“20 Haitian Theologians and Biblical Scholars You Should Know”

“20 Haitian Theologians and Biblical Scholars You Should Know”

  1. Jean-Bertrand Aristide (PhD, African languages: University of South Africa)

*Recommended Writings: In the Parish of the Poor: Writings from Haiti (1990); Théologie et politique (1992); Aristide: An Autobiography (1993); Tout homme est un homme (1992); Névrose vétéro-testamentaire (1994); Dignity (1996); Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization (2000); Haiti-Haiti: Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization (2011).

2. Laënnec Hurbon (PhD, Theology: Institut Catholique de Paris; PhD, Sociology: Sorbonne University)

*Recommended Writings :

Dieu dans le Vodou haitien (1972); Le Barbare imaginaire (1987); Les mystères du vaudou/Voodoo: Search for the Spriit (1993); « The Church and Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Saint-Domingue. » The abolitions of slavery : from Léger Félécité Sonthonax to Victor Schœlcher, p. 55-68/ Publisher: New York, NY [ etc.] : Berghahn Books [etc.], 2003.

3. Jules Casseus (D.Min., Pastoral Theology: Colgate Rochester Divinity School)

*Recommended Writings: Pour une Église Authentiquement Haitien (1987); Théologie Pastorale : Etre un bon Pasteur dans un monde Corrompu(1997); Ethique Chrétienne : Etre un enfant de lumière dans un Monde de Ténèbres (2001); Haïti, quelle église– quelle libération? : (réflexions théologiques contextuelles autour des évènements socio-politiques et ecclésiologiques allant du 7 février 1986 au 7 février 1991) (1991); Haiti : what kind of church … what kind of freedom?(2004); Élements de théologie haïtienne (2007); Toward a contextual Haitian theology, 2013.

4. Fritz Fontus (PhD, Theology)

*Recommended Writings: Le chrétien et la politique (1982); Effective communication of the Gospel in Haiti: its inculturation (2001); Les Églises protestantes en Haïti. Communication et inculturation (2001).

5. Jean Fils-Aime (PhD, Theology: Université de Montréal)

*Recommended Writings:

L’inculturation de la foi chrétienne au contexte du vodou haïtien : une analyse de l’oeuvre de trois théologiens protestants haïtiens (PhD, Dissertation, 2005); Vodou, je me souviens (2005); Et si les loas n’étaient pas des diables? : une enquête à la lumière des religions comparées ; essai (2008); Le nécessaire dialogue entre le vaudou et la foi chrétienne: l”inculturation de la foi chrétienne au contexte du vaudou (2010); 200 ans de zombification massive. Les églises évangéliques en Haïti. Le temps des bilans (2017).

6. Karl Lévêque (PhD, Philosophy: Université de Strasbourg)

*Recommended Writings: La philosophie de la connaissance chez Lucien Lévy-Bruhl (Doctoral Dissertation, 1967); De la théologie politique à la théologie de la revolution (1970); L’interpellation mystique dans le discours duvaliérien, in Nouvelle Optique (1971); L’analyse sociale : pour voir au changement, in Relations (1982); En cas de conflit : une Église en situation de conflit (198?); L’analyse politique : idéologie et mentalité sociale (1993).

7. Ronald Charles (PhD, New Testament/Early Christianity: University of Toronto)

*Recommended Writings: Paul and the Politics of Diaspora (2014); Traductions Bibliques Créoles et Préjugés Linguistiques (2015); The Silencing of Slaves in early Jewish and Christian Writings (2019); “Interpreting the Book of Revelation in the Haitian context.” Black Theology: An International Journal 9.2 (2011) 177-198; “Q as a question from a postcolonial point of view.” Black Theology: An International Journal7.2 (August 2009) 182-199.

8. Abson Predestin Joseph (PhD, New Testament Studies: Brunel University/London School of Theology)

*Recommended Writings: Shaping Theological Education in the Caribbean: A Community Approach (2011); A Narratological Reading of 1 Peter (2012).


9. Dieumème Noelliste (PhD, Theological Studies: Northwestern University)

*Recommended Writings: Shaping Theological Education in the Caribbean: A Community Approach ( 2011); Diverse and Creative Voices: Theological Essays from the Majority World (2015); Les religions afro-caribeennes a la lumiere de la foi chretienne: Similitudes et differences (2019).

10. Jean Duthène Joseph (PhD, Theology: Trinity Theological Seminary)

*Recommended Writings: The Symbiotic Relationship Between Roman Catholicism and Haitian Vodou and the Impact of their Association on the Protestant Church and Community in Haiti(Doctoral dissertation, 2006); Le millénium : une réalité incontournable dans le plan de Dieu pour la fin des temps (2012); La foi judéo-chrétienne à la croisée des chemins (2017)

11. Chantale Victor Guiteau (PhD, Theology: South African Theological Seminary)

*Recommended Writings: The Role of Evangelical Churches in Combating Structural Corruption in Haiti (Doctoral dissertation, 2017); Combating Structural Corruption in Haiti: Role and Contribution of Evangelical Churches (2020); Les femmes dans l’expansion de l’Eglise de Dieu en Haiti : rôle et contribution (2002).

12. Nixon S. Cleophat (PhD, Theology and Ethics: Union Theological Seminary)

*Recommended Writings: Vodou in Haitian Memory: The Idea and Representation of Vodou in Haitian Imagination (2016); Vodou in the Haitian Experience: A Black Atlantic Perspective Critical Approaches to Religion: Race, Class, Sexuality, and Gender (2018)

13. Kawas François (PhD, Theology: Institut Catholique de Paris, STBS ; PhD, Sociology: Institut Catholique de Paris, FASSE).

*Recommended Writings: Nouvelle évangélisation et culture haïtienne : évolution institutionnelle de l’Eglise catholique en Haïti après le Concile Vatican II et son nouveau rapport au Vaudou (Doctoral dissertation, 1994); L’Eglise catholique à l’épreuve du pluralisme religieux. Re- Cherche Documentaire sur la situation actuelle de l’Eglise catholique par Rapport aux Autres religion (2003); Vaudou et Catholicisme en Haïti à l’aube du au XXI ̊ : des repères pour un dialogue (2005); Sources documentaires de l’histoire des jésuites en Haïti aux XVIIIe et XXe siècles : 1704-1763, 1953-1964 (2006); L’histoire des jésuites en Haïti aux XVIIIe et XXe siècles : 1704-1763, 1953-1964 (2006); L’ètat et l’èglise Catholique en Haïti aux XIX ̊et XX ̊siècles (1860-1980) : documents officiels, déclarations, correspondances etc. : Tome I (2006); Jésuites, sciences et changement social en Haïti, hier et aujourd’hui : un engagement intellectuel au service des autres (2010).

14. William Smarth (PhD, Theology)

*Recommended Writings: Mentalité chrétienne pour le développement : simples réflexions pour le stage de formation missionnaire (1968); Ki kalite demokrasi nou bezwen ann Ayiti (1991); L’Église concordataire sous la dictature des Duvalier (1957-1983) (2000); Histoire de l’Église catholique d’Haïti, 1492-2003 : des points de repère (2015).

15. Godefroy Midy (PhD, Theology: Université de Montréal; PhD, FordhaUniversity)

*Recommended Writings: Ralph Waldo Emerson‘s Philosophy of the Person (Doctoral dissertation , 1971); Jalons pour une théologie haitienne libératrice en dialogue avec G. Gutierrez et J.L.Segundo (Doctoral dissertation, 1977); Evangéliser Haiti pour une culture de vie, Bulletin de Liaison, Vol. IX, No. 3, Centre Pedro-Arrupe, Haiti (Octobre 2004), p. 2-17.

16. Henri Claude Télusma (PhD, Theology: Université de Strasbourg)

*Recommended Writings: Une analyse théologique de la coexistence christianisme/vaudou en Haïti : ouverture pour un dialogue interreligieux A theological analysis of the coexistence Christianity / Voodoo in Haiti : opening for an interreligious dialogue (Doctoral dissertation, 2017); Théologie et prédication dans le contexte actuel d’Haïti (2017); Bicentenaire du protestantisme en Haïti : enjeux et perspectives théologiques (2015); État des lieux des rapports antagonistes entre chrétiens et vodouisants en Haïti(2018).

17. Manassé Pierre-Louis (PhD. cand., Theology: Université de Strasbourg)

*Recommended Writings :Bicentenaire du protestantisme en Haïti : enjeux et perspectives théologiques (2015); Théologie et prédication dans le contexte actuel d’Haïti (2017); “LE MANIFESTE DE L’EGLISE POUR UN TEMPS DE RUPTURE ET D’UN RENOUVEAU SPIRITUEL” (2019); Mes raisons de croire: Questions discutées sur la foi et la raison (2020).

18. Wilner Cayo (PhD. Theology: Université de Montréal)

*Recommended Writings: L’anthropologie théologique évangélique à la rencontre de la rationalité technoscientifique (Doctoral dissertation, 2012); L’Église haïtienne au Québec: origine, évolution et visage actuel,’ In: L’identité des protestants francophones au Québec: 1834–1997. ed. Denis Remon. Montreal: ACFAS, 1998. 139–160. Dejean, Paul. Les haïtiens au Québec; Statut éthique de la vérité en postmodernité (M.A. Thesis, 2004).

19. Lys Stéphane Florival (PhD, Christian Ethics/Theology: Loyola University Chicago)

*Recommended Writings: Haiti’s Troubles: Perspectives From the Theology of Work and From Liberation Theology (Doctoral Dissertation, 2011); Liberation ethics in Latin America : a methodological and theoretical analysis of the work of Dussel and consideration of its application to Haiti (MA Thesis, 1989).

20. Celucien L. Joseph (PhD, Systematic Theology and Ethics: University of Pretoria; PhD, Literary Studies: University of Texas at Dallas)

*Recommended Writings: Theologizing in Black: On Africana Theological Ethics and Anthropology(2020), Revolutionary Change and Democratic Religion: Christianity, Vodou, and Secularism (2020); The New Life Catechism for Children (2019); “The Rhetoric of Prayer: Dutty Boukman, The Discourse of “Freedom from Below,” and the Politics of God,” Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion2:9 (June 2011):1-33; “The Rhetoric of Suffering, Hope, and Redemption in Masters of the Dew: A Rhetorical and Politico-Theological Analysis of Manuel as Peasant-messiah and Redeemer,” Theology Today (October 2013) 70: 323-350; “Redefining cultural, national, and religious identity: The Christian–Vodouist dialogue?” Theology Today, 2016, Vol. 73(3) 241–262; “Toward a Politico-Theology of Relationality: Justice as Solidarity and the Poor in Aristide’s Theological Imagination,” Toronto School of Theology30: 2 (December 2014): 269-300; “Viv Dechoukaj Long Live Uprooting Aristide s Politico theology of Defensive Violence,” Black Theology, 15:3 (2017):185-208; “James Cone and the Crisis of American Theology,” Missionalia, v46 n2 (2018): 197-221; “The Meaning of James H. Cone and the Significance of Black Theology: Some Reflections on His Legacy,” Black Theology, v18 n2 (2020): 112-143; “Theodicy and Black Theological Anthropology in James Cone’s Theological Identity,” Toronto Journal of Theology, v35 n1 (2019): 83-111; “Towards a Caribbean Political Theology of Emancipation and Decolonization: A Comparative Analysis of Four Caribbean Theologians,” Black theology, 16, no. 2, (2018): 148-180.

“To Be Human: The Human Experience is Bigger than the American Experience”

“To Be Human: The Human Experience is Bigger than the American Experience”

It seems to me in contemporary American society, the human life and the American experience are reduced to four major issues: the narrative of race, the narrative of gender, the narrative of sexuality, and the narrative of white supremacy. The existential question before us is this: how shall we think about the discourse of race, gender, sexuality, and white supremacy within the national narrative of the American Republic today? Yet people in different parts of the world, especially in the Global South, have comparable existential human questions that may arise at any time that they often learn more in times of darkness and hopelessness than in light and freedom, including the threat of imperialism, mass poverty, global hunger, capitalist exploitation, high unemployment, mass illiteracy, child and sex trafficking, malaria, AIDS/HIV, clean and sanitary water, agriculture, farming, and the menace of American-European political hegemony in the world. My invitation to you reader is to be concerned about “the other worlds” and to ask critically : how shall we reason about other equally human concerns that are global, trans-national, trans-racial, and trans-gender in our times? Arguably, the human life is formed profoundly by different forces, competing discourses, distinct values, and it is also shaped substantially by multiple stories and agencies that are sometimes inconsistent, transnational, and heterogeneous.

By any means, am I insisting these pressing matters (race, gender, sexuality, and white supremacy) do not transform how we construct social relations, define humanity, forge friendship, and nurture human relationships in the American culture; rather, I am proposing that there are equally important experiences and narratives that are shared by all human beings universally, and that those stories and events respectively mark the human condition and alter both the civil and political societies in this culture and in the global community. I am also suggesting that the human experience—although may be shaped by a particular social environment and particular historical context within the (political) framework of a specific nation-state (i.e. the U.S.)—transcends the American experience and the Americentric definition of humanity.

Even within the geopolitical context of the United States, what it means to be human should always rise above Americentric values and ideologies. To be human should not be confined to a particular geographical location, citizenship, and nationality—those of the United States, for example. The notion of human membership is a transcendental experience that bears transnational and intercultural attributes, concurrently. While the American citizenship or nationality does in fact come with global advantages and international privileges—especially when an American travels to a foreign country with a U.S. passport, for example—because of its association with the American empire and political hegemony in the world, both citizenship and nationality as geopolitical identities also belong to all peoples and nations. Therefore, we should see ourselves as global citizens of the world and global (inter-)nationals of the global village.

To be human simply means to have defining values and qualities that are universally common in all peoples in the world, regardless of location, sexuality, race, gender, and nationality. In other words, there are human characteristics, properties, and virtues that all people in the world experience and possess, including family/kinship, friendship/companionship, compassion, kindness, love, dignity, worth, reason, self-awareness/consciousness, intelligence, ontological equality, personhood, suffering, pain, sorrow, illness, feelings/emotions, culpability/guilt, ambitions, dreams, etc.

Further, everything in society should not be reduced to the concept of race; arguably, race alone does not regulate all human trajectories and journeys in this life. All matters in society should not rotate around the notion of gender; gender alone does not constitute all the multiple identities and experiences that are intrinsic to human existence and the way an individual, for example, understands or perceives his or her place in the world. Correspondingly, everything in this culture should not be reduced to sexuality; while for some people, human sexuality (or their sexual preference) defines their humanity and struggle to articulate personal freedom and (ontological) identity, sexuality could also be interpreted collectively, that is, within the context of a community and kinship. As human beings, we do not just live personal lives; our personal lives are also corporate and collective, and beyond the confinement of the individual (sexual) preference or option. Finally, everything in society and in the human experience does not point to white supremacy; in other words, I am suggesting that white supremacy does not name human history nor defines human existence or entails what it means to be human in the world.

Our struggle is against our own conception of humanity and to be incorporated into the global humanity. Correspondingly, our underlying challenge in our community and the world is to find the appropriate tools and adequate recourses to maximize our humanity and sustain our inherent dignity while maintaining the transcendental nature of our individual and collective humanness.

Rejection is Natural to Human Life and Experience!

Rejection is Natural to Human Life and Experience!

  1. Got rejected to the PhD program at Princeton University, Northwestern University, and University of Chicago; interestingly, I persevered and went on to earn three Masters degrees and two PhDs.
  2. After I earned my PhD at #UT Dallas, during my first year as a PhD holder, I applied to over 50 academic positions, including both assistant professorships and postdoctoral fellowships; I didn’t get any of those positions. The good people at IRSC – Indian River State College believed in me and gave me a job. Currently, I’m an Associate Professor there.
  3. My first book proposal got rejected by at least five publishers before it found a home; second book proposal by at least three publishers before it was published; and third book proposal by at least four presses before it came out. Since then, I have published eight academic books in some good presses.
  4. My first academic essay on the role of religion and the Haitian Revolution was rejected by my favorite academic Journal; a second essay on the religious philosophy of Price-Mars was first rejected by another favorite academic Journal; another essay on Jean-Bertrand Aristide was rejected by two journals. Since I’ve gotten my PhD, I’ve published some 26 peer-reviewed articles.
  5. I’ve been rejected numerous times by people I call friends and truly loved, and even by pretty girls I really liked in High School and College; finally, one whom I really loved dumped me, hurt me badly, and left me behind for another boy 🙂

***The point of this post is not to lose heart and be discouraged after a rejection or many rejections, but to learn from them and improve yourself. A rejection is not a failure nor does it say you’re worthless or incapable of performing the task. Sometimes, rejections are good for your mental stability, psychological and emotional growth, and ultimately your success and welfare in this journey we call life.

“Redefining Poverty and what It Means to be Human”

“Redefining Poverty and what It Means to be Human”

  1. Being poor does not mean you are not intelligent and can’t contribute to human flourishing.
  2. Being poor does not mean you can’t have big dreams and lofty goals, and that you have nothing constructive to contribute to society.
  3. Being poor does not mean you can’t become somebody great in life and does not have a (political) voice.
  4. Being poor does not mean you can’t beat the odds of life and overcome all the unfortunate circumstances in your life.
  5. Being poor does not mean you are linguistically deficient and psychologically unfit for society and upward mobility.
  6. Being poor does not mean you are not a person and does not have dignity.
  7. Being poor does not mean you should allow people to mistreat and disrespect you just because you are poor.
  8. Being poor does not mean you’re a hopeless individual and that your life has no meaning.
  9. Being poor does not mean you are not beautifully and unwanted.
  10. Being poor does not mean God is done with you.

“Vertières is Human History”

“Vertières is Human History”

Do you know what happened on 18 November 1803? It was the historic battle of Vertières between the African army and the French imperial army and the watershed historical moment that transformed global history, especially the history of antislavery and anticolonization, and the triumph of human emancipation and human rights in the Western World, respectively.

This memorable event occurred in Haiti, where the Africans and people of African descent righteouslesly declared their humanity and dignity, justifiably abolished the institution of slavery, and ultimately destroyed the forces of white supremacy and the power of white dominion and moral darkness.

Let’s not forget this memorable saying from Papa Desalin “Pito nou lib oubyen nou mouri;” the persuasive words of Kapwa Lanmò, “Ann avan, ann avan, boulèt se pousyè;” and the convictional belief of Toussaint Louverture “Rasin libète nwa a fon ampil.”

The Vertières of Haiti is the herculean symbol of the freedom, dignity, humanity, and the equality and determination of Black people in global history and modernity. Correspondingly, the Vertières of November 18, 1803 is human history, that is, the history of all people because it declares boldly and reminds us always that “Tout moun se moun.”

“It is not enough to have expelled the barbarians who have bloodied our land for two centuries; … We must, with one last act of national authority, forever assure the empire of liberty in the country of our birth; we must take any hope of re-enslaving us away from the inhuman government …. In the end we must live independent or die.”

–Jean-Jacques Dessalines

Vertières is human history, the narrative of all people.


Vertieres: 18 November 1803-18 November 2019
Haitians Celebrating Freedom and Independence

“In Praise of Vertieres, and In Praise of Freedom and the Haitian Revolution”

O Vertieres, how could we forget Thee!

You remind us that God created men and women to be free and not to be enchained and enslaved by men.

O Glorious Vertieres, where we wrought our freedom and independence through our shed blood, You will always be a scar on our hearts and the path of freedom and inspiration for today’s troubles.

Today, the Haitian people are celebrating the Battle of Vertieres (November 18, 1803) which gave birth to two significant events in world history: the end of slavery and the founding of the first postcolonial state and the first slave-free Republic of Haiti in the Western world. It was in Vertieres African revolutionarries and men and women who dared to die free and independent conquered the greatest military and imperial power in the world: France

To remember Vertieres is to never forget the danger and threat of the unholy trinity of institutional slavery, colonization, and White supremacy in the world.

To remember Vertieres also means to continue the fight against the vestiges of slavery (modern day slavery), colonization (neocolonization), imperialism, and any form of human oppression that engenders human suffering, dehumanizes people, defers human dignity, and challenges the image of God in humanity.

“Beyond Ethnic Blackness and Whiteness in the Production of Knowledge and Understanding in North American Academia and Disciplinary Study”

“Beyond Ethnic Blackness and Whiteness in the Production of Knowledge and Understanding in North American Academia and Disciplinary Study”

This commentary is about an intellectual and disciplinary problem I continue to observe in North American academia and disciplinary study. In the few lines below, I shall describe the nature of the problem and make some propositions to improve the situation.

For example, Biblical and Theological scholarship in North America has become a binary battlefield between black and white American biblical scholars and theologians with the exclusion of other theologians & Biblical scholars of color (i.e. the Global South, Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean).

It does not matter whether the latter live in the states and/or produce good and rigorous scholarship contributing to the common good and human flourishing. Evidently, I am arguing this phenomenon is an intentional doing and calculated performance, and there’s no excuse for this tribal orientation to (inter-)disciplinary study, academic scholarship, and the production of knowledge and advancement of human understanding. We can trace the roots of this problem to the notions of formation, service, and citizenship, and North American conception of human nature, global history, and internationalism. To me, our conception of global history is framed within the boundary of a North Americanctric paradigm and epistemology. Our understanding of formation and citizenship is restricted to our national politics and the construction of knowledge within our own geographical boundary. 

Correspondingly, our understanding of rendering (human) service gives primacy to the preservation of the self, that is, the Republic of the United States. Even when we provide humanitarian aid, we’re very conscious and concerned about what we will get in return and how such international aid or assistance will contribute to North American political hegemony and dominion in the world, especially in the Global South.

In addition, our very idea of democracy and pluralism is always and almost grounded on the North American notion of democracy and human rights with little regard to the meaning of democracy and human rights for the people in the Global South, for example. In other words, our democracy is very American just like our Christianity is rooted in the North American concept of religious performance and piety.  Democracy, just like freedom and human rights, is certainly not a North America propriety and property. There are virtues and qualities that are deemed international, global, and planetary; yet the implementation and realization of such virtues or positive qualities such as democracy, freedom, tolerance, multiculturalism, respect, and pluralism should take in consideration the human condition and urgent issues in the context of a nation-state without diminishing their global effects and implications elsewhere. In other words, while we are acting nationally and behaving regionally, we need to be global thinkers and global citizens.

Unfortunately, the intellectual and disciplinary crisis described above can be construed as an intellectual tradition and a metholodogical pattern that have shaped other academic disciplines of study in North American higher learning and academia, including education, history, philosophy, religion, anthropology, literature, race studies, psychology, gender studies, Aesthetics, Classical study, political science, international relations,  etc. Such attitude toward formation and knowledge continues to have tremendous negative effects and enduring shortcomings on the contents of disciplinary curricula and academic writings, the training of individuals in higher learning, the formation of American citizens, professionals,  and public servants, as well as on the modes of knowledge production and disciplinary expression, correspondingly.

Fortunately,  the twenty-first century has afforded us with endless opportunities and resources to transcend ethnic blackness and whiteness, but to be more planetarily and diasporically oriented in our scholarship and in the production of ideas and knowledge, which could potentially embrace both national and global citizenship and advance both regional and international human causes and needs. In my perspective, this is a better and more promising way to academic, professional, and pastoral formation and human development.

What are your thoughts?

“MY 15 SELECTIONS FROM TIME’S ‘100 MUST-READ BOOKS OF 2020′”

Here’s my selection (15 books) of “THE 100 MUST-READ BOOKS OF 2020” chosen by the good people of Time that I am currently reading and will be reading in the immediate future:

  1. AFRICAN AMERICAN POETRY BY KEVIN YOUNG (EDITOR)
  2. AFTERLIFE BY JULIA ALVAREZ
  3. BEGIN AGAIN BY EDDIE S. GLAUDE JR.
  4. CASTE BY ISABEL WILKERSON
  5. CONDITIONAL CITIZENS BY LAILA LALAMI
  6. THE DEAD ARE ARISING BY LES PAYNE AND TAMARA PAYNE
  7. THE END OF WHITE POLITICS BY ZERLINA MAXWELL
  8. HOOD FEMINISM BY MIKKI KENDALL
  9. JACK BY MARILYNNE ROBINSON
  10. MIGRATIONS BY CHARLOTTE MCCONAGHY
  11. POSTCOLONIAL LOVE POEM BY NATALIE DIAZ
  12. HE SWORD AND THE SHIELD BY PENIEL E. JOSEPH
  13. THE UNDOCUMENTED AMERICANS BY KARLA CORNEJO VILLAVICENCIO
  14. VANGUARD BY MARTHA S. JONES
  15. UNFREE SPEECH BY JOSHUA WONG

Click on the link below to see the list:

https://time.com/collection/must-read-books-2020/

Where would Jesus Be Today in America?

If Jesus were here in the states, where do you think he will be and with whom he will hang out?

a) My answer:

Jesus will be in America’s (dark) ghettos;

Jesus will be among the poor and homeless, the marginalized, and with those living under the bridge and sleeping in the streets;

Jesus will hang out with gangsters, prostitutes, pimps, the mass incarceration population, people infected with and dying of COVID-19, etc;

Jesus will also be found in dysfunctional homes and mental institutions;

Jesus will be with single mothers, dads, widows, orphans, undocumented immigrants, refugees, encaged children;

Jesus will also be in foster homes and visit some christian churches to cause some “good trouble. “

b) What is your answer?

c) Where do you think he wants his followers to be today?

“A Dream Deferred: My Personal Journey with Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti, and the Haitian People”

“A Dream Deferred: My Personal Journey with Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti, and the Haitian People”

Every young person in Haiti is politically conscious, and arguably, the Haitian people are socially conscious about the human condition and predicament in Haiti. If you grow up in a country that has a history of political instability and corruption, you will be politically conscious at a young age, and also, you will be socially aware about the human experience and future hope in that nation or elsewhere.

I was born in 1978 under the brutal and corrupt regime of Jean Claude Duvalier (“Baby Doc”) (21 April 1971-7 February 1986) and grew up under some of the most notorious power-hungry charlatan Haitian politicians and presidents, including the following:

–Jean Claude Duvalier (21 April 1971-7 February 1986)
–Henri Namphy (7 February 1986-7 February 1988)
— Prosper Avril (17 September 1988-10 March 1990)
–Raoul Cédras (29 September 1991-8 October 1991)
–Marc Bazin (19 June 1992-15 June 1993)

I was 12 years old when the former Catholic Priest and Liberation theologian Jean-Bertrand Aristide initiated what many of us young Haitians believed to be a radical transformation in Haiti’s political scene and civil society. Officially, Aristide’s struggle against Haiti’s political totalitarianism and dictatorship began in 1985 through a series of revolutionary speeches and radical sermons sourced in the Biblical Prophetic rhetoric and Liberation Theology Tradition. In 1985, he told the Haitian people, “The path of those Haitians who reject the regime is the path of righteousness and love.” Clearly, Aristide was mobilizing the people to protest the Duvalier regime and to oppose violence, poverty, corruption, and dehumanization in Haiti’s political and civil societies.

Nonetheless, it was in the early 1990s that I began to “feel” Aristide’s transformative rhetoric of power and persuasion. I was still 12 years old in 1990; I understood something beautiful, righteous, cathartic, dignified, and remarkable was happening in the Haitian society and to the Haitian people. Aristide’s presidential campaign was a promising journey characterized by what I theorized eight categorical and practical freedoms: (1) freedom of democracy, joy, and peace; (2) freedom from dictatorship and political violence and corruption; (3) freedom from poverty and blackout; (4) freedom from mass illiteracy and general miseducation; (5) freedom from mass unemployment (chomaj) and disenfranchisement; (6) freedom from Haiti’s oppressed and ruling class; (7) freedom from foreign (imperial) intervention and (neocolonial) occupation; and (8) freedom to dream again and to craft a new future for ourselves in Haiti—not in a foreign land (i.e. Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba, Mexico, U.S.A., France, Canada, Germany, Belgium). Because of the Lavalassian turn in Haitian politics, at 12 years old, I also understood that Haiti’s political scene would never be the same, and that the Haitian society would be changed for the common good and human flourishing. This gesture was not only symbolic and representative; it was a common hope and shared attitude that I shared with my Middle school classmates.

The Haitian people were tired of the national history of political failures and disappointments; they were also warried about living a life characterized by permanent starvation, poverty, national insecurity, medical anxiety, civil and political unrest, social incoherence, blackout, illiteracy, underdevelopment, etc. As young Haitians in the 1990s, we longed for national peace and security, political stability, and autonomy. We were optimistic that God would cause his grace to shine upon us and that he will visit our land, our Ayiti cheri, to effect practical and holistic change in every area and department in our society. We also longed for fraternal communion and fellowship, national unity, and reconciliation. As young people, we saw in Jean-Bertrand Aristide the ideal political figure and the Christian-theologian reformer who would lead the way, guide us toward justice and peace, and take the Haitian people from the way of dictatorship and oppression to the realization of our second emancipation and our second independence. At 12 years old, Aristide was my hero and role model, and arguably, in my perspective, he was the most important Haitian politician and religious figure who has graced the Haitian soil and my world, respectively.

When I immigrated to the United States at 15 years old, Aristide was serving his brief second term (15 June 1993-12 May 1994). Aristide’s first presidential term lasted only 234 days (7 February 1991-29 September 1991). He was ousted violently through a coup d’état—a long political tradition in Haiti’s political life that often resulted in civil unrest and social incoherence. When that occurred, we felt that our common hope has gone, and our shiny light has disappeared in a twinkle of an eye and from our sight. Many young people of my age became severely depressed, disappointed, and even worried about the future of our education, our individual dreams, and our own future in Haiti, as well as the collective future, dream, and hope of the country—as if there were anything to dream about and hope for in a hopeless and suffering country. The words of lament in Langston Hughes’ poem (“Harlem”) come to mind:

“What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?”

For this 12-year-old Haitian boy, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was the deferred dream of the Haitian people. He was our postponed future. He was the moon in the darkness whose light vanished from us, our destiny. Nonetheless, paradoxically, we Haitians know the power of suffering and the power of hope. Correspondingly, ironically, we understand the joy of friendship and the pleasure of political alienation and exile. We Haitian citizens are not even surprised when a seated Haitian president is overthrown by a coup d’état. Such political attitude has already marked our common life and defined the Haitian reality—especially our childhood experience.

When I left Haiti for the United States, I was happy that (1) I was coming to join my father in the state of Florida, and (2) that I will be able to realize some of my dreams and goals—the things that I thought I would be able to fulfill in my native land under the administration of Aristide. (Jean-Bertrand Aristide promised us Haitians democratic hope, a new life, an alternative political future, the ability to dream again, and the endless opportunity to begin again; as a nation in crisis and a people in a state of renovation, becoming, and rebirth, his administration assured us immeasurable future possibilities toward societal progress and human flourishing in the Haitian society.) Yet I was sad that I will be leaving behind a country that I so loved and a people whom I treasured deeply in my heart. I became nostalgic during my first year in the United States. Only after a year living in the states have I returned to my country of birth to visit my childhood friends from whom I separated because of migration; the Haitian landscape and tropical weather that I terribly missed; and the beauty, joy, and pleasures of Haiti’s peasantry wherein I spent my childhood summers, made numerous acquaintances and friends, and learned under the feet of our Lakou’s elders about our Afro-Haitian traditions and customs.

To go further, after successfully graduating from High School and College in the states, it was during my first year as a graduate student at the University of Louisville (UofL) (KY) that I began to rethink more critically and meaningfully about the significance of Jean-Bertrand Aristide for Haiti and for the Haitian people, and about our collective future and individual hope. In the academic year 2003-2004, I was enrolled in a course offered by the Pan-African Studies Department of the University of Louisville taught by a Black professor (the incredible and magnificent Dr./Dean Blaine Hudson!). Dr. Hudson engaged us in a dynamic classroom conversation about the political injustice done to President Aristide and how the great powers of the West (i.e. the United States, France, Canada) mobilized and united to get rid of him, even to the point of a forced exile in South Africa. He was specific about the history of U.S. unfavorable policy and complicity, violence, and misconduct of the United States government (i.e. the Clinton Administration) toward Haiti, the Haitian people, and ultimately Aristide, correspondingly. At that time, I was not the 12-year-old boy in Haiti, but a 25-yr-old graduate student in a foreign land, but in my newly-adopted country through the process of naturalization and acquired new citizenship.

Professor Blaine had armed me with both epistemological tools and resources, and the intellectual and political perspectives and power to reconsider with a fresh and critical lens the history of Haitian politics and the history of diplomatic relations of the United States with Haiti, respectively. The words of Derek Walcott in his magnificent poem, “Lost Empire,” about the end of colonialism and imperialism and their legacy come to mind:

“And then there was no more Empire all of a sudden.
Its victories were air, its dominions dirt:
Burma, Canada, Egypt, Africa, India, the Sudan.
The map that had seeped its stain on a schoolboy’s shirt
like red ink on a blotter, battles, long sieges.
Dhows and feluccas, hill stations, outposts, flags
fluttering down in the dusk, their golden aegis
went out with the sun, the last gleam on a great crag,
with tiger-eyed turbaned Sikhs, pennons of the Raj
to a sobbing bugle. I see it all come about
again, the tasselled cortege, the clop of the tossing team
with funeral pom-poms, the sergeant major’s shout,
the stamp of boots, then the volley; there is no greater theme
than this chasm-deep surrendering of power
the whited eyes and robes of surrendering hordes,
red tunics, and the great names Sind, Turkistan, Cawnpore,
dust-dervishes and the Saharan silence afterwards.”

The words of Aristide, grounded in a postcolonial optic and anti-colonial rhetoric, as well as in the politico-theological epistemological framework of Third World Liberation Theology, would help me understand the complex rapport between the church and the state, God and politics, and the world of the oppressed and the world of the oppressor. When I went back to school in 2014 to work on a second PhD in Theology and Ethics at the University of Pretoria (South Africa), I decided to write a doctoral dissertation on the moral theology and political theology of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Although he was not actively involved in Haitian politics when I began my research, the ideas and writings of Aristide were still evocative; for many individuals, Aristide was still a symbolic figure in Haitian politics and counter-discourse against imperialism and neoliberalism. He was a representative force about Haiti’s hope and future potential, and ultimately, our anticipated new beginning was still relevant to me and other Haitians.

To bring this essay to an end, after spending three active years researching and writing on the theo-political and democratic ideas of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, I was ready to finish the project and complete the PhD degree. Consequently, in the same year of completion, I signed a book contract with Fortress Press to publish the dissertation in a book form tentatively entitled “Aristide: A Political and Theological Introduction.” Sadly, it has been three years, I never submitted the manuscript to the publisher. About two weeks ago, the senior acquisitions editor contacted me to submit the manuscript. There were two main reasons that prevented me to submit the manuscript: (1) I had other writing obligations to finish and two book contracts to fulfill that were more pressing than the work on Aristide—I supposed; and (2) Honestly, I lost the passion and energy that I was once expressed to finish the work.

After the publisher persuaded me, I now realized that I need to finish this important and much-needed work on one of Haiti’s most complex politicians, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the one who had led me to a great awakening in Haitian politics and Haitian democracy, as well as the promise and force of Liberation theology. Despite of his numerous shortcomings, undemocratic actions, and complex legacy in Haitian politics, for many people, the person and ideas of Jean-Bertrand Aristide symbolically represent a serious challenge to American imperialism and Western hegemony in the Global South, especially in the darker nations in the world. For others, Jean-Bertrand Aristide is still the darling of the Haitian people.

Hope for Today Outreach’s 501 (c3) Application has been approved by the IRS!

Good news, folks!!!

After five active consecutive years serving families in the state of Florida and Haiti, I’m happy to announce that Hope for Today Outreach’s application for the 501 (c3) has been approved by the IRS. It is classified as a charity (non-profit) organization.

We serve underrepresented and economically-disadvantaged families and students in the state of Florida and Haiti. Two years ago, we founded Hope Academy of Bois d’eau, a primary school located in Port Margot (Northern Haiti) that serves underrepresented families. Four of the students we tutored in mathematics, science, reading, and SAT English and Math have been admitted last year to colleges across the states. Two students we tutored in ESL are now enployed and substantially improved their skills in the English language.

“Hope for Today Outreach (HTO) takes a holistic approach to sustainable development and human flourishing so we can empower the poor, the marginalized, and the economically-disadvantaged individuals and families.”

Our motto is to “Remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10).

To learn more about us, click on the link below:

https://hopefortodayoutreach.org/