Day 8: “This Land (Haiti) Cannot Die”: Happy Black History Month from Jacques Roumain (Haiti)
“Therefore, see this peasant. Put your hand in his hand, rough calloused and beautiful from touching, from toiling each day in the Blessed Earth. Let us be brothers united. Without that, a death more cruel than physical death awaits us. Let us break the barriers. Let us close ranks.
But no force cannot prevent us from joining hands. For the great work of National Restoration must be fulfilled. That is why today we turn to everybody and especially to the younger generation and cry: Forget, forget. All of us are suffering. Grief has equalized us. Harshly. Above all petty quarrels, there is the wounded Fatherland to be saved.
This land [Haiti] cannot die: this magnificent field rampaged by sacrilegious hands. Devastated, but on the surface. Its depths are engorged and rich with the blood and corpses of nobly fallen: our fathers [our mothers].”
Day 7: “A demand for full Civil and Political Rights”: Happy Black History Month from Vincent Ogé (Saint-Domingue-Haiti)
Vincent Ogé’s Motion to the Assembly of Colonists in Paris (1789)
“But Sirs, this word of Freedom that one cannot pronounce without enthusiasm, this word that carries with it the idea of happiness, is this not because it seems to want to make us forget the evils that we have suffered for so many centuries? This Freedom, the greatest, the first of goods, is it made for all men? I believe so. Should it be given to all men? I believe so again. But how should it be rendered? What should be the timing and the conditions? Here is for us, Sirs, the greatest, the most important of all questions; it interests America, Africa, France, all Europe and it is principally this question that has determined me, Sirs, to ask you to hear me out.
If we do not take the most prompt and efficacious measures; if firmness, courage, and constancy do not animate all of us; if we do not quickly bring together all our intelligence, all our means, and all our efforts; if we fall asleep for an instant on the edge of the abyss, we will tremble upon awakening! We will see blood flowing, our lands invaded, the objects of our industry ravaged, our homes burnt. We will see our neighbors, our friends, our wives, our children with their throats cut and their bodies mutilated; the slave will raise the standard of revolt, and the islands [in the Caribbean Sea] will be but a vast and baleful conflagration; commerce will be ruined, France will receive a mortal wound, and a multitude of honest citizens will be impoverished and ruined; we will lose everything.
But, Sirs, there is still time to prevent the disaster. I have perhaps presumed too much from my feeble understanding, but I have ideas that can be useful; if the assembly [of white planters] wishes to admit me, if it desires it, if it wants to authorize me to draw up and submit to it my Plan, I will do it with pleasure, even with gratitude, and perhaps I could contribute and help ward off the storm that rumbles over our heads.”
“A Little Light on Jovenel Moïse, President of Haiti, and the 1987 Haitian Constitution: Article 134.1 and Article 134.2”
The Haitian President is elected for five years according to Articles 134.1 and 134.2 of the 1987 Haitian Constitution.
President Jovenel Moïse came to power on February 7, 2017 through the November 2016 election. His presidential term will end on February 7, 2022. That is five years. According to the 1987 Constitution, his constitutional mandate does not end on Sunday, February 7, 2021, as his critics have stated.
Currently, under the Moïse administration, the Haitian people experience daily gang kidnapping, gang violence, political corruption and instability, mass killing and death, societal incoherence and disunity, hunger, poverty, frustrations, etc. Yet these things are not new in the Haitian society. While some have argued that life has gotten worst under this current administration, thus demanding Moïse’s resignation before his term ends on February 7, 2022.
You may not agree with Moise’s policies, political actions, or governance; yet, constitutionally, he has one more year left in power and before he bids goodbye to the Haitian people. Consequently, the new president of Haiti will be elected constitutionally in this year’s presidential election in November 2021.
Historically, in the first round of the 2015 (25 October 2015), Moïse did not receive enough popular votes to be elected as President of Haiti. (This election was a mess, and its results were fraudulent according to critics.) Whenever that happens, the Haitian Constitution makes provision for a second round. Hence, in the 2016 election (27 November), Haitian election officials (the Conseil Electoral Provisoire) declared that Jovenel Moïse has won the presidential election.
Consequently, his presidential term began on 7 February 2017. In other words, Moïse’s term did not begin on 7 February 2016 because he did not win in the first round of the November 2015 election. By contrast, since he was declared the winner of the November 2016 election, his presidential term officially began on 7 February 7, 2017–as mandated by the Haitian Constitution.
Below, I reproduce both Articles 134.1 and 134. 2 as constitutional reference:
“ARTICLE 134-1: The term of the President is five (5) years. This term begins and ends on the February 7 following the date of the elections.
Article 134.1: La durée du mandat présidentiel est de cinq (5) ans. Cette période commence et se terminera le 7 février suivant la date des élections.
ARTICLE 134-2: Presidential election shall take place the last Sunday of November in the fifth year of the President’s term.”
Article 134.2: Les élections présidentielles ont lieu le dernier dimanche de novembre de la cinquième année du mandat présidentiel. L’élection présidentielle a lieu le dernier dimanche d’octobre de la cinquième année du mandat présidentiel.
Le président élu entre en fonction le 7 février suivant la date de son élection. Au cas où le scrutinne peut avoir lieu avant le 7 février, le président élu entre en fonction immédiatement après la validation du scrutin et son mandat est censé avoir commencé le 7 février de l’année de l’élection.”
***Also, the language of Articles 134.1 and 134.2 in the amended 1987 Constitution is the same as the original 1987 version cited above.
“Article 134-1 The term of the President is five (5) years. This term begins and ends on the February 7 following the date of the elections.
Article 134-2 [Amended by the Constitutional Law of 9 May 2011 / 19 June 2012] The presidential election takes place on the last Sunday of October of the fifth year of the presidential mandate.
The president elected enters into his functions on 7 February following the date of his election. In the case where the ballot cannot take place before 7 February, the president elected enters into his functions immediately after the validation of the ballot and his mandate is considered to have commenced on 7 February of the year of the election “
Source: “Haiti’s Constitution of 1987 with Amendments through 2012″
***Warning: my brief analysis is not based on political affiliation or partisanship with the Moïse administration, and this post is not a defense of Moïse administration or presidency.
I am not a constitutional scholar nor am I an expert on Haitian laws. My analysis is based on the exegetical reading and literary analysis of both articles in view here. I’m open to be corrected.
Moreover, Article 134.2 does not declare that the president begins his or her term on the “same” day or the “same” year of the election. (The word “same” is not used in Articles 134.1 and/or 134.2. Rather, it states that the presidential term begins and ends on February 7. The phrase “following the election” is pertinent to the day and year the President begins his or her term on February 7.
For example, if I am elected as the President of Haiti in the November 21, 2021 election, my term does not begin on 21 November 2021 because November is not February and 21 is not 7. Rather, my presidential term will begin on 7 February 2022. My presidential term will end on 7 February 2027. That is 5 years, as mandated by the 1987 Haitian Constitution.
Article 134.1: “La durée du mandat présidentiel est de cinq (5) ans. Cette période commence et se terminera le 7 février suivant la date des élections.”
Article 134.2: “Le président élu entre en fonction le 7 février suivant la date de son élection. Au cas où le scrutinne peut avoir lieu avant le 7 février, le président élu entre en fonction immédiatement après la validation du scrutin et son mandat est censé avoir commencé le 7 février de l’année de l’élection.”
***The Haitian Electoral Committee “validated” or “certified” the winner (Jovenel Moïse) of the election in November 2016, not October 2015.
The President couldn’t have started his presidential term on 7 February 2016 because (1) the official certification of the election occurred in November 2016, and (2) constitutionally speaking, the Haitian Electoral Committee couldn’t certify an election before it actually occurred. In other words, Jovenel Moïse couldn’t begin his presidential term on 7 February 2016 since the official certification was declared in November 2016. Constitutionally and as the language of both Articles argues, the mandated term of the president begins on 7 February and it lasts for 5 years. In the case of President Jovenel Moïse, his constitutional began on 7 February 2017, and will end on 7 February 2022, as mandated both by the original 1987 Constitution and the amended 1987 Constitution.
Or maybe Articles 134.1 & 134.2 need to be amended again for greater clarity and precision, as we are dealing with two phenomena that contradict each other: the electoral cycle & the constitutional cycle pertaining to the beginning and end of the presidential term. This is an issue of legal technicality and clarity.
Jovenel Moïse, President of Haiti
Presidential term: February 7, 2017 – February 7, 2022 (5 years)
Day 6: “Against the Yankees”: Happy Black History Month from Charlemagne M. Péralte (Haiti)
“Charlemagne M. Péralte, Lettre, 1919
Contrary to the principles generally agreed to by civilized nations and to the rules of intentional law, the American government, taking advantage of the great European war, has intervened in the affairs of the small Republic of Haiti by imposing a convention whose ratification in the National Assembly was assured by a military occupation. In spite of the threats to our autonomy and our dignity as a free and independent people, we were disposed to accept this convention and execute our obligations as we were directed to. However, the false promises made by the Yankees on disembarking on our territory are being realized, after only four years have passed, by perpetual antagonisms, outrageous crimes, murders, thefts and acts of barbarism of which only the American, in the whole world, is capable.
Today our patience is at an end and we demand our rights, unrecognized and flouted by the unscrupulous Americans who, by destroying our institutions, deprive the Haitian people of all their resources and thrive on our name and our blood. With cruelty and injustice, the Yankees, have for four years cast ruin and desolation on our territory. In this day when, at the conference for peace among civilized nations, they have sworn, before the entire world, to respect the rights and sovereignty of small nations, we demand the liberation of our territory and the right of free independent states, as recognized by international law.
We ask you, consequently, to observe that we have been struggling for ten months with only this end in view, and that our weapons until now victorious, permit us to ask you to recognize our right to violence. We are prepared to make any sacrifice to liberate Haitian territory and create respect for the principles adopted by President Wilson himself, concerning the rights and sovereignty of small nations. Please note, Sir, that the American troops, by virtue of their own laws have no right to wage war against us.
Sincerely, Charlemagne M. Péralte, Commander-in-chief of the Revolution, and 100 other signatories”
Source: “Against the Yankees” by Charlemagne M. Péralte, translated from French by David Nicholls, In Libète. A Haitian Anthology, edited by Charles Arthur and Michael Dash (Ian Randle Publishers, 1999).
Day 5: On Black Liberty and Equality: Happy Black History Month from Toussaint L’Ouverture (Haiti)
“Proclamation: 29 August 1793
Brothers and Friends,
Remember the brave Oge, dear comrades, who was killed for having defended the cause of liberty! Yes, he died: but those who were his judges are now his defenders. I am Toussaint L’Ouverture; perhaps my name has made itself known to you. You know, brothers, that I have undertaken this vengeance, and that I want liberty and equality to reign in St-Domingue. I have worked since the beginning [of the revolt] to make that happen, and to bring happiness to all. Unite yourselves to us, brothers, and fight with us for the same cause. […] You say that you are fighting for liberty and equality? Is it possible that we could destroy ourselves, one against the other, and all fighting for the same cause? It is I who have undertaken [this struggle] and I wish to fight until it [liberty] exists […] among us. Equality cannot exist without liberty. And for liberty to exist, we must have unity.”
Source: “Toussaint L’Ouverture: The Haitian Revolution” Introduction by Dr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, edited by Nick Nesbitt (Verso, 2008).
Day 4: Happy Black History Month from Jacques Stephen Alexis (Haiti)
“Jacques Stéphen Alexis’s Letter to François Duvalier” (1960)
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor.
Translator’s note: Jacques Stéphen Alexis (1922-1961) was the son of a Haitian writer and diplomat, educated in France when his father was posted there. Imprisoned for his membership in the Haitian Communist Party in the 1940’s, he returned to France where he completed his medical studies as a neurologist. Author of a number of books, most notably Compère Général Soleil (1955), he participated in numerous writers conferences as well as congresses of the Communist movement. Faithful to that movement, he attempted to preserve its unity at the time of the split between the Soviet Union and China. A faithful party member, he met Mao in China in 1961 as well as Ho Chi Minh that same year. Inspired by Cuba, he landed on the Haitian coast in an attempt to start an uprising against Papa Doc Duvalier. Immediately captured, he was tortured and killed. The following letter was written in responses to the Duvalier regime’s campaign of harassment against him.
Pétion Ville, June 2, 1960
To His Excellency Doctor François Duvalier President of the Republic National Palace
I feel safe in saying that I would be welcomed with open arms in whatever country I would care to live: this is a secret to no one. But my dead sleep in this land; the soil is red with the blood of generations of men who bear my name. I descend directly by two lines from the man who founded this country, and so I decided to live and perhaps die here. In my class of twenty-two doctors nineteen live in other countries. I, however, remain, despite offers that were made me in the past and which continue to be made. In many countries more agreeable than this one, in many countries where I’d be more esteemed and honored than I am in Haiti, I would be offered golden bridges if I agreed to reside in them. And yet I remain here.
It is certainly not through boastfulness that I begin my letter in this way. Mr. President, I want to know if I am or am not an undesirable in my country. Thank God, I have never paid attention to the petty inconveniences of life in Haiti: being too obviously followed, countless harassments, the frivolous snubbings current in underdeveloped countries… It is nevertheless natural that I want things to be clear concerning what is essential.
And so, Mr. President, I come to the heart of the matter. May 31, that is, the evening before yesterday, to the full knowledge of all, I moved from my home on the ruelle Rivière in Bourdon to settle in Pétion Ville. Imagine my shock when I learned that the day after my departure, that is yesterday evening, my former home was surrounded by policemen searching for me, causing an uproar in the quarter. I have no knowledge of having any problems with the police, and I peacefully awaited them at my new domicile. I am still waiting for them, after having carried out my normal occupations this morning, June 2.
If these facts turn out to be true then I know enough about police methods to know that this is called intimidation. In fact, in Pétion Ville I live near the home of the prefect, M. Chauvet, so if there was a real need to do so they know where to find me. So if this intimidation – since I call things by their real names – was the act only of the subaltern police it is of some use that you be informed of certain of its proceedings. It is taught at Svorolovak University, in the course on anti-police techniques, that when the police of bourgeois countries are overwhelmed or worried they strike out wildly while at ordinary times they select the objectives of their blows. Perhaps this classic principle applies in this affair, but worried police or not, overwhelmed police or not, I must seek to understand the true objective of this attempt at intimidation.
At first I wondered if the goal wasn’t to make me leave the country by creating an atmosphere of insecurity around me. I didn’t accept this interpretation, for they perhaps know that until now I haven’t been accessible to the sentiment called fear, having several times looked death in the eye without blinking. I also didn’t credit the hypothesis that the motive for the police maneuver in question was to get me to go into hiding, for I have also learned under what conditions taking to the maquis is a worthwhile endeavor for those who do so and for those who force them to do so. The only explanation remaining was the intimidation aimed at leading me to restrict my own freedom of movement. But in this case as well, this means they did not know me at all.
Everyone knows that for a plant to be fully productive it needs the sap of its native soil. A novelist who respects his art can’t be a man without a country, nor can a true creation be conceived in an office, but rather by diving into the depths of the life of his people. The authentic writer can’t do without daily contact with the people with calloused hands, the only ones worth our efforts. It is from this universe that great works proceed, a universe perhaps sordid but so luminous and so human that it alone allows us to transcend ordinary humanity. This intimate knowledge of the pulsations of the daily life of our people con only be obtained by diving directly into the deepest layers of the masses. This is the main lesson of the life and works of Frédéric Marcelin, Hibbert, Lhérisson, and Roumain. Simple people had access to them at all times as if they were friends, just as these true sustainers of Haïtianité were at home in the poorest shack in the neighborhoods of the plebe. Though my many friends around the vast world worry about the working conditions I must suffer under in Haiti I can’t renounce this land.
In addition, as a healer of suffering I can’t renounce my popular clientele, that of the working class neighborhoods and the countryside, the sole profitable one in this country abandoned by almost all of our good specialists. Finally, as a man and as a citizen it is indispensable that I feel the inexorable march of the terrible malady, the slow death that every day leads our people to the cemetery of nations like wounded pachyderms to the elephant’s graveyard. I know my duty towards the young of my country and our working people. Here too I will not abdicate. Goering once said that when he heard the word “culture” he took out his revolver. We know where this led Germany, and the memorable exodus of the mass of the men of culture from the country of the Niebelungen. But we are in the second half of the twentieth century which, whatever might be done, is the century of the people as king. I can’t help but recall the famous words of the great patriot named Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Youssef, a phrase that illuminated the liberating combats of this century of unhappy nationalities: “We are the children of the future,” he said upon his return from exile while lifting his pitiful enemy, the pasha of Marakesh who had collapsed at his feet. I think I have proved that I am a child of the future.
The limitations on my movements, on my work, my occupations, my actions and my relations in the city and the countryside is not acceptable. I had to say this, and that is the reason for this letter. In it I take my stand, for if they want to the police can see that the politics of candidates does not interest me. The desolating and pitiful political life that maintains this country in backwardness and has led it to bankruptcy for 150 years is not for me. I have the greatest disgust for it, as I wrote three years ago.
If by chance as happened last December the customs office refuses to deliver me a package – a projector for art slides that the Union of Chinese Writers sent me and which one of the new gentlemen probably took for his personal use – I would smile. If I remark the too-recognizable face of a guardian angel watching over my door I would again smile; if one of these new gentlemen smashed into my car and I had to thank him I would again smile. Nevertheless, Mr. President, I want to know: yes or no; do they refuse me the right to live in my country as I wish? I am sure that after this letter I will be able to have an idea about this. In that case I will be better able to make the decisions imposed on me as a creator and an artist, as man and a citizen.
The most important words in the Haitian Declaration of Independence (Acte de l’Indépendance), which Haiti’s founding father Jean-Jacques Dessalines proclaimed on January 1, 1804 to the newly-emancipated enslaved African population in Haiti, are as follows:
· Liberté (liberty): it is used 10 times in the document. · Indépendance (independence): it is used 9 times in the document. · Bonheur (happiness): it is used 4 times in the document. · Libre (free): It is used 6 times in the document.
In the Haitian Declaration of Independence, the words liberty and independence refer to both political liberty and political independence of the newly-established nation or Republic of Haiti. The words happiness and free allude to both personal happiness and personal freedom, respectively. In other words, for Dessalines, the destiny of the nation of Haiti is intimately linked to the destiny of the people of Haiti.
Jean-Jacques Dessalines envisioned an independent, sovereign, and free Haiti wherein its citizen will experience the fruit of the Haitian Revolution: happiness, freedom, liberty, and independence. Those four key words of the Haitian Declaration of Independence not only represent the will and determination of the new people of Haiti and the founder; they are also sacred words of empowerment, resistance, and human dignity that look forward to future possibilities and potentialities in the land of Haiti—toward the common good and human flourishing.
I have to finish this interesting article I am writing about the role of God in the Haitian Revolution by this Friday. In particular, it explores the idea of God in Haitian literary imagination, with a special attention to & through an exegetical reading of the Poetry of the Haitian Independence. I like what I have written so far.
***You will be surprised to learn that the early poets of the Haitian Revolution rarely referenced the Vodou religion as a supernatural force that inspired the Haitian Revolution and the birth of the Republic of Haiti. That would change, however, with the poets of Haitian indigènisme and noirisme literary and cultural movements. The latter did a revision of Haitian history through poetic aesthetic and literary reimagination of the role of Vodou in the Haitian Revolution. Interestingly, the early nineteen century Haitian poets who wrote about the Haitian Revolution made the Christian God the author of the Haitian Revolution and appealed to the theological concept of divine providence to account for the inseparable twin events: the abolition of slavery through the Haitian Revolution, and the birth of the Haitian nation. By contrast, the latter Haitian poets who wrote in the second half of the twentieth century attributed the formation of the Republic of Haiti through the Haitian Revolution to the “Mystères” or the “Spirits (“Lwa yo”) of the Vodou faith.
Why do we then have different perspectives that are simultaneously theological, spiritual, ideological, and cultural about the Haitian Revolution and the birth of the nation-state of Haiti?
“Getting the Heroes and Historical Figures of the Haitian Revolution Right”
It is a grave misunderstanding of history and the forces and agents that bring about change in society to state that, for example, the revolutionary mission of Toussaint Louverture has failed because Toussaint did not lead the African revolutionaries to concretize the events leading to the Haitian Revolution and the birth of the Republic of Haiti. It is also a misreading of the historical trajectories and circumstances that brought about the achievement of the Haitian Revolutionary and the naissance of Haiti to assess the success of Jean-Jacques Dessalines (known as the Founder of the nation of Haiti) against that of other equally notable abolitionists and freedom fighters of this transcendent event in global history that resulted in the abolition of slavery and the founding of the Republic of Haiti.
Haitianists and historians of the Haitian Revolution should not have to portray the historical figures of the Haitian revolution against each other to highlight the success of one against the failure of the other. This attitude toward revolutionary Haiti and Black emancipation is a colonized way of thinking and interpreting what truly constitutes of Haitian heroism, Black radicalism, and Black sovereignty. By consequence, Toussaint Louverture did not fail Haiti and the enslaved Africans at Saint-Domingue, and Jean-Jacques Dessalines should not be regarded as a better leader and Haitian Patriot than Toussaint or Alexandre Pétion. The historical actions and intellectual aptitude of Henry Christophe and Jean-Jacques Dessalines should not be evaluated in light of the intellectual genius and military capability of Toussaint or Pétion. There would not have been a Toussaint or a Dessalines in Haitian history without the mentorship and military guidance of General Georges Biassou. There would not have been a Haitian revolution without the radical leadership and committed activism of historical figures such as François Makandal, Jean-Baptiste Chavannes, Vincent Ogé, Dutty Boukman, Cécile Fatiman, Dédée Bazile, Marie-Jeanne Lamartinière, Romaine-la-Prophétesse, etc. In the same line of thought, the realization of the Haitian revolution would not be a historical success and achievement without the contributions of the unknown African soldiers and African revolutionaries whose names are left out in the pages of history books.
The events of the Haitian revolution are linked, and its actors are connected to each other just like historical events and circumstances do not occur in isolation to those who orchestrate them. Heroes are created by a series of human networking and contingent circumstances, and historical actors and heroes are also the product of connected history and relational events. Each historical figure named above had left his or her own mark on the Revolution and Haiti’s national history, and each one contributed distinctively to the eventual emancipation of the enslaved African population in the French colony of Saint-Domimgue-Haiti. Each one of them has inspired the struggle against slavery, colonization, imperialism, and oppression in the land of Haiti and other societies in the world. The heroes and architects of the Haitian revolution are many, and their experience is not monolithic or homogeneous just like the events and trajectories of the Haitian Revolution. In the same vein, various religious traditions (i.e. Vodou, Christianity, Islam, Native American indigenous spirituality) and political systems (i.e. African, European, Caribbean) made the Revolution a historical possibility and an event of historical memory. Respectively, each actor of this watershed moment in human history contributed enormously to the formation and establishment of the nation-state of Haiti, directly and indirectly. There is not “one darling” of the Haitian revolution, and certainly, there is not “one hero or heroine” of revolutionary Haiti.
Finally, as it is often the case in global history and history of the nations, most heroes/heroines and freedom fighters in history (of emancipation, decolonization, independence, civil rights, desegregation, religious freedom, women’s rights, suffrage, and equality) such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Moses (Lawgiver in Judaism), Prophet Mohammed (founder of Islam), Jesus of Nazareth (Founder of Christianity), Paul of Tarsus (Architect of Christianity), Patrice Lumumba, Steve Biko, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, John Brown, Medgar Evers, Abraham Lincoln, Kwame Nkrumah, Che Guevara, Mohandas Gandhi, Karl Marx, and a host of other historical figures in this category did not live to see the fruit of their labor and faithful struggle for freedom and human flourishing. Yet they leave behind a cloud of witnesses and beneficiaries of their efforts and works.