Haiti : The Power of The Haitian Revolution

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Junious Ricardo Stanton
The Power of The Haitian Revolution

“Voodoo was the medium of the conspiracy. In spite of all prohibitions, the slaves travelled miles to sing and dance and practise the rites and talk and now since the revolution, to hear the political news and make their plans. Boukman, a Papaloi or High Priest, a gigantic Negro was the leader. He was the headman of a plantation and followed the political situation both among the whites and the Mulattoes.” The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James page 86

As we celebrate Black history Month and mark the two hundredth anniversary of the Haitian revolution let us not merely marvel at the fact courageous, determined strong willed Africans fought for twelve long years against French colonists, a Spanish invasion, a British military force of 60,000 men, another French contingent of over 60,000 men under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother in law and contended with the political intrigue and duplicity of the United States of AmeriKKKa to win and maintain their freedom. Let’s not just cheer the memory of those brave souls who expelled the barbaric Europeans, or honor those Africans on that island whose bravery and valor sparked hope in the hearts of their brethren scattered throughout the hemisphere. Let us not detach Haiti from ourselves and merely consign what these heroic men and women did to the bowels of dusty history books. Let us also believe in ourselves that we too possess the power to transform our reality. Let’s believe we too can achieve liberation in our time. Instead of just cheering the Haitians’ accomplishments, let us examine the Haitian freedom struggle to glean how and why they were so immensely successful. Saint Dominique as it was called then was the richest colony in the west Indies single handedly providing France with massive wealth. It was the envy of all the other European imperialist nations. Was the success of the Haitian revolution purely the result of the overwhelming numbers of Africans, despite Europeans having greater numbers of superior weapons? Were the Africans successful because of their leadership, despite the fact they were spread out all over the island? Did the Africans win because they fought a guerilla, hit and run’ slash and burn style war? How did the slaves, Maroons and Mulattoes coalesce into a cohesive fighting force despite the divide and conquer MO of the Europeans? Did France lose because it was fighting on too many fronts at one time, in the Caribbean and Europe? (Could AmeriKKKa learn lessons from both France and England in this regard?) Or were there other factors at work? As bold a leader and tactician as Toussaint L’Ouverture was, as strong willed and unmerciful as Jean-Jacques Dessalines was, as determined as Henri Christophe was; is it possible there was another factor, another power that enabled and ennobled those Africans to fight and win against overwhelming odds and materiel. Was it the result of the Europeans being ravaged by the heat, mosquitoes and yellow fever as some suggest? Or did the French just get their behinds kicked royally by determined Africans, Mulattoes and Maroons? We need to look at that revolution with an open mind, search for the common denominator, the factor or factors that enabled the leaders of the Haitian revolution to unify and rally the Africans on Saint Dominique to humiliate, defeat and expel the imperialist powers of Europe so much so they still hate them to this very day.
Could the power of Voodoo and the Papaloi, the High Voodoo Priest, have been the X factor that galvanized the masses and served as the glue that held the early revolution together? By all accounts in the beginning of the revolution it was the Papaloi Boukman who inspired the masses and urged them on by exhorting them to cast off the god of the oppressor and embrace their own African concept of deity, justice and victory. We would do well to study and meditate upon Boukman’s words and apply them in our daily lives. ‘The god who created the sun which gives us light, who rouses the waves and rules the storm, though hidden in the clouds he watches us. He sees all the white man does. The god of the white man inspires him with crime but our god calls upon us to do good works. Our god who is good to us orders us to revenge our wrongs. He will direct our arms and aid us. Throw away the symbol of the god of the whites who has so often caused us to weep and listen to the voice of liberty, which speaks in the hearts of us all.” - The Black Jacobins C.L.R. James page 87. Many of our best thinkers have told us how psychologically debilitating and self-sabotaging it is for us to internalize the images, iconography and conceptualization of an anthropomorphic god that is the spitting image, psychology and behavior of our oppressors. Stop and think about this, their idea of god told Joshua the leader of the Hebrews to slaughter all the men, women, children and livestock of the people who inhabited “the promised land”. Here we see the precedent of Eurasians claiming their god commanded them to kill and expropriate other people’s lands after having commanded them not to kill, covet and steal among other things. Sounds like their god is a bit schizophrenic to me. Recently George W Bush said his god told him to invade Iraq?!!
By all accounts Toussaint L’Ouverture, Jean- Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe were capable tacticians and generals but the Maroons fought the French to a standstill before the revolution. There was anger and a fervor for freedom on the part of Africans throughout the hemisphere way before the AmeriKKKan or French Revolutions. Africans in the New World rumbled fiercely against their European captures/oppressors everywhere they were, including North AmeriKKKa; so what was it that prompted the Haitian revolution in 1791? In reviewing the most resilient and successful campaigns against European hegemony by the masses in Haiti, the Maroons in Jamaica, the Palmares and Quilombos in South America and the Black and Native American Seminoles in the Southern portion of the US, one common factor was they all retained some of their African culture and ways. They knew who they were and refused to acquiesce their humanity or their freedom. Looking at our situation today we seem to have capitulated and internalized the Europeans specious ideas about African and Africans. Perhaps it is time we regrouped and took a page from the Haitians, Maroons, Palmares and Seminoles book; if we have to go out, at least go out like authentic African warriors rather than chumps, punks, caricatures or pathetic melanin imitators of our oppressors.
 

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