In the face of wickedness from power and principalities –
What shall we tell America’s children? What about the truth!
From the heart and tongue of the president of the United States comes demonizing and destructive venom about people of African descent. His spirit and words have justifiably incited rebuke and responses from all over the world. The historical and cultural bonds of people of African descent, from Africa, the Diaspora, especially Haiti and the United States are indelible. Now, what shall we tell America’s children? What about the truth!
In 1492 Columbus invaded Haiti, beginning the war of extermination against the native people. By 1508, European ships from France, Spain and England, with enslaved Africans began arriving. The first recorded major slave revolt was in 1522 and nearly 300 years later, in 1804, the enslaved Africans defeated the French military and General Jean Jacques Dessalines declared a liberated Haiti and signed the nation’s constitution in 1804. America’s debt to Haiti began even before then. In 1779, blacks from Haiti had fought the British in the American Revolution. Akin to the Patrick Henry saying, “Give me liberty or give me death,” the Haitian battle cry was, “God who fights for the innocent is our guide, he will never abandon us. Conquer or die; this is our motto.”
Most significantly, the territory of the United States doubled when French’s military defeat by enslaved Africans in Haiti forced them to sell Louisiana to the United States – referred to as the Louisiana Purchase. The Haitian revolution triggered other nations to declare an end to their chattel slave system for fear of facing similar fates of military defeat. In 1893 Frederick Douglas declared that persons of African descent in the United States owed Haiti because they were the “original pioneer emancipator of the 19th century.”
The ultimate impact of a president’s conveyance of hate and ignorance does not rest in the words he spoke, but rather the reaction to those words by those he represents. When those who claim to believe in justice and human rights ignore the signs of racial demonization, ethnic cleansing and steps towards genocide, they have blood on their hands. Continued coddling, justification and indulgence of blatant displays of racism and white supremacy from the White House are intolerable. When is enough enough?
What shall we tell America’s children? We should tell them how significant the contributions of people of African descent and Haiti , have been to this nation’s prosperity. We should tell them that this country was built off the land and backs of native peoples and centuries of free labor of enslaved Africans. We should tell them that major cities in the U.S. from Charleston, SC to New York, NY, Washington, DC and the U.S. Capitol were built by the hands of these enslaved Africans. We should tell them that contrary to justice, over centuries, the Haitians have been forced to pay France reparations for defeating them in 1804. We should tell them that the value of free labor of enslaved Africans in the U.S. just up until 1865, is well into the trillions. And, on this national day of celebration, as we reflect on Rev. Dr. Martin L. King’s legacy, let us note that he said, “No amount of gold could provide adequate compensation for the exploitation of the Negro American down through the centuries, a price could be placed on unpaid wages.” (Why We Can’t Wait)
As General Secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, I am proud that as founders, we chose the Haitian maroon as the logo of our organization, signifying the commandment to “speak truth to power” and the sword of Divine Will and Word. We will stay in the struggle until the end!
Dr. Iva E. Carruthers
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc.