Dawn has broken. The early morning sunrays filter through the bedroom window shutters and bathe the bed they both laid still with the a/c running, holding the room temperature at a comfortable seventy two degrees Fahrenheit with the outdoor late July temperature already exceeding eighty. This very special day pregnant with expectation had finally arrived. It will not be just another mundane, typical, uneventful kind of day. Charles had for years longed for this day which would bring him a long deferred sense of renewal, a new chapter in this life journey. He had invested enormous emotional capital to see it manifest. He had spoken of his hopes to his wife Mercédès who had heard him reminisce many times of his childhood friend. She could discern an unmistakable air of contentment etched on Charles’ face, this new day that told yet another tale as she stood before the electric stove, a pot of old fashioned Quaker oat soaked in lactose free reduced fat milk percolating from the heat set on low they will both eat for breakfast.
When we sit back and reflect on significant events, evoke memories of people in our past, assess important aspects of our current lives, and how one man could have played such a transformative role in the journey of so many through life, it is not surprising, in this moment of calm reflection, that we find ourselves inspired to memorialize his remarkable achievements born if a compelling yearning, an insatiable appetite, an incurable drive to live his dreams.
Cry the Beloved Country
Some will surely recognize the title of the classic novel by South African writer Alan Paton. I am borrowing the author's despairing words to pen my attempt to seek the rationale for the seeming curse that has plagued the Motherland: Ayiti, Quisqueya, Bohio, Hispaniola, Haiti, La Perle des Antilles; called at certain times after Christopher Columbus disembarked in 1492. Columbus brought with him diseases from Europe unknown to the Arawak/Taino Indians, the indigenous natives of this part of the world. Smallpox, Influenza, bubonic plague carried to the pristine land of our ancestors decimated them. I mark this as the first ethnic cleansing of peaceful people occupying what was to become the Caribbean and the Americas.
The history of Haiti's fight for independence is unique in the annals of human existence. A slave revolt that conquered Napoleon's army after a twelve-year battle culminating in the Republic of Hayti in 1804. This story has been recorded and recalled and viewed in awe by all freedom loving people.
Have we really achieved independence in the past 200 years?
This is THE question I have struggled to fathom for years and I am sure many have pondered over it for the answer that eludes us all. There are too many indices left that point to the inevitable conclusion that our independence can be debated in relative terms. The United States did not recognize Haiti's independence for 60 years after Jean-Jacques Dessalines and our heroes declared us free from France to establish the first black Republic in the western hemisphere. In recognition of our independence, Haiti, under the threat of a renewed military invasion, was obligated to pay France for the loss of their richest colony the sum of $23 Billion calculated in today's dollars, taking Haiti more than 100 years to retire what is conclusively deemed extortion by their former masters.
Robert Corbett: "If we decompose the word 'haitiens,' phonetically we get 'Hai Siens' = qui hait les siens (One who hates his own)"
The struggle to live up to our ancestors' sacrifice has been met with fierce resistance from both within and without. What Dr Rosalvo Bobo's calls in his address to the nation at its centennial celebration: "Centenaire de l’esclavage du nègre par le nègre." "Centennial of blacks enslaving blacks." Our history is replete with corruption at the highest level with the tacit approval of the powerful elite living in their multi-million dollar homes unaffected by the turmoil swirling around them. And we resign ourselves to the humiliation of begging alms from the rich, from the NGO's that have taken over the responsibilities of an inept series of governments more often imposed upon the majority whose voices remain unheard by the oligarchy content of the status quo.
What price independence?
In the 1980's came the recognition of the HIV/AIDS virus cases in USA at the same time discovered in Haiti. Following the discovery of a number of Haitians with Kaposi's Sarcoma and other AIDS-related conditions, medical journals and books began to claim that AIDS had come from Haiti, and that Haitians were responsible for the AIDS epidemic in the United States. These claims, which were often founded on dubious evidence, fuelled pre-existing racism in the US and many Haitians suffered severe discrimination and stigma as a result. A large number of Haitian immigrants living in the US lost their jobs and were evicted from their homes as Haitians were added to homosexuals, hemophiliacs and heroin users to make the 'Four-H Club' of groups at high risk of AIDS.20 The emotionally-charged culture of blame and prejudice that surrounded HIV and AIDS in the early years meant that it soon became politically difficult to present epidemiological findings in a neutral and objective way. For many years the link between Haiti and the US epidemic was therefore dropped as a subject.
In March 2007 however, it returned to the public eye at the Fourteenth Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Los Angeles. A group of international scientists presented data based on complex genetic analysis of 122 early samples of HIV-1, group M, subtype B (the most common strain found in the USA and in Haiti) showing that the strain had probably been brought to Haiti from Africa by a single person in around 1966; a time when many Haitians would have been returning from working in the Congo. Genetic analysis then showed that subtype B spread slowly from person to person on the island, before being transferred to the US, again probably by a single individual, at some point between 1969 and 1972. A paper published in October 2007 by Worobey and colleagues gave a 99.7% certainty that HIV subtype B originated in Haiti before passing to the US.
Dr Michael Worobey, lead researcher in the study, claimed that his data was not intended to place any blame on Haiti, or on Central Africans, and stressed that none of the people who first transmitted HIV would have been aware they were infected. His work still received strong protests from one Haitian delegate at the CROI conference however, demonstrating the extent to which tracing HIV’s origins remains a politically sensitive exercise.
Dr Worobey's quasi retraction of laying blame on Haiti did not help assuage the economic disaster that followed and the underlying attitudes of racism and ethnocentrism in the United States. The Creole pigs were once known as "the savings bank of the Haitian peasant", and were bred over centuries to thrive in the Haitian environment, were almost completely eradicated under heavy pressure from the Ronald Reagan administration. Many Haitian families were never compensated and suffered a crippling blow to their livelihood. Tourism to the island was decimated plunging the already fragile economy into further despair. The island once considered by France the richest of its colonies had now become the "poorest in the western hemisphere."
Some say that HIV is a 'conspiracy theory' or that it is 'man-made'. Conspiracy or not, it came at a heavy price for Haiti which may perhaps never recover following the cataclysmic earthquake of January 12 that struck this island where most of the damage was reported in the capital with the collapse of the symbol of our nation, the national palace. More than an estimared 250,000 people perished under the rubbles of homes all across Port-au-Prince. Once again the eye of the world is focused on our impoverished land. Some theories began to travel the grapevine suggesting that Haiti was subjected to a human engineered earthquake. To buttress their argument, they speak of the HAARP technology http://current.com/news/89003708_teslas-earthquake-machine-haarp.htm
Billions were pledged for the reconstruction, yet eleven months later the death toll continues to rise for people forced to live in tents and with even less they had before. Hurricane Tomas passed over Haiti causing massive floods once again and the news of "Cholera" a disease that has not been treated in Haiti for decades has entered our lexicon.
Conspiracy theory or not, I am prone to believe that Haiti is at the center of a laboratory experiment going on for several decades. Why is this island shared with the Dominican republic remains the sole victim of these natural and man-made disasters?
The despotic "Papa Doc" Duvalier took the reigns of power and ruled with unbridled brutality. Between 1972 and 1981 many impoverished Haitians sought refuge beyond their shores and headed for Florida in boats that often times capsized killing everyone aboard. Those who were rescued by the US patrols were held in detention camps reminiscent of WWII concentration camps. I recall a Haitian being interviewed by a reporter and the response I heard confirmed what many suspected. The man speaking in creole told the story that their captors are conducting experiments on them. They are given shots that caused men to grow breasts.
The latest health crisis attacking Haiti is a cholera outbreak announced in October 21, many accusing MINUSTAH of staging this plague among the already at-risk. 1000 deaths have been counted and thousands more infected. Columbus brought the white men diseases to the new world that wiped out the indigenous Arawak Indians. In the 80's they introduced the HIV/AIDS virus, followed the cholera outbreak of 2010 is their latest attempt to thin the herd, at ethnic cleansing.
Cry, the beloved country.