat, Eventail d’Histoire vivante d’Haiti, tome 1 (2001); pp. 261-278, https://ia802600.us.archive.org/25/items/eventaildhistoir01mani/eventaildhistoir01mani.pdf
  11. Wien Weibert Arthus, Les grandes dates de l’histoire diplomatique d’Haïti : De la période fondatrice à nos jours (2017) ; pp. 13-28, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Les_grandes_dates_de_l_histoire_diplomat/3fgSDgAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Wien+Weibert+Arthus,+les+grandes+dates+de+l%27histoires&pg=PP1&printsec=frontcover (Free Google book)
  12. Marlene Daut, “When France extorted Haiti – the greatest heist in history” (2020), The Conversation https://theconversation.com/when-france-extorted-haiti-the-greatest-heist-in-history-137949
  13. Gusti-Klara Gaillard, (2021), Le Nouvelliste, https://lenouvelliste.com/article/230931/il-y-a-196-ans-la-dette-de-lindependance ; also, read another essay by her: Independence debt: 28 billion dollars to be repaid by the France to Haiti?! (2020), Le Nouvelliste, https://lenouvelliste.com/article/211786/dette-de-lindependance-28-milliards-de-dollars-a-rembourser-par-la-france-a-haiti; and listen to her interview: Gusti Gaillard: “The External debt,” https://repository.duke.edu/dc/radiohaiti/RL10059-RR-0664_01
  14. Robert Fatton Jr., The Guise of Exceptionalism: Unmasking the National Narratives of Haiti and the United States (2021), pp. 61-62, https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Guise_of_Exceptionalism/aYESEAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=The+Guise+of+Exceptionalism:+Unmasking+the+National+Narratives+of+Haiti+and+the+United+States&pg=PT3&printsec=frontcover (Free Google book)

“The English Language DOES NOT Humanize the Haitian People”

“The English Language DOES NOT Humanize the Haitian People”

The American academic world produces some of the most arrogant and selfish academics and thinkers in the world. Because most American scholars and historians write and publish in the English language the same history or story that’s already been published by Haitian/African/Caribbean writers who write in French or Spanish, they give more intellectual value to their own work simply because it is written in English, and it is not because they are assessed as quality scholarship or good research. I call this attitude “intellectual imperialism” relating to the politics of the American Empire in the world to undermine the intellectual and literary productions of writers and historians in the Global South or developing world. Haiti, because of its complex history with the United States and the West, as well as with American and Western academics and writers, is a primary victim of this intellectual climate.

  1. Some of them (American academics) do not even bother to cite, for example, Haitian writers who have written on the same issue 50 years ago before they were even born or received an American doctoral (research) degree. C’mon, good people: you cannot just pretend that Haitian historians and writers did not exist in the 18th century, or nobody in Haiti wrote about Haitian national history or Haitian intellectual history from 18thto 20th century, for example.
  2. Haitian historians, writers, and scholars have been marginalized in their own discipline (s) of study, especially those who write in French about Haitian national history and Haitian political history.
  3. Not because one writes in English for an English-speaking (or American) audience means that individual has to deliberately disengage with a body of scholarship produced in a different language. It is intellectual dishonesty not to give credit or acknowledge intellectual predecessors. For example, you do not give Haitian studies legitimacy because it is done in the English language by American writers, nor do you humanize the Haitian people because you write in English about Haiti and the Haitian experience. Here, I am not referring to Haitian-born writers or those of Haitian descent who write or produce in English. This is not my point here!
  4. Unfortunately, in the American academia, producing academic works in the English language does come with academic entitlement or pedigree; nonetheless, I have to state that English as a language does not make one naturally more intelligent than others who write in a different language. I know this is a popular attitude among Americans, even among some American academics that speaking or writing in English is connected with high civilization or culture, intelligence, and fame. By contrast, I also understand writing in English comes with a great deal of academic privileges and reputation because the English language has now become more connected with the politics and expansion of the United States as the world’s most powerful country and empire today. Interestingly, this is a colonial practice in American academia. Such attitude needs to go, what we call decolonization or decolonial practice (See Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, “Decolonising the Mind,” 1986)
  5. Nobody expects American academics to be fluent (In fact, some of you are fluent in other languages) in French, Spanish, Kreyòl, Swahili, Swahili, Yoruba, Igbo, Fula, or another language than your native tongue: English. At least, if you are going to work or specialize on a non-English speaking country as a scholar or academic specialist, it is important to try to “read in translation” or even to “cite in translation.” Or you can seek the help of an expert. DO NOT JUST IGNORE THE NATIVE WRITERS and THEIR INTELLECUTAL PRODUCTIONS!
  6. Interestingly, American academics do not express this same attitude toward, for example, French, German, or English writers or historians. This is a rare tradition if they are writing about the history and experience of any of the countries in the West: Germany, France, Italy, England, Spain, Switzerland, etc. Haiti and Haitian writers, for example, continue to be victims of this tradition.
    How to move forward and change this BAD academic practice in America’s intellectual or academic landscape. I want to use Haiti, as an example. Haitian writers and historians have written prolifically and produced good works about some of the key issues in Haitian national history:
    · The Haitian Revolution
    · Haiti’s colonial history/Slavery and colonization in Haiti
    · Haitian resistance to slavery and Western imperialism
    · France’s economic exploitation of Haiti (the indemnity/the debt)
    · The 1843 revolution
    · American military occupation and invasion in Haiti (1915-1934)
    · The rise of Haitian radicalism and Marxism in the 20thcentury
    · The rise of Feminist movement in Haiti
    · Haiti’s popular culture
    · The foreign relations between Haiti, the United States, and the West
    · The Duvalier regime
    · The Aristide phenomenon and the 2nd American military invasion in Haiti
    · Haitian Vodou
    · Haitian anthropology and ethnology
    · The politics of NGOS in Haiti
    · Haiti’s economic development and dependency
    · Haiti’s public health system
    · Haiti’s education system
    · Haiti’s environmental issue
    Below, I highlight some of the major Haitian writers and thinkers to get acquainted with their writings, especially those published in the French language. For each historical period, I list 30 to 45 well-known writers and thinkers.

A. The 19th century

  1. Louis Félix Mathurin (“Boisrond-Tonnerre”
  2. Pompée Valentin Vastey (“Baron de Vastey”)
  3. Hérard Dumesle
  4. Joseph Saint Remy
  5. Anténor Firmin
  6. Beaubrun Ardouin
  7. Coriolan Ardouin
  8. Celigny Ardouin
  9. B. Lepinasse
  10. Antone Dupre
  11. Jean-Baptiste Romane
  12. J. Leger
  13. Démesvar Delorme
  14. Bénito Sylvain
  15. Louis-Joseph Janvier
  16. F.É. Dubois
  17. Thomas Madiou
  18. Frederic Marcelin
  19. Hannibal Price
  20. Pauléus Sannon
  21. Etzer Vilaire
  22. Justin Lhérisson
  23. Juste Chanlatte
  24. Jules Solime Milscent
  25. Massillon Coicou
  26. Ignace Nau
  27. Emeric Bergeaud
  28. P. Lochard
  29. Oswald Durand
  30. Antoine Innocent

B. The 20th century

  1. Marie Vieux-Chauvet
  2. Duracine Vaval
  3. Dantès Bellegarde
  4. François Duvalier
  5. Paulette Poujol-Oriol
  6. Marie-Thérèse Colimon-Hall
  7. Jean Price-Mars
  8. Jacques Roumain
  9. Jacques Stephen Alexis
  10. René Depestre
  11. Alfred Auguste Nemours
  12. Horace Pauleus Sannon
  13. Henock Trouillot
  14. Michel-Rolph Trouillot
  15. Ernst Trouillot
  16. Jean Fouchard
  17. Gérard Mentor Laurent
  18. Madeleine Sylvain-Bouchereau
  19. Suzanne Comhaire-Sylvain
  20. Pradel Pompilus
  21. Laennec Hurbon
  22. Fernand Hibbert
  23. Jean-Baptiste Cineas
  24. Philippe Thoby-Marcalin
  25. Pierre Thoby-Marcalin
  26. J. C. Dorsainvil
  27. Leon Laleau
  28. Catts Pressoir
  29. Louis Borno
  30. Roger Gaillard
  31. Normil Sylvain
  32. Cleante Valcin
  33. Suzy Castor
  34. Roussan Camille
  35. Edris Saint-Amand
  36. Ida Salomon Faubert
  37. Jacques Stephen Alexis
  38. Franketienne
  39. Jean Cassimir
  40. Morisseau-Leroy
  41. Ghislain Gouraige
  42. Edwidge Danticat
  43. Dany Laferrière
  44. Jean F. Brière
  45. Carl Brouard
  46. Georges Sylvain
  47. Felix Morisseaux
  48. George Anglande
  49. Christophe Philippe-Charles
  50. Anthony Phelps
  51. René Philoctète
  52. Laroche Maximilien
  53. Enock Trouillot
  54. Georges Corvington
  55. Gergard Barthemy
  56. Roger Dorsainvil
  57. Leslie F. Manigat
  58. Catts Pressoir
  59. Roger Gaillard
  60. Timoléon C. Brutus
  61. Damase Pierre-Louis

C. Late 20th century and early 21st century

  1. Patrick Bellegarde-Smith
  2. Danny Laferriere
  3. Georges Castera
  4. Benoit Joachim
  5. Louis Philippe Dalenbert
  6. Evelyn Trouillot
  7. Josaphat Robert Large
  8. Marie-Celie Agnant
  9. Yanick Lahens
  10. Jessica Fievre
  11. Felix Morisseaux
  12. Kettly Mars
  13. Lyonel Trouillot
  14. Odette Roy Fombrun
  15. Roussan Camille
  16. Jean-Bertrand Aristide
  17. Lemete Zephyr
  18. Robert Fatton
  19. Alex Dupuy
  20. . Edwidge Danticat
  21. Michel S. Laguerre
  22. Myriam J. A. Chancy
  23. Patrick Bellegarde-Smith
  24. Laennec Hurbon
  25. Louis-Philippe Dalembert
  26. Gary Victor
  27. Michel Hector

*** Of course, I am missing other influential thinkers in my list and may have repeated some writers twice. I wrote this post in response to a series of important articles published in the New York Times (“The Ransom: 6 Takeaways About Haiti’s Reparations to France”; “The Ransom: A Look Under the Hood”; Investigating Haiti’s ‘Double Debt”; “The Root of Haiti’s Misery: Reparations to Enslavers”). Please do not misunderstand the intent of my post! As an academic, I clearly understand academic scholarship is a teamwork that engages the labor of other scholars, for which I am thankful. I also understand academics or scholars depend on previous works done by others to further their own contribution in the field of study or advance knowledge in a particular discipline–hopefully toward the common good and human flourishing in the world. In other words, no one works in isolation, and no one can claim intellectual monopoly when it comes to academic studies, research, and epistemology. Yet we must not ignore those who are writing on the margins and work predominantly from the context of a developing country in the Global South. Their work matters! Their ideas are worth citing (in English)! Their contribution is worth acknowledging in public.

There are actually existing “traditions,” a reference to the way of thinking, intellectual practices, and of perceiving and interpreting the Haitian world and other worlds in Haitian history, and those traditions encompass various worldviews, and fields of study and different areas in the human and Haitian experience, including literary, historical, political, philosophical, religious, and ideological traditions. It is my idea of the “Haitian canon.” In the same way, throughout the Haitian history, since its birth in 1804, there existed movements, such as labor, feminist, economic, human rights, political movements that have shaped the human experience in Haiti. Haitian writers and historians have documented their own histories and stories, experiences and living conditions, and such (literary) receipts could be traced to the country’s first piece of writing: Haiti’s Declaration of Independence (1 January 1804). In other words, Haitian writers have not been silenced about the Haitian experience in the world.


“Nou Vle Lapè”/”We Want Peace”

I appreciate the series of well-researched and provocative articles produced by the New York Times about France’s historic gross economic injustice done to Haiti. My questions are the following:

  1. What would this mean for more than 75% of Haitians who live in abject poverty today?
  2. How would the data help change the current inhumane political climate in Haiti, characterized by popular violence, street kidnapping, and popular fear ?
  3. How would this information help transform Haiti’s economic dependency on the developed world and the World Bank?

***I am just inviting public intellectuals and writers to connect scholarship with praxis, academic writing with activism–toward the common good and human flourishing in the Haitian society. After all, what the Haitian people need at this critical moment in Haitian history is the opportunity to live in safety, sleep in peace, and having not to worry that their school children will come back home safely without being kidnapped or shot in the streets.

Blue & Red: Happy Haitian Flag Day: 18 May 1803-18 May 2022

Happy Haitian Flag Day: 18 May 1803-18 May 2022

Here’s a talk I gave two years ago on the history and evolution of the Haitian flag: “A BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF THE HAITIAN FLAG”

***I gave the talk as an invited Guest Speaker at a conference at the Embassy of Haiti in Washington D.C. To watch the video presentation, follow the link below:

Bon fèt drapo Ayisyen ble e rouj!

Library of Congress’ Book List on Haiti

“Celebrating Black Joy: Haitian & Haitian American Stories” (Library of Congress Series)

Two of my books are on the list of the Library of Congress’ “Freedom in the Black Diaspora: A Resource Guide for Ayiti Reimagined”

  1. “Between Two Worlds: Jean Price-Mars, Haiti, and Africa” (Lexington Books, 2018), https://guides.loc.gov/haiti-reimagined/liberte-egalite-fraternite
  2. “Vodou in Haitian Memory: the idea and representation of Vodou in Haitian imagination” (Lexington books, 2016), https://guides.loc.gov/haiti-reimagined/haiti-celebrating-black-joy

Thanks to my friend, Bertin Louis, for bringing this news to my attention. I did not know about it. Just a little something to celebrate with my co-editors Nixon Cleophat and Jean Eddy Saint Paul 🙂

“Rising Star of life” : A Mother’s Day Poem

“Rising Star of life” : A Mother’s Day Poem

You are the candle that gives light freely.
Outcasts of life come to you and rest.
You adorn yourself with ornaments from nature.
All the stars receive beauty from your touch.
Angels learn peace and live
in the place where your moon greets the sun.

You are the candle of light that gives freely,
the river where breath is life;
the origin of billion small creatures:
Children of your own, whose cords of life
are sustained by your power.
In small steps, they crawl to your bosom
to see the dawn of another day,
the hope beyond the highest star above.

You are the candle of light that gives freely,
the crossroad where wisdom learns the tricks of life;
a purple passion vine adorned with the incense of the world.
Rough winter winds turn into ocean delight,
and melody of life that moves according to your beats:
gently to the left, gracefully to the right…
with tender kiss and love to the unending sound of your heart.

On this day, I would like to say Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers and Mothers-in-the making!

“God, Truth, and the Question of Faith in Academia”

“God, Truth, and the Question of Faith in Academia”

Some people in academia say that you cannot be a serious scholar if you are a person of faith, as faith might influence your findings or research process. For me, it is a different narrative, my faith in God makes me a better scholar and thinker, and inspires me to produce rigorous, well-researched, and truth-telling scholarship.

To me, God is the source of all (academic) knowledge and wisdom (“konesans” as we say in Kreyòl) in the world, and God is also the origin of all that is true and veritable and the foundation of all forms or expressions of truth. Hence, for me, the goal of scholarship is the pursuit of truth and the promotion of truth through the art of writing, publishing, talking, explaining, teaching, and intellectual engagement. The pursuit of truth in academia is a power tool to empower the oppressed and the exploited in the world toward freedom and human subjectivity, to expose all false claims and interrogate what is “truth-suspicious,” and such intellectual endeavor must contribute to the common good and human flourishing in the world.

“Abortion, Human Rights, Bodily Autonomy, and Rights of Women to Abortion (Part I)”

“Abortion, Human Rights, Bodily Autonomy, and Rights of Women to Abortion (Part I)”

In this post, I would like to consider four issues in relation: abortion, human rights, bodily autonomy, and the rights of women to abortion. Toward this goal, I will make connection with three traditions: religion, the legal system, and secular humanism. I must say that women are bearers of life in this world. If women have the right to give life, do they have the same right not to give life (or to take life)?

Evidently, I am a man and came from a woman, my mother, and do not claim to represent the ideas of women on this issue; yet I am a husband to my spouse, a woman; a brother to three sisters; a father of two little girls; and a friend to many women. This conversation below is my first reflection (Part I) on the issue; it is my first draft on the sensitive topic of abortion. I would welcome your suggestions, comments, and your ideas on how to engage in meaningful conversations on the four issues addressed in this post.

  1. Bodily Autonomy: Bodily autonomy is not just a right reserved for a woman who is carrying a child. Bodily autonomy is a universal human right since it upholds the sacredness of the human body regardless of sex and gender, pregnant or not pregnant, being able to conceive or not being able to conceive. Bodily autonomy is connected to the right, choice, and the freedom an individual has or must have over his or her own body. Bodily autonomy is also associated with human subjectivity and agency. What makes the human body sacred is not linked to laws or the ability of a woman to bear a child. Bodily autonomy is intimately linked to what it means to be human, and this shared humanity affirms that every person is a person, and every human has dignity.

For example, a young girl has bodily autonomy, and a little boy must have bodily autonomy. A non-pregnant woman has bodily autonomy just like a woman who is unable to conceive must have bodily autonomy. A person who is physically disable, both boys and girls, men and women, and pregnant and not pregnant, has bodily autonomy.

Finally, bodily autonomy does not mean or should not mean that a person can just make “autonomous” decisions without thinking about the potential effect the individual choice will have on the life of the community to which that individual belongs or a member. The choice of a person may appear individualistic, but in essence, it is not since all of us live in community and act, in most of the times, according to the philosophy, convictions, and ideals that bind the community together.

  1. Human Rights: There are many rights that are connected to our shared humanity and the concept of personhood. Such rights might be deemed essential or fundamental to our common humanity, regardless of our sex and gender, or ability and disability in life. In other words, because human rights are essential to our shared humanity, they are not dependent upon our status—economic, political, religious, ethnicity, etc.—in life, or society.
    Rights are both individual and collective. For example, since John is a human being, John must have rights that affirm and maintain his humanity. John and Samantha share a common humanity as both male and female; therefore, they have collective human rights. Let’s think together about the following questions:

a) What makes a right a human right?
b) What are the human rights?
c) Who is a human?
d) What is a human?

All human rights are products of an agreement (a consensus) between individuals, authorities, institutions, representative groups, or a body of laws that are constructed within a system (i.e., economic, political, religious) and from the perspective of a philosophy of life and philosophy of the person and individuals. For example, from a religious perspective, almost all religious traditions affirm that the human life is sacred and therefore, prohibit the killing or murder of innocent people. From this angle, life is a human right, and the life of an individual is a human right. Hence, killing an innocent person is a violation of human right, and that murder is an act of dehumanization. Also, the religious belief that bans the killing of an innocent person defines human life as a right within this religious tradition; this same religious conviction makes human life sacred as a (convictional) right.

Human rights are also products of political consensuses and legislations. A human right becomes “legal” by a process of legislation. Human rights are legislated and legislative through a political consensus. If the law forbids the killing or murder of a person, —that is, the taking away the right to life of a human being or an individual—killing of an innocent individual will become an unlawful act. Accordingly, to murder an innocent person is not only an illegal gesture; it is an action against the law that makes illegal or unlawful the practice of (unjust) murder. In fact, the law makes murder the violation of a person’s right to life. In other words, the law not only sanctifies the life of a human; correspondingly, but it also upholds the sacredness of the life of an individual. From this perspective, human life as a right is defined as a legal conviction; to put it another way, the law (against murder) is what makes “rightful” life or what gives “human life” a legal standing.

So far, I have demonstrated how human rights are the result of various traditions, such as religion and legislation. Nonetheless, some people would argue which one of the entities (religion or the legislative branch) has primacy in defining human rights. This is perhaps one of the major issues surrounding the debate on abortion and the idea of women’s rights to abortion in the American society. For some religious people, all human rights are sacred and derivative of divine revelation. The life of an individual is a religious one because “God says so” in the Bible or “Allah affirms it” in the Qur’an. Certain religious people from various traditions—such as Muslims, Jews, Christians, Vodouizan, or Hinduists—would also affirm that the human life is a gift from God. Thus, no one has the right to take away the life of another person (i.e., an innocent individual) since the act of murder is an act against God or contrary to the divine order “Thou shall not murder.” (As a side note, I must say that non-theistic humanists or atheists have no obligations to abide to religious convictions or beliefs that make human life a right. They could find other ways or alternative to articulate their principles regarding the subject matter from a non-humanistic tradition. Yet the American society and Western societies, for example, are enmeshed in a religious framework that undergirds Western worldviews, including human convictions, beliefs, and actions—in the realm of the political, the religious, the ethical, the philosophical, what have you?)

By contrast, for others, human rights as a concept are not only rooted in political imaginations and legislative actions, but human rights should also not be viewed solely as a religious phenomenon. Since politics is integral to human existence and all areas of life, the concept of human life as a right is not only political; it is also legal. Interestingly, human life as right has become both religious and legal and is so regarded a religious practicality and a legal reality. Generally, within the sphere of the law, what it means to be human is linked to how the law defines it, and sometimes, this conviction is directly stated within certain body of laws; other times, it is implied in the legal code.

Correspondingly, being human might be regarded as a specific conception grounded on religious identity. For example, Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that it is God/Yahweh/Allah who defines the essence of humanity and imputes dignity upon individuals and persons. Since their respective religious text declares affirmatively that “human beings are created in the image of God,” therefore, it is our shared link with the Creator-God that makes our life special, sacred, and rightful. In other words, the dignity of an individual is correlated with the dignity of God himself.

  1. The Rights of Women to Abortion: all women and girls belong to the category identified above as “humanity.” All women and girls share a common humanity with all men and all boys. All women and girls have dignity, their life is sacred, and they are members of various human communities in society. All women and girls have human rights, and such rights are also constructed, from various traditions discussed in the previous analysis, and such rights are essential and fundamental to the concept of manhood and girlhood. Finally, such rights must be protected, defended, and maintained at all times—by the law and other human convictions (religious, moral, ethical, cultural, philosophical).

As already mentioned, the idea of bodily autonomy that is often argued in the defense of a woman’s right to have an abortion does not consider the idea of personhood universally applied to every human person regardless of his or her gender or sex, or status in life. Bodily autonomy is not sole property of women and girls; rather, bodily autonomy is a common characteristic shared by all people, both men and women, both boys and girls, and it is a type of freedom and human right that certifies our human dignity.
Certain advocates of women’s rights to abortion promote this slogan “Our bodies, our choice, our right.” They define the latter as a convictional belief and correlate the saying to the idea of (women’s) bodily autonomy. The question we should now ask in our conversation, as it pertains to the perspective on bodily autonomy, is this one: does a woman have a right and a choice to have an abortion? Let us look at different options:

A) From the perspective of bodily autonomy, women like men, do have a choice and right over their body, even to have an abortion. The demand here is for the law of the law to recognize, affirm, and maintain that choice and that right, respectively. Questions relating to religious, ethical, moral, and philosophical arguments against bodily autonomy and against a woman’s choice to have an abortion should be revisited. The underlying issue here is the legal protection of the right and the choice of women to abortion.

B) From a legal perspective (the Federal Government lawfully regards abortion as a choice and right for women) that warrants the right to abortion, women who commit the act of abortion are protected by the law; in other words, abortion is lawful or permissible by the law. Hence, if and when a woman commits an abortion, she is not in violation of any law.

C) From the perspective of those who believe that an abortion is the murder of an innocent unborn child, abortion is an act of violation of human right to life, that is, the life and right of the unborn child to live and exist. This position is framed within the belief that the unborn child is a person, and he or she is also a human being. This particular standing also lies in the convictional belief that the unborn child has human dignity and the choice (willing or unwilling) to abort the unborn child is an act of dehumanization and de-personification.

All the three options above (A, B, C) are premised upon our distinctive worldviews and convictional beliefs. Such convictions are also influenced by our religious beliefs, political ideologies and ideals, cultural traditions and practices, ethical and moral frameworks, and our idea what it means to be human in the world (our common humanity), to live in relation to one another (mutual reciprocity and accountability), and how-to live-in community (a form of social contract) with other individuals in society. In general, human beings are moral, ethical, cultural, and political entities, and as volitional agents, we act always according to such ways of life. Nonetheless, if an act is religious, it does not necessarily mean it is moral or ethical; in the same line of thought, if an act is legal or lawful, it does not necessarily convey it is also moral or ethical.

I am thinking from this point of view because morality has to do with right and wrong choices we make in life, and many people in our culture construe the act of aborting an unborn child or the act of not aborting an unborn child as a moral/immoral choice. What is interesting is the fact that many individuals establish an intimate rapport between morality and religion and believe that religion categorically informs our moral choices and ethical behaviors—both individual and collective. Another question we must also consider in this conversation is this: what about the individuals, such as non-theistic humanists and atheists, who divorce morality from religion, and find alternative ways and promising humanitarian principles to live a moral and ethical life—apart from religious morality? What do we do with those individuals? Some of those individuals are women who want to have a choice to have an abortion. They do not want that right to be taken away from them and from other women.