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I distinctly recall the first time my father introduced me to the ‘The Black Jacobins’ by C.L.R James. At the apogee of my youthful exuberance, I had no clue; my father was attempting to make me acquainted with the single most important historical writing in the English-speaking Caribbean. Having failed to appreciate the significance of what this arch bibliophile and visionary was trying to achieve, I proceeded along the path of nonchalance and high anti-intellectualism. The book was cast aside. Subsequently, Caribbean History brought the Haitian Revolution to my attention. In addition to my high school knowledge of this cataclysmic event, I had a full-blown academic indulgence at the tertiary level while reading for a BA in History at the University of Guyana. Despite all of this, these experiences did not easily lend themselves to me revisiting my decision to pay little or no attention to this book. Consequently, my interest in this monumental event was piqued and there was an inevitable return to this literary edifice which consistently feeds the Afro-Caribbean intelligentsia and frankly, the global intelligentsia. Much to my chagrin, James over-emphasised and practically deified Toussaint with no such equal recognition of the real hero of this revolution, Jean Jacques Dessalines. Nevertheless, the book furnished me with the understanding: why we are eternally indebted to Haiti and Haitians.
HAITIANS CLEARED THE PATH FOR FREEDOM IN THE CARIBBEAN
The path to freedom for enslaved Africans in the Caribbean was first cleared on August 14, 1791, at a Bois Caiman ceremony led by a voodoo priest, Dutty Boukman in a thickly wooded area at Morne-Rouge on the island of Saint Domingue. The slaves of France’s most precious and valued colony gathered to discuss their plans and preparations to overthrow the system of chattel slavery. With top-tier strategic grand designs, the slaves brought together a vast network to
execute a most dating endeavor. When plantation Le Cap was burned to the ground by a party of 15 000 slaves, it was the beginning of the first successful slave rebellion in the Caribbean. In addition, it was the first time slaves had transformed rhetoric into action to demand their right to self-determination. After 13 years of sustained and focused resistance, p the first black republic in the western hemisphere was created in 1804. Even though there was no Facebook, no WhatsApp, no Twitter, or any form of mass communication, the word of this unparalleled achievement by slaves with zero military experience and makeshift weapons, reached the ears of slaves all across the Caribbean. After this successful event, the Caribbean experienced several notable rebellions: Barbados (1816), Demerara (1823) and Jamaica (1831). The argument can be made: the Haitian slaves inspired the entire Caribbean slave population to demand their freedom. On this account, a debt of gratitude is certainly owed to the descendants of these heroes and heroines.
Consequently, the European plantocracy decreed that the upstarts in Saint Domingue renamed Haiti, must not breathe a single day as a free republic. In service of this dark interest, a concerted plan was put in place to bury Haiti at all costs. In 1825, a deeply hurt France immediately demanded that the new republic pay $21 billion to preserve its hard-fought independence. Little Haiti, led by former slaves smack down in the middle of big powerful European interests, was forced to
‘reparations’ to French planters for their losses during the revolution. The French made good on their threat by organizing a grand fleet of warships which arrived in Part-Au-Prince with an ultimatum: pay or we will obliterate the island. Thereafter, the economically challenged country spent 122 years of servicing this fiscal bullyism. The economic and historical truth is: France and other European nations sought to deliberately impoverish Haiti. They efficiently succeeded. In consideration of this bleak fact, economic migrants from Haiti should never be denied visa waivers and other magnanimous immigration gestures, especially from countries such as Guyana.
THE GREAT EXEMPLARS
If one possesses the most basic appreciation of what the Haitian Revolt represents in the grand scheme of the history of the world, it ought to be extremely difficult to withdraw any special immigration status from Haitians without evidence-based cause with one sudden swoop of the
Presidential pen. When Jean Jacques Dessalines ripped out the white center from the French flag and instructed his god-daughter to sew the remainder together, the banner of this republic was created. In addition to this symbolism, the grand exemplary military achievement of the Haitian slaves is renowned from Dakar to Buenos Aires. Not least significant is the fact that the slaves of Saint Domingue handed a military embarrassment to Europe’s all-time number one military strategist, Napoleon Bonaparte.
All of this has been mentioned to say this: Haiti and Haitians are a global subject as recognizable as the Palestinians and their cause. Hence, when you attempt to take away special immigration status from these nationals, it has to be fraught with thorough and careful state and bureaucratic considerations.