Monday, January 25, 2010

On Haiti and Heroes

“In overthrowing me, you have done no more than cut down the trunk of the tree of the black liberty in St-Domingue-it will spring back from the roots, for they are numerous and deep.”

Toussaint L’Ouverture

For some reason today I was contemplating who my first black superhero was and it dawned on me it was probably Toussaint L’Ouverture. Ever since I first read about him in Trinidadian author’s C.L.R. James’s The Black Jacobins, I have been fascinated. The white savior narrative is so deeply ingrained in American culture that it was beyond refreshing to come across a black revolutionary leader, and one who orchestrated the defeat of the French while under Napoleon’s command no less.

For obvious reasons, a lot of people are interested in Haiti and that book is definitely a good place to start for those looking for a little Haitian history. It is certainly dense, but I found it a swift read, even as an undergraduate (I first read the book as part of an independent study in college on Haiti).

As far as takes on the current Haitian situation, I found these personal tales of expats exceptionally moving (I also recommend that people check out more Danticat because her writing is lovely and, well, Arcade Fire tends to blow me away, although for some reason I wasn’t familiar with them until I stumbled across them on Ta-Nahesi Coates’s blog):

Author Edwidge Danticat memorializes her cousin Maxo who died in the Haiti quake.

Singer Régine Chassagne discusses her homeland.

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