Food for Thought: Happy Saturday, Good People!

Food for Thought: Happy Saturday, Good People!

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

— Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865)

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

— Albert Einstein

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

― Buckminster Fuller

“Nous ne sommes rien sur terre, si nous ne sommes pas d’abord l’esclave d’une cause, celle des peuples et celle de la justice et de la liberté.”

— Frantz Fanon, extrait d’une lettre envoyée peu de temps avant sa mort à Roger Taïeb (1961)

“Chose significative: ce n’est pas par la tête que les civilisations pourrissent. C’est d’abord par le coeur.”

— Aimé Césaire, “Discours sur le colonialisme” (1955)

A Short Reference List: Francophone African writers and the Problem of Western Colonialism and Eurocentricism in Africa

A Short Reference List: Francophone African writers and the Problem of Western Colonialism and Eurocentricism in Africa

If you have an interest on how West African (Francophone) writers and intellectuals have responded to European colonization and civilization, and christian mission, here are some major or classic novels on the subject matter, written from 1950s-1970s:

  1. “Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba” (1956; “The Poor Christ of Bomba”), and “Le Roi Miraculé” (1958; “King Lazarus”) by Mongo Beti (Cameroon)
  2. “Mission terminée” (1957; “Mission to Kala” and “Mission Accomplished”) by Monbo Beti (Cameroon)
  3. “Main basse sur le Cameroun” (1972; “Rape of Cameroon”) by Monbo Beti (Cameroon)
  4. “Une Vie de boy” (1956; “Houseboy”) by Ferdinand Léopold Oyono (Cameroon)
  5. “Le Vieux Nègre et la médaille” (1956; “The Old Man and the Medal”) by Ferdinand Léopold Oyono (Cameroon)
  6. “Les Soleils des indépendances” (1968; “The Suns of Independence”) by Ahamadou Kourouma (Ivory Coast)
  7. “Le Docker noir” (1956; “Black Docker”); “Ô pays, mon beau peuple! (1957; “O My Country, My Good People”), and “Les Bouts de bois de Dieu” (1960; “God’s Bits of Wood”) by by Ousmane Sembène (Senegal)
  8. “Une si longue lettre” (1979; “So Long a Letter”) by Mariama Bâ (Senegal)
  9. “Entre Les Eaux” (1973; “Between Tides”), and “Le Bel immonde” (1976; Before the Birth of the Moon”) by Valentin-Yves Mudimbe (V. Y.) Mudimbe (Democratic Republic of Congo)
  10. “L’Enfant noir” (1953; “The African Child” or “The Dark Child”), and “Le Regard du roi” (1954; “The Radiance of the King”) by Camara Laye (Republic of Guinea)

Bonus Texts

***The following historical texts (first two books on the list) are of enormous importance to understand the historical trajectories and politics of European-French colonialism in West Africa:

a) “A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895-1930” (1997) by Alice L. Conklin

b) “Races on Display: French Representations of Colonized Peoples, 1886-1940” (2008) by Dana S. Hale

***The next three books are additional major fictions about the French-West African encounter and the colonial life:

c) “Batouala” (novel; 1921) by Rene Maran” (Martinique)

*** Rene Maran was the first black writer to win the prestigious French literary prize, the Prix Goncourt.

d) “L’Aventure Ambique” (1961; Ambigious Adventure”) by Cheikh Hamidou Kane (Senegal)

e) Climbié (1956), and “Un Nègre à Paris” (1959) by Bernard Binlin Dadié (Ivory Coast)

“Dr Celucien Joseph Reads the Poem ‘Haitian Hymn’ (1804) to commemorate the Battle of Vertières”

“Dr Celucien Joseph Reads the Poem ‘Haitian Hymn’ (1804) to commemorate the Battle of Vertières”

“In this video, Dr. Celucien L. Joseph reads the poem “Hymne haytienne”/ “Haitian Hymn,” that was written in 1804 for and sung to Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Haiti’s founding father. We do not know the poet who wrote it. The poem also celebrates the great battle of Vertières that occurred on November 18, 1803 and the success of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1803). It is a poetic song against slavery and human domination, and the triumph of human freedom and political independence of Haiti.

Following the poetry reading, Dr. Joseph shares his thought about the significance of Vertières.”

“Vertières, November 18, 1803: A Glorious Day in Human History and Global Emancipation”

“Vertières, November 18, 1803: A Glorious Day in Human History and Global Emancipation”

Today is November 18, a major day in the history of human emancipation and a watershed moment in the history of eradicating slavery in colonial Haiti (Saint-Domingue). On 18 November, 1803, the Indigène army (Indigenous Army), under the leadership of the greatest Black General who has graced the Haitian soil “Papa” Jean-Jacques Dessalines, courageously and brilliantly fought and conquered the greatest imperial army in the world, the Napoleon Bonaparte’s French army.

Because of Vertières, Jean-Jacques Dessalines founded the country of Haiti on January 1, 1804.

Because of Vertières, Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared Haiti as a land free of slavery, sovereign, and independent.

Because of Vertières, Jean-Jacques Dessalines abolished “slavery forever” in the new nation of Haiti.

Because of Vertières, other Black people in the New World who were enslaved at that time became inspired, empowered, free, and restored their proud.

Because of Vertières, the battle for human dignity and against all forms of human oppression and domination continues.

Because of Vertières, we the Haitian people must continue the fight for national sovereignty and to preserve our political freedom from any foreign threat, invasion, or domination.

Because of 18 November, 1803, Haitians worldwide must come together to (1) build a new Haiti; (2) restore the country’s political sovereignty and Justice system; (3) fight internal political corruption; (4) resist American and Western imperialism; (5) build an economically-sustaining nation; (6) ensure a bright future for the Haitian youths and the Haitian people; and (7) craft a new history of democratic freedom, human rights and justice, and national prosperity on the map of independent and sovereign Haiti.

According to Martinican poet, politician, and intellectual Aimé Césaire, it was at Vertières, 18 November 1803, the Haitian people and the enslaved African population in Saint-Domingue declared their non-negotiable humanity and proclaimed their essential dignity as individuals created ontologically equal in the image of God.

Happy Bataille de Vertières!

#218yearsofblackfreeeom

#slavenomore

#vivayiti

#VivtheHaitianRevolution

#annavan

#anavan


“The Problem of David Nicholls’s thesis about Haiti’s ‘Color Question’: The Marxist Reading and Dialectic Interpretation of Haitian History are Inadequate”

“The Problem of David Nicholls’s thesis about Haiti’s ‘Color Question’: The Marxist Reading and Dialectic Interpretation of Haitian History is Inadequate”

An explicit Marxist reading or interpretation of Haitian history does not do justice to the complexity of the human condition in Haiti, the country’s historical trajectories, and the intersections of race, class, colorism, gender, imperialism, neocolonialism, the American occupation of Haiti (1915-11934), and the country’s ambivalent political narratives. The greatest Haitian Marxists and radical Socialists Jacques Roumain, Jacques Stéphen Alexis, René Depestre, Max Hudicourt, and Christian Beaulieu would have disagreed with David Nicholl’s basic thesis (in “From Dessalines to Duvalier: Race, Colour and National Independence in Haiti,” 1996) that colorism in the Haitian society is the single factor that best explained Haiti’s political ideology, class division, and social conflict in Haitian society. For example,

• Michel-Rolph Trouillot, the greatest Haitian thinker in the twenty-first century categorically disagreed with Nichols’s thesis (See Trouillot, “Peasants and Capital: Dominica in the World Economy,” 1988, and “Haiti: State against Nation. The Origins and Legacy of Duvalierism,” 1990)
• Robert Fatton Jr., Haiti’s most important political scientist, questioned and rejected Nicholl’s argument (See “Haiti’s Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy,” 2002, “The Roots of Haitian Despotism,” 2007, and “Haiti: Trapped in the Outer Periphery,” 2014)
• Famed Haitian sociologist and historian Alex Dupuy disagreed with Nicholl (See “Haiti in the World Economy: Class, Race, and Underdevelopment Since 1700,” 1989, “Haiti in the New World Order: The Limits of the Democratic Revolution,” 1997, and “Haiti: From Revolutionary Slaves to Powerless Citizens. Essays on the Politics and Economics of Underdevelopment,” 2014)
• Haitianist historian Matthew J. Smith (See “Red and Black in Haiti: Radicalism, Conflict, and Political Change, 1934-1957,” 2009)

***Smith, who has written one of the most important works on the rise of Haitian radicalism and the country’s complex political narratives in the twentieth-century, rejects Nicholl’s monolithic-single story narrative on Haiti’s color politics or colorism problem.

Smith makes the following observation about Nicholls’ argument:

“Color divisions supersede virtually all other issues, particularly class interets, and concluded that ‘divisions connected with colour have been one of the principal reasons why Haiti has failed to maintain effective independence. A fundamental aspect of Nicholls’s thesis is that the social polarization in Haiti determines the political groups they form. Thus, each group supports political elite of a similar class and color background, largely on the expectation that their group interests will be secured. Although one can arguably find such a division operative in nineteenth-century politics, it is an inadequate explanation of twentieth-century political conflict. One of the major shortcomings of this perspective is it its failure to properly explain the incongruity between the stated ideological positions of certain political rivalries are not always reducible to color and that the ‘color question’ it itself is largely the preoccupation of elites with the majority of the nation left out. Still, color remains a central problematic for Nicholls as it does for analyses of Haitian politics, Nicholls’s work, exceptional as it is, also offers little explanation of the agency of non-elite actors in shaping the terms of political debate (Matthew Smith, “Red and Black,” pp. 4-5)

In addition, read some of the original texts written by these twentieth-century Haitian Marxists:

• Jacques Roumain, “Analyse schématique [1932-1934] et autres textes scientifiques,” http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/roumain_jacques/analyse_schematique/analyse_schematique.pdf
• Jacques Stéphen Alexis, “Jacques Stéphen Alexis’s Letter to François Duvalier,” 1960, https://www.marxists.org/history/haiti/1960/jacques-stephen.htm , and “Compère Général Soleil,” (1955)/”General Sun, My Brother,” 1999
• René Depestre, “Pour la révolution pour la poésie,” 1974, and “Bonjour et Adieu à la Négritude,” 1980, and “An Interview with Aimé Césaire,”1967, https://politicaleducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Interview-with-Aime-Cesaire.pdf

*** “The interview with Aimé Césaire was conducted by Haitian poet and militant Rene Depestre at the Cultural Congress of Havana in 1967. It first appeared in Poesias, an anthology of Césaire’s writings published by Casa de las Americas. It has been translated from the Spanish by Maro Riofrancos.

In addition, read other criticisms on the complexity of Haiti’s class problem and other political and historical trajectories that have shaped the human condition, the country’s society, and political order:

• Jean Price-Mars, “La vocation de l’élitePrécédée d’une notice biographique”
littéraire, politique et sociale, ” (1919), http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/price_mars_jean/vocation_de_elite/vocation_de_elite.pdf

*** Jean Price-Mars is the most important intellectual or thinker Haiti has produced.

• Celucien Joseph, “Thinking in Public: Faith, Secular Humanism, and Development in Jacques Roumain,” 2017, 496 pages. I wrote in the English language the most comprehensive intellectual biography on Haiti’s foremost Marxist thinker. It is the second biography on Roumain written in English.

***In my book (chapter 3), I bring Roumain, Dantes Bellegarde, and Price-Mars in conversation with Nicholls’ s exaggerated thesis on the color question that explains all of Haiti’s political woes and social divisions.

*** Also, see these new and important texts on Haitian Marxism and society:

• Jean Jacques Cadet, “Le Marxisme haïtien: Marxisme et anticolonialisme en Haïti (1946-1986),” 2020
• Jacques Stephen Alexis and Fred Brutus, “Le marxisme seul guide possible de la révolution haïtienne,” 2021
• Yves Dorestal, “Jacques Roumain (1907-1944): un communiste haïtien: Le marxisme de Roumain ou le commencement du marxisme en Haïti,” 2015, and “Le marxisme haïtien, clé du socialisme latino-américain. Un entretien avec Yves Dorestal,” https://www.contretemps.eu/le-marxisme-haitien-cle-du-socialisme-latino-americain-un-entretien-avec-yves-dorestal/
• Herold Toussaint, “Sociologie d’un Jésuite haïtien. Karl Lévêque, éducateur politique,” 2014.

“To Heal and Reconcile a Broken World”

“To Heal and Reconcile a Broken World”

I refuse to engage in a perpetual intellectual war trying to reason with the unreasonable to affirm the dignity and humanity of disadvantaged groups, racialized people, and the disfranchised poor and oppressed. Rather, I would prefer spending my intellectual energy trying to find constructive ways and leadership strategies to make these various classes of people flourish in society and to invest in their future toward self-recovery, self-care, and collective rehabilitation. This is how I choose to heal those who are hurt, assist those in need, and be a peace builder and promoter in the world.

“My 2021 Christmas Wishlist Books”

“My 2021 Christmas Wishlist Books”

If you love me the same way I love you and if you are thinking about giving me a present for this Christmas season, let me help you in the process. All I want for Christmas is for those books to be mine 🙂

  1. “The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity” (2021)
    by David Graeber and David Wengrow
  2. “Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War (2020) by Vincent Brown
  3. “American Democratic Socialism: History, Politics, Religion, and Theory” (2021) by Gary Dorrien
  4. “Divine Institutions: Religions and Community in the Middle Roman Republic” (2020) by Dan-el Padilla Peralta
  5. “African American Religions, 1500-2000” (2015) by Sylvester A. Johnson
  6. “La dignité ou la mort-Ethique et politique de la race” (2019) by
    by Norman Ajari
  7. “A Theology of Paul and His Letters: The Gift of the New Realm in Christ” (2021) by Douglas J. Moo
  8. “The Messianic Theology of the New Testament” (2020) by Joshua W. Jipp
  9. “Medieval Ethiopian Kingship, Craft, and Diplomacy with Latin Europe” (2021) by Verena Krebs
  10. “A Regarded Self: Caribbean Womanhood and the Ethics of Disorderly Being” (2021) by Kaiama L. Glover

A New Graduate Course on “Afro-Caribbean Worldview and Christian Theology”

A New Graduate Course on “Afro-Caribbean Worldview and Christian Theology”

The Dean of the School of Theology at Emmaus University—a fully-accredited institution—confirmed with me that he wants me to offer an intensive (one-week) Graduate course on “Afro-Caribbean Worldview and Christian Theology” for the next cohort that will take place in the Spring Semester 2022 (March 2022). (The good thing is that I will offer this course during my Spring Break 😊) This course is integral to the school’s new M.A. degree in Contextual Theology. Here is the course description from the School’s Catalogue:

“This course examines and critiques the philosophical foundations for Afro-Caribbean worldview as it relates to theology, and the nature of its interfacing with the philosophical foundations of orthodox Christian theology.”

The Caribbean has produced some of the most brilliant thinkers and writers in the Black Atlantic (i.e., C.L.R. James, Eric Williams, Jean Price-Mars, Joseph Anténor Firmin, Edouard Glissant, Sylvia Wynter, Edwidge Danticat, Myriam J.A. Chancy, Jean Rhys, Maryse Condé, Patrick Chamoisseau, Derek Walcott, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, Suzanne Césaire, Paulette Nardal, Jane Nardal, Jacques Roumain, Nicolas Guillen, Marcus Garvey, Jacques Roumain, Claude McKay, George Lamming, Edward Brathwaite, Derek Walcott, V.S. Naipaul, Alejo Carpentier, Walter Rodney, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Jose Marti, Roberto Fernandez Retamar, Leon Damas, Fernando Ortiz, Antonio Benitez-Rojo, Wilson Harris, Audre Lorde, Stuart Hall, Hubert Harrison, Claudia Jones).

The Caribbean people and nations are such a diverse group that inherits three major traditions and heritages: African, European, Indigenous (Native American). They created their own tradition through the intermixing and intermingling (i.e., syncretism, creolization, acculturation, inculturation, symbiosis) process of these various traditions, what Caribbean anthropologists and thinkers have called the Caribbean culture. The Caribbean people practice various and different religious traditions, including the Afro-Caribbean religions (i.e., Santeria, Obeah, Vodou, Candomblé), Rastafarianism, Catholic Christianity, Protestant Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormonism, etc.

The Caribbean is known as the birthplace of Black freedom; the genesis of the postcolonial state; the origin of the Black Radical Tradition; and the center of Black Power Movement coupled with various ideologies such as Caribbean Marxism and Caribbean Communism. The Caribbean has also produced some of the major literary, cultural, and political movements in the world, including Négritude, Créolité, Antillanité, Cubanismo, indigénisme, noirisme, magical realism, etc. In addition, the Caribbean people are a multilingual group, and the most spoken languages in the Region include Kreyòl, Spanish, French, English, Dutch, etc.

Some Guiding Questions for the Course:

• What is then the Afro-Caribbean worldview?
• Can it be truly defined?
• What are the basic or fundamental elements that constitute the Afro-Caribbean Worldview?
• How shall one present (methodology and pedagogy) such a diverse and complex people?
• What is the place of Africa in the formation of the Afro-Caribbean worldview?
• Where does Europe fit in the construction of the Afro-Caribbean worldview?
• Where is the place of the Caribbean (the indigenous native American culture) in the development and evolution of the Afro-Caribbean worldview?
• How have these various cultural and intellectual traditions and movements influence and contribute to Caribbean Christianity?
• More specifically, how have these various forces and actors (re-)shaped or influenced Caribbean Christian theology?
• Is Caribbean Christian theological discourse different to the mainstream, that is, the European/Western Christian theological discourse?
• What constitutes Christian theological orthodoxy for Caribbean Christians and Caribbean Christian Theologians?
• How have the institutions of slavery and colonization, as well as imperialism and capitalism helped shape Christian theology in the Caribbean?
• How have political (dis-)orders and systems such as Caribbean dictatorship, communism, and totalitarianism shaped Christian theology in the Caribbean?

These are some of the fundamental questions I hope to introduce to the students in that course; these questions will also serve as guide to define and understand the relationship between the Afro-Caribbean worldview and Christian theology. All the required texts for the course will be accessible online and for free.

(Tentative) Required Texts

• Laennec Hurbon, Dieu dans le Vodou haïtien (1974)
• Jean Price-Mars, Ainsi parla l’Oncle: Essai d’Ethnolographie
(1928), http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/price_mars_jean/ainsi_parla_oncle/ainsi_parla_oncle.pdf
or http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/price_mars_jean/ainsi_parla_oncle/ainsi_parla_oncle.html
• Frantz Fanon, Peau Noir, Masques Blancs (1952),
https://monoskop.org/images/f/f4/Fanon_Frantz_Peau_noire_masques_blancs_1952.pdf
• Edouard Glissant, Le discours antillais,
https://edisciplinas.usp.br/pluginfile.php/5665986/mod_resource/content/1/LE%20DISCOURS%20ANTILLAIS.pdf,
https://monoskop.org/images/a/a5/Glissant_Edouard_Caribbean_Discourse.pdf
• Jacques Roumain, Gouverneurs de la rosée (1944),
http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/roumain_jacques/gouverneurs_de_la_rosee/gouverneurs_de_la_rosee.pdf
or http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/roumain_jacques/gouverneurs_de_la_rosee/gouverneurs_de_la_rosee.html
• Aimé Césaire, Discours sur le colonialisme (1955),
https://www.larevuedesressources.org/IMG/pdf/CESAIRE.pdf
• Dieumeme Noelliste, Les religions afro-caribéennes à la
lumière de la foi chrétienne: Similitudes et differences (2019)
• Patrick Chamoisseau, Eloge de la Créolité

*** Core Theological Texts and Ideas in English we will engage:

*David I. Mitchell, With Eyes Wide Open: A Collection of Papers by Caribbean Scholars on Caribbean Christian Concerns (1973)

*George MacDonald Mulrain, Theology in folk culture : the theological significance of Haitian folk religion (1984)

*Jean-Bertrand Aristide, In the Parish of the Poor: Writings from Haiti (1990)Kortright Davis, Emancipation Still Comin’: Explorations in Caribbean Emancipatory Theology ( 1990)

*Kortright Davis, Emancipation Still Comin’: Explorations in Caribbean Emancipatory Theology ( 1990)

*Robert E. Hood, Must God Remain Greek? Afro Cultures and God-Talk (1990)

*Noel Leo Erskine, Decolonizing Theology: A Caribbean Perspective (1998)Howard Gregory, Caribbean Theology: Preparing for the Challenges Ahead (1995)

*Howard Gregory, Caribbean Theology: Preparing for the Challenges Ahead (1995)

*Michelle A. González, Afro-Cuban Theology: Religion, Race, Culture, and Identity (2006)

*Michael St. Miller, A. Reshaping the Contextual Vision in Caribbean Theology: Theoretical Foundations for Theology Which Is Contextual, Pluralistic, and Dialectical ( 2007)

*George Mulrain. Caribbean Theological Insights: Exploring Theological Themes within the Context of the Caribbean Region (2014)

*Teresa A. Delgado, Puerto Rican Decolonial Theology: Prophesy Freedom ( 2017)

Articles: TBA

· Edwidge Danticat

· Sylvia Wynter

· Marcus Garvey

· Maryse Condé

· Jean Rhys

· Derek Walcott

· Jamaica Kincaid

· (Edward) Kamau Brathwaite

· V. S. Naipaul

· Jose Martí

“A Joyful Experience”

“A Joyful Experience”

Recently, I had the pleasure to teach a one-week intensive graduate course entitled “Systematic Theology II in a Cultural Context” to a group of M. A. students at Emmaus University and Seminary in Haiti. It was quite an exhilarating experience for the students, especially for me.

I used five basic approaches and methodologies–Historical Theology, Theology of Inculturation, Theology of Contextualization, Liberation Theology, and Textual Hermeneutics–to approach the topics covered in the course.

Systematic Theology II is a reflection on five major doctrines in the Christian faith: the doctrines of the work of Jesus Christ (Christology), salvation (Soteriology) and the Christian life, the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), the church (Ecclesiology), and last things (Eschatology).

As a Visiting Professor at Emmaus University, the Dean of the School of Theology asked me to offer another course to their new M.A. degree in Contextual Theology. It is a course on Christianity and Vodou. I can’t wait to teach that course.

I am thrilled that I have been given an opportunity to invest in the lives of Haitian seminarians and future leaders of Haiti. I am more excited that I get to train individuals who are preparing for a vocation in Christian ministry.

Ten Productivity Strategies:

Ten Productivity Strategies:

  1. Prioritize people in all your work and success.
  2. Have a broad vision of life and think about how it relates to the consequences of your ideas and work.
  3. Know your strength and use it to inspire and empower people.
  4. Do not be ashamed of your weakness; rely on others’ strength to fill in the gaps.
  5. Value human relationships and do not mistreat the people you work with or those you depend on to get the work done.
  6. Teach others what you know and do your work effectively.
  7. Use your knowledge, skills, and talent to change the human condition in your community and in the world.
  8. Do not focus too much about what you would like to become in life; rather, be committed to the steps that will take you there.
  9. Do not lose a sweat about what people are thinking about you.
  10. Be honest, treat all people with respect and kindness, and live in peace with all people.