Haiti, the world’s oldest black republic and South Africa,
Africa’s youngest democracy, are planning a joint celebration of
their momentous anniversaries next year. On Jan. 1, 2004, Haiti
will celebrate its 200-year independence, which freed the tiny
island from the claws of the French. April 2004 will yield ten
years of the end of Apartheid for South Africa. The joint venture
was solidified at the Caribbean Community Summit in July, when
South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki agreed with Haiti’s President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide to bring the two nations together.
As a Haitian American I believe that this joint venture is one
step toward the badly needed acceptance of Haiti into the national
arena. But as Haiti nears its bicentennial celebration, there needs
to be more of a unified stance from third world nations and people
of color in the U.S. to stand behind Haiti in her efforts toward
self determination, economic and social justice.
More countries that have fought for self-autonomy like South
Africa need to step forward and claim Haiti as an ally. But more
importantly people of color in the U.S. also need to embrace
Haiti’s history is so embedded within U.S. history that to
remain in the dark to the ways the U.S. has continued to refuse
Haiti its independence is to engage in only half the fight for
global social justice. What saddens me the most is that Haiti-only
700 miles away from the coast of Florida-is often by passed by
many social justice groups. Meanwhile-with the exception of a few
Haitian and American based grassroots organizations-the people of
Haiti are fighting a battle against the superpowers of the U.S.
The struggle against the imperialistic greed of the U.S. has
been incessant since day one of the country’s successful slave
rebellion. Upon gaining independence and declaring herself free
from colonial rule, Haiti was barred from participating in
international commerce and no unrecognized as a free nation by the
U.S. and France for 60 years. The French even had the audacity to
fine Haiti 90 million francs in order to gain recognition as a free
state and to thwart off further invasion.
The debt was finally repaid in 1947 but severely hindered
progress in the country’s infrastructure. In 1915, the U.S. invaded
Haiti and remained on its shore for 19 years, killing, raping, and
instilling their racist ideologies into the people while denying
them self-autonomy. In the 80’s the U.S. sponsored the dictatorship
of President Papa Doc and his son Jean Claude Duvalier.
With U.S. money, the reign of terror imposed by the Duvaliers’
drained the country of its natural resources and economic base
while murdering thousands of those who dared to dissent.
Currently, Haiti faces a political crisis, as U.S.
neoconservative sponsored opposition groups demand the resignation
of the country’s first democratically elected president since
The U.S. and many Haitian elites allege election irregularities
in the 2000 elections that led to Aristide’s second term in office.
Until Aristide is ousted or relinquishes his presidency, U.S.
backed opposition has adopted a smear campaign to vilify the
president in the media by calling him unfit to lead.
Meanwhile Aristide remains the only Haitian president that has
actually stood up to the coercive powers of the U.S. by refusing
U.S. privatization of the island, re-establishing ties with Cuba
and dismantling the U.S. instituted military (whom would do nothing
but murder and rape innocent people) in order to put the power back
in the people’s hands.
Of course the right wing won’t go for that. They have
systematically littered the airwaves with false human right
atrocities imposed by President Aristide. They have staged riots of
people demanding Aristide to resign. They have murdered innocent
people and placed the blame on Aristide.
I write all of this -and of course there is more-to shed some
light on what is occurring clandestinely in the back yard of this
country-the world’s beacon of “democracy.” Haiti’s history is so
deeply embedded within the U.S. that we cannot afford to turn our
backs on Haiti. It was the strength of Haitians who fought for
their freedom that inspired African American slaves to fight for
It was Haiti’s determination for freedom that led to the
abolishment of slavery in Venezuela. It was Haiti’s defeat of
Napoleon’s army that kept France from acting on it plans to expand
westward into the U.S by way of Louisiana.
Haiti’s history has been marred with bloody coups and
rebellions, injustice, and blatant racism. But I think it’s time
for people of color, especially blacks to educate themselves of the
U.S. imperialistic involvement that has done more harm then good to
In order to move toward a true internationalist vision so often
touted in our ethnic studies classes and to be able to be the
progressive minded folk that we are, the struggle must extend to
Haiti and other countries in Latin America who are struggling with
the weight of U.S. greed on their backs.
But most importantly, Haiti’s celebration of 200 years of
freedom cannot be left to Haiti and Haitians in the Diaspora alone
It should be a celebration for all who believe in freedom and
overthrowing the hegemonic beliefs the permeate U.S. ideology that
so-called third world nations are inferior and unfit to govern