‘Too Black, Too Strong’: Imagining Haiti in Caribbean Popular Culture’.

From the Jamaican Gleaner – Imagining Haiti in Caribbean Popular Culture.

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Whenever I am in the US and  Haiti comes up in the conversation, I am repeatedly faced with varying levels of denigration about Haiti and Haitian people, many of whom are Haitian themselves.  Jamaicans are  particularly prone notwithstanding that most of the people I meet in South Florida are of Jamaican or Haitian heritage.   This piece by Carolyn Cooper challenges the negativity towards Haiti and Haitians by Jamaican and other Caribbean islanders.

Ignorance and self-hate are a terrible thing.

 

A so Mutabaruka seh inna fi im poem bout Haiti pon im ‘Melanin Man’ album weh come out inna 1994. Mi tek Muta lyrics fi di title a one talk mi gi inna Haiti dis ya month. Mi call it, ”Too Black, Too Strong’: Imagining Haiti in Caribbean Popular Culture’.

One big-big meeting did keep up fi di 25th anniversary a di Haitian Studies Association, from November 7-9. More dan 300 scholar from all over di world go a Haiti fi reason bout politics, education, health care, music, literature, language, flim show, economics, history an such di like.

Inna fi mi talk, mi consider Muta poem an one a David Rudder song pon im Haiti album, weh im put out inna 1988. A long time dem two artist a warn wi fi check wiself. Dem a cry out mek wi understand seh di people dem inna Haiti a fi wi fambily an wi no better dan dem. In fact, wi an dem inna di same boat. An if wi no mind sharp, it a go a sink. An di whole a wi a go drown same way.

See how Muta start off fi im poem:

Haiti yu goin an no one seem to care

Haiti yu goin, neighbours, beware!

Di poverty an death that haunts every day

De boat dat leave to de USA.

Same way David Rudder a warn wi inna fi im song:

We are outing fires in faraway places

When our neighbours are just burning.

They say the Middle Passage is gone

So how come overcrowded boats still haunt our lives?

CHAINS DAT KEEP US APART’

Acordin to Muta, di answer to David Rudder question a one long, long story: “Haiti suffers because it made a start.” Muta dig up history fi find di root a di problem:

Yu payin for di afrikaness yu still keep

Yu payin, payin; Boukman is not asleep

Nuff a wi inna Jamaica no know bout Boukman. Im did born right ya so. An im a one a fi wi big-time hero. International hero! Im coulda read an write. A it mek dem call im Boukman. An it look like seh di book im dida read a di Qu’ran. Im a Muslim. An im dida try teach who want know fi read. Di owner fi di plantation never like dat. Boukman a mek trouble. So di owner man decide fi sell Boukman to one Frenchman weh tek im go a Haiti.

An a deh so Boukman mek trouble! When im see wa a gwaan, im couldn’t tek it. Im tek charge. An im turn voodoo priest. Pon August 14, 1791, im keep one big meeting a Bois Caiman, weh di African dem plan out how dem a go free demself from slavery. Dem draw blood an drink it an tek oath fi fight it out. An a deh so revolution start inna Haiti. Di next week, Boukman people dem burn down 1,800 plantation an dem kill off 1,000 a di owner dem.

Muta seh:

Yu gave us Haiti di strength to fight

Black people in di Caribbean, I say unite

Break di chains dat keep us apart

Haiti suffers because it made a start

Mi love di picture Muta draw when im talk bout di chain dem. A mental slavery dat. Di chain dem inna wi mind a tie wi up, mek wi feel seh wi better dan dem other one. Mi glad fi see Haiti President Michel Martelly come look fi wi. Im did come fi talk bout how Haiti an Jamaica can work together. Anywhere Boukman deh, it sweet im fi true.

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A so Mutabaruka se ina fi im pouwem bout Haiti pon im ‘Melanin Man’ albom we kom out ina 1994. Mi tek Muta liriks fi di taikl a wan taak mi gi ina Haiti dis ya mont. Mi kaal i, ”Too Black, Too Strong’: Imagining Haiti in Caribbean Popular Culture’.

Wan big-big miitn did kip op fi di 25th anivorsri a di Haitian Studies Association, fram Novemba 7-9. Muor dan chrii onjred skala fram aal uova di worl go a Haiti fi riizn bout palitiks, edikieshan, elt kier, myuuzik, lichricha, langwij, flim shuo, iikanamiks, ischri an soch di laiik.

Ina fi mi taak, mi kansida Muta pouwem an wan a David Rudder sang pan im Haiti albom, we im put out ina 1988. A lang taim dem tuu aatis a waan wi fi chek wiself. Dem a krai out mek wi andastan se di piipl dem ina Haiti a fi wi fambili an wi no beta dan dem. In fak, wi an dem ina di siem buot. An if wi no main shaap, it a go a singk. An di uol a wi a go jroun siem wie.

Si ou Muta staat aaf fi im pouwem:

Haiti yu goin an no one seem to care

Haiti yu goin, neighbours, beware!

Di poverty an death that haunts every day

De boat dat leave to de USA.

Siem wie David Rudder a waan wi ina fi im sang:

We are outing fires in faraway places

When our neighbours are just burning.

They say the Middle Passage is gone

So how come overcrowded boats still haunt our lives?

CHAINS DAT KEEP US APART’

Azkaadn tu Muta, di ansa tu David Rudder kweschyan a wan lang, lang tuori: “Haiti suffers because it made a start.” Muta dig op ischri fi fain di ruut a di prablem:

Yu payin for di afrikaness yu still keep

Yu payin, payin; Boukman is not asleep

Nof a wi ina Jamieka no nuo bout Boukman. Im did baan rait ya so. An im a wan a fi wi big-taim iiro. Intanashinal iiro! Im kuda riid an rait. A it mek dem kaal im Boukman. An it luk laik se di buk im dida riid a di Qu’ran. Im a Muslim. An im dida chrai tiich uu waahn nuo ou fi riid. Di uona fi di plantieshan neva laik dat. Boukman a mek chrobl. So di uona man disaid fi sel Boukman tu wan Frenchman we tek im go a Haiti.

An a de so Boukman mek chrobl! Wen im si wa a gwaahn, im kudn tek i. Im tek chaaj. An im ton vuuduu priis. Pan Aagos 14, 1791, im kip wan big miitn a Bois Caiman, we di African dem plan out ou dem a go frii demself fram slievri. Dem jraa blod an jringk i an tek uot fi fait it out. An a de so revaluushan staat ina Haiti. Di neks wiik, Boukman piipl dem bun dong 1,800 plantieshan an dem kil aaf 1,000 a di uona dem.

Muta se:

Yu gave us Haiti di strength to fight

Black people in di Caribbean I say unite

Break di chains dat keep us apart

Haiti suffers because it made a start

Mi lov di pikcha Muta jraa wen im taak bout di chien dem. A mental slievri dat. Di chien dem ina wi main a tai wi op, mek wi fiil se wi beta dan dem ada wan. Mi glad fi si Haiti Prezident Michel Martelly kom luk fi wi. Im did kom fi taak bout ou Haiti an Jamieka kyan wok tugeda. Eniwe Boukman de, it swiit im fi chruu.

Carolyn Cooper is a professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona.  Email feedback to