“When God is Silent, the Lwa Disappear, and Haitians Suffer”

“When God is Silent, the Lwa Disappear, and Haitians Suffer”

All Haitians in the Diaspora live in exile, and life in exile is a life of (re-)memory and alienation that creates both mental trauma and physical distance in respect to their native land.

Haitians outside of Haiti long to visit home, and they’re afraid of being kidnapped, tortured, and even murdered in the streets of Port-au-Prince.

The violence that is now associated with the Capital city of Haiti and other parts in the country has created a generation of Haitian youths who believe the only way to live as humans is to escape and find peace in a more promising country.

The segment in the Haitian population that is more affected by the frequency of gun shots and the fear of physical death is Haitian school children.

Life in Haiti has become more vulnerable and the preservation of human life has become more urgent than the generation past.

What does it mean to be poor and powerless in your country of birth?

What does it mean to live in a life characterized by every day trauma, political crisis, gang violence, and fear?

What does it mean when life has no meaning after you’ve tried all you could do to make it meaningful and productive in your birthplace?

What does it mean to be dispossessed, displaced, and socially-alienated in your homeland?

What does it mean to grow up in a country whose future is unknown, vulnerable, and fearful?

“Between African and African American Studies and Me”

“Between African and African American Studies and Me”

Many people didn’t know that before I started writing books about Haiti, African and African American literatures and African and African American intellectual thoughts were my areas of focus. In fact, the topic of my PhD dissertation was on Négritude and Harlem Renaissance. I even published a book on Africa’s greatest living playwright and literary giant: Wole Soyinka (See my book “Radical Humanism and Generous Tolerance: Soyinka on Religion and Human Solidarity,” 2016) and taught a class on the work of Africa’s greatest novelist Chinua Achebe.

Further, I served as the guest editor for the Journal of Pan African Studies for a special issue on Wole Soyinka (Vol. 8, Number 5, September 2015). My second book was about Frederick Douglass and Langston Hughes and their ideas about the meaning of Haiti and the Haitian Revolution in the world (See my book, “Haitian Modernity and Liberative Interruptions,” 2013).

In 2020, I decided to return to African American religious thought and published a book (“Theologizing in Black: On Africana Theological Ethics and Anthropology”) in which I studied the theological ideas of James H. Cone and Benjamin E. Mays.  If the good Lord grants me enough grace, I would like to write a book on the religious ideas of Chinua Achebe based on his novels, and an intellectual biography on James H. Cone. Before I do so, I owe Haitian scholars and studies two more books that I must finish by summer 2025. 😊

“Christianity and the Predicament of Black and Haitian People”

“Christianity and the Predicament of Black and Haitian People”

This famous Haitian theologian and public intellectual in the video (Click on the link below to watch) states that “Si vous êtes noir vous vous définissiez come chrétien, c’est une insulte à vos ancêtres.” In English, it means, “If you are black you define yourself as a Christian, it is an insult to your ancestors.” The ideology behind this statement is that Christianity is associated with slavery; blackness is against Christianity; and that Black people should embrace the spirituality of their ancestors, which the speaker calls “Vodou.” Based on the speaker’s reasoning,

1. A Jew should not associate with a German because Hitler and his German terrorists murdered about 6 million Jews, some of whom were that person’s (Jewish) ancestors?

2. A black man should not marry a white woman because the ancestors of the white woman enslaved the ancestors of the black person?

3. An Igbo should not marry a Yoruba because the Igbos murdered the ancestors of the Igbo people?

Sometimes, I just don’t understand the argument some people make to restrict people’s religious freedom and affiliation. 🧐 🧐 🧐


Arguably, this is an error of philosophical or logical fallacy. First of all, we are dealing with two different categories: religion and ethnicity/race. There’s not and should not be a necessary association between the two. For example, as a black person, I have the freedom or choice to embrace Christianity, Islam, Vodou, Hinduism, etc. As a person of African descent, I also have the freedom not to affiliate with any religion or religious tradition. As a black human being, I still have the freedom to reject theism and embrace atheism. In other words, my racial category or identity does not determine my religious identity or association. The freedom of choice is not dependent upon one’s race and ancestral identity.

In the time of slavery, some slave masters and certain Christians used Christianity to support the enslavement of African people in slave societies in the Americas. Christianity was used as an instrument to exploit, abuse, and dehumanize the African population. However, it is a logical fallacy to equate Christianity with slavery. This is a false equivalence. While many enslaved Africans were forced to receive Christianity and Christian baptism, many slaves converted to Christianity voluntarily and without any coercion. Some of the slaves who willingly embraced Christianity as their new faith were born in the American continent; others who came to the Americas were already practicing Christians in Africa.

While the deliberate exploitation of Christianity as a tool may have contributed to the predicament of some black people in the world, Christianity is not responsible for the plot of Black people in the world. Human suffering, not just black suffering, has various sources and causes.

Those who call themselves leaders and intellectuals in black communities should put a break to the victimization narrative. This rhetorical discourse has not been working effectively in Black communities and it has not changed people’s living conditions.
I remain optimistic that there are other constructive ways and methods black leaders and intellectuals could deploy to empower the people, inspire young people to be responsible citizens and committed to a cause, and to teach them to be agents of transformation in their respective communities.

“Between the Shores of Our Souls”: A New Poem

It’s been a few months since I composed a poem. I’ve worked on this new piece for two weeks, a poem I simply called “Between the Shores of Our Souls.” I hope you like it.

“Between the Shores of Our Souls”

I’ll hide your soul deep in me,
above the height of ocean frontiers
Like a tender wind between the sacred space of the moon and the sun
Growing feathers in my silent wings,
just to kiss the palm of your restless hands
I’ve measured my life with the ruler of your charm,
counted it worthy to mean something to you

I’ll be your order during the night and daylight
Offering you rain where the land is dried,
flowers and fresh leaves where spring does not blossom
To be the light of your forbidden steps
To make you smile in a loveless land
Your love urgent grows in memory last

I’ll be your promise of beauty and fantasy
Drying your tears with my silent words in rhyme
Washing your clothes with my gentle hands
To lift you to the top when hope wanders in despair
To sing the tune of an October love with broken words
I’ll sacrifice my dreams so you can dream about the rain and a new melody

“7 Things You should not Say to Your Christian Friends this Easter Season”

7 Things You should not Say to Your Christian Friends this Easter Season!

1. Jesus never existed; therefore, it is impossible for a non-existent person to die and raise from the dead.

2. The resurrection of Jesus is not a historical event/reality because it’s not based on historical evidence and fact; in addition, non-biblical writers of the period of the resurrection never mentioned Jesus or the empty tomb in their writings.

3. Ancient myths in the Mediterranean world or Ancient Near-Eastern civilizations report several mythical figures who died and rose from the dead on the third day; thus, the writers of the New Testament who wrote about the death and resurrection of Jesus plagiarized these ancient mythical narratives. By consequence, Jesus is a mythical figure just like those recorded in ancient mythical literature.

4. Christians worldwide celebrate a pagan holiday they call Easter and incorporate pagan rituals (such as the Easter eggs and Bunny) into their practice and the commemoration of their risen Lord.

5. Even if Jesus had risen from the dead, it was not on the day modern Christians celebrate Easter today.

6. There is no proof that Roman soldiers crucified the Christian Jesus on a cross. No Roman writers of the period of Jesus’ death and resurrection testified about these two related accounts or events. New Testament Christian writers invented and constructed both accounts– the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus–and present them to the world as if they are/were true, reliable, and historical events.

7. The four New Testament Gospels that report what Christians affectionately call the “Easter Sunday” (or the physical and historical resurrection of Jesus) are works of fiction and are not reliable historical accounts.

To be candid, while the resurrection of Jesus can be explained from a historical and literary point of view, the phenomenon of raising a dead person from the tomb is not a common practice in both ancient and modern times. In fact, the idea of raising one from the dead is a rare occurrence in human history. How much more for an individual who spent three days in the belly of death and claim to be resurrected on the third day?

On the other hand, the practice of zombification through magical power in some Afro-religious traditions is the belief that a dead person can be raised from the dead. In fact, practitioners of such magical art, a form of religious sorcery, often claim that they can bring people to life on the same day they die through supernatural power, which many consider demonic or devilish. For many, the phenomenon of zombification is a contradiction and an impossibility for what we know about the complexity of human nature, the law of science, and the fragility of human existence in the world. It is also a form of theodicy. This is another topic that requires further exposition and explanation.

Observably, the seven counter-claims against the Christian Easter or the resurrection of Jesus has been vigorously challenged and rebuked by Biblical scholars, Christian apologists, and Christian theologians through careful exegesis of historical documents (both ancient Christian and non-Christian texts) and analytical reasoning of source materials.The literature on the subject matter is rich and substantial. Any educated Christian is aware of these counter claims in contemporary literature; yet they continue to celebrate their risen Lord and Savior of the world on Easter Sunday.

As a final word, in a world that is becoming more pluralistic religiously every day as well as more open or tolerant to religious inclusivism, do your Christian friend a favor this Easter season: celebrate with them, if you can even go to church with them if they invite you, and be empathetic toward their faith, especially the sustaining hope they place in the resurrected Christ!

“10 Symbolic Meanings and Impacts of the Death of Jesus the Divine Messiah”

“10 Symbolic Meanings and Impacts of the Death of Jesus the Divine Messiah “

Some of the Christian ideas and beliefs about the various meanings and effects of the death of Jesus make no sense to many people today, even to the people who had witnessed his death and crucifixion in the Greco-Roman society. Interestingly, it is these very complex ideas that make the Christian theology of the atonement unique and paradoxical as compared to other world religions or belief systems.

To be candid, there are many things in Christian theology that are hard to believe from a human perspective or from the use of philosophical reasoning, including the following ten symbolic meanings and contributive effects of the death and cross of Christ, what Christian theologians labelled “Theories of the Atonement”:

  1. Jesus died to reverse the curse of Adam.
  2. Jesus died as a ransom or atoning sacrifice for the sins of all people.
  3. The death of Jesus offers liberation and freedom to those who trust in him for salvation.
  4. The death of Jesus is both redemptive and salvific; in other words, there’s power and victory in the blood of Jesus.
  5. Jesus died so all people could have access to God, have peace with God, be reconciled with God, and to fulfill the justice of God in the world against sinners and sins.
  6. The death of Jesus brings about divine purification and spiritual cleansing to those who sin morally and transgress ethically.
  7. Jesus died for sins because God loves all people and gave Jesus as a gift for all people.
  8. The crucifixion of Jesus is a symbolic act of divine solidarity with “The Crucified People” or The Oppressed” of the world.
  9. The death of Jesus was an existential act against the phenomenon of death itself.
  10. Jesus died to destroy the work of the Devil in the world and to defeat the power and dominance of Satan and Demons in the cosmos.

These various ideas about the multiple meanings and impacts of the death of Jesus can be grasped and accepted by means of faith only, a liberating and transformative faith that is given to us freely as a gift from God. All ten points above are connected with the Christian understanding of the character of God, the meaning and identity of Jesus, the problem of sin in the world, and the need for a new creation and transformed humanity. For Christians, the death and cross of Jesus the Divine Messiah not only carries transformative value in the present and in the future; it has liberative, redemptive, salvific, existential, and eschatological meaning. In other words, it was a cosmic phenomenon that changed human history and confirmed that God is for us and he is never against his people.

Happy Good Friday, Good People!

May the love, mercy, and kindness of God in Jesus the Messiah continue to sustain you and prompt you to be compassionate, good, and empathetic toward those who are being oppressed, mistreated, and dehumanized in the world today!

What I think about the Academia!

Based on personal experience, some people in academia have no interest in you as an individual and human being; rather, they value your work because for them your scholarship is what affirms your humanity and dignity. Once you’re unable to produce, your personhood is erased.

There has to be a way to humanize the academia and not to treat people as commodities. People are not mere objects or machines. They have intrinsic human values that are not comparable with the system of production and the institutions that maintain their dehumanization.

Interestingly, the same individuals (professors, administrators, etc) who complain about the inhumane character of academia have no interest in transforming it nor do they have any guts to say NO to the unethical structures that make people feel like objects to be exploited.

Power is a central reason why some people are resistant to change as they continue to maintain the status. Suffice it to say such power is hierarchical and sovereign and is often linked to knowledge and the circulation and production of knowledge (Rolph-Trouillot).

Untamed power creates alienation and isolation in the workplace and intellectual violence in academic circles and professional societies.

Untamed power also creates a network of aggressive and selfish individuals and educators whose influence is exercised through various networks, what Foucault termed regimes of power, to maintain control, dominance, and power over one group.

Is this the kind of life and human relations we as professors, educators, and administrators want?

Moral leadership urges all of us to think critically about how some of us have been silent on those unfortunate practices and damaged relationships in academic institutions and societies. They redefined our friendship, our values, and shared humanity.

The most damaging effect (on us) is both mental and psychological, which actively influences our thought-process, practices, and production and circulation of knowledge.

What most academics do not do well or simply do not know how to do is to take their stock of knowledge and rich theoretical mind and transfer them into practical reality to change their respective community and create another world toward human flourishing and the good life.

If an idea is good, it must be good enough to help us breathe anew and improve our politics, leadership governance, economy, human relations, philosophy of life, and our living conditions.

“Know Your Strength: I have NO Political Aspirations”

“Know Your Strength: I have NO Political Aspirations”

I am friends with a very influential Haitian gentleman. One day, he called me on the phone to talk about the human experience in Haiti and Haitian politics, and to think about ways to change human life in Haiti.

Him: I am looking for good people like you and those with patriotic zeal for Haiti to form a political party in Haiti.

Him: Well, I have identified some key individuals in the Haitian Diaspora and in Haiti to be council members of my new political party for the future presidential election in Haiti. I want you to help me create it, and you will be my right-hand man.

Me: Please tell me more about it.

Me: I appreciate the invitation and for you to think highly of me. My contribution to improve the human condition is especially through my writing and education. After all, I am foremost an educator and a writer, and I do not have any political aspirations and any interest to participate in Haitian politics. I write about Haitian politics, but want no political role or function in Haiti.

Me: I have been sending Haitian students (especially those from poor families) to school for the past six years and organizing leadership seminars and conferences for teachers, educators, ministers, and leaders in Haiti for the past eight years. I want to continue doing that. That is my passion.

Him: Well, it’s not something that I want to start immediately. It will be in four years.

Me: I want to continue being an educator and a writer. That’s my strength. This is how I believe that I can best contribute to human flourishing in Haiti and in the world.

**This conversation took place while Jovenel Moïse was still President of Haiti.

On “Vodouphobia” and the “Haitian Turn”

On “Vodouphobia” and the “Haitian Turn”

So, in various publications I have been acknowledged that I coined the terms “Vodouphobia” & “Vodouphobic discourse.” I never paid attention if someone has previously used both concepts prior to the publication of my article on the subject. Yet many individuals have claimed that I coined both terms. Oh well, I will take the credit if it is true and academically justified 🙂

Joseph, Celucien L. “The problem and impossibility of Vodou religion in the writings of Dantes Bellegarde.” Journal of Pan African Studies, vol. 6, no. 8, Mar. 2014, pp. 204+. Gale Academic OneFile, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A367197632/AONE?u=anon~ab2db3dc&sid=googleScholar&xid=28660033. Accessed 30 Mar. 2023.

In the same line of thought, in various academic works, it is true that I coined the phrase “The Haitian Turn” in my doctoral dissertation (UT Dallas: PhD, 2012) 🙂

Well, I am bragging again. lol

Joseph, Celucien L. “‘The Haitian turn’: An Appraisal of Recent Literary and Historiographical Works on the Haitian Revolution.” Journal of Pan African Studies, vol. 5, no. 6, Sept. 2012, pp. 37+. Gale Literature Resource Center, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A306357775/LitRC?u=anon~868b4fc1&sid=googleScholar&xid=b8c35058. Accessed 30 Mar. 2023.

“Haiti, God, and Tradition”

“Haiti, God, and Tradition”

Haiti has a long humanist tradition, whose origin can be traced to the first half of the nineteenth century. This particular Haitian humanist tradition affirms both theism and agnosticism; while the former dominates Haitian intellectual production at that period, evidence for the latter is best observed in the various ways Haitian writers and thinkers discuss the Haitian predicament, what many have called “la crise haitienne,” in Haitian literature and sociology. We see the continuity of this way of thinking about human life in general and theism in specific in the works of young Haitian intellectuals of the American occupation, and Jacques Stephen Alexis reinforces the Haitian humanist tradition in his writing.

However, the Vodouist tradition in Haiti as an intellectual tradition began to blossom in the second half of the twentieth-century. While the intellectuals of the American occupation reimagined the importance of Haitian Vodou in the Haitian experience, they did not lay the foundation for the Vodouist tradition.

Interestingly, the robust Marxist tradition that began in the first half of the twentieth century in Haiti is not against theism or anti-religion, but it challenges vodouphobic discourse and anti-Haitianism.

Finally, Haiti does not have a strong theological tradition (“written texts”) that looks at big theological concerns of modern times from a Haitian perspective. However, Haiti has a rich religious tradition that takes into account the Haitianization of religious practices and Christianity in the Haitian context. Yet the rich folkloric (especially folktales, songs, orature) tradition (“non-written texts”) haitianize theology and the big questions of theology, including God and the problem of evil in the world, the problem of sin in the world, the presence of God in the world, God and the kingdom of darkness, the nature of human beings, the church as the people of God, eschatology, etc. As a practice,  it’s good to note in passing that those who “theologize in Haitian” are not professional theologians with academic degrees in the discipline of theology or Biblical Studies. Haitian novelists, poets, and anthropologists represent a distinctive voice in theological discourse through the creative domain and ethnological reports.