Guantanamology or, Five Essays on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

File:First Marine Battalion (United States) landed on eastern side of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on 10 June 1898.jpg

Adam Hudson, “Reporting from Guantanamo (June 10 — June 22),” Free your mind, July 1, 2013

Paul Kramer, “A Useful Corner of the World: Guantánamo,” The New Yorker, July 30, 2013

Molly Crabapple, “It Don’t Gitmo Better Than This,” Vice, July 31, 2013 [Also: “Guantánamo Bay is Kafka in the Caribbean“]

Julia Thomas, “Guantanamology: Excavating Stories from GTMO’s Haitian Refugee Camps,” Guantánamo Public Memory Project, July 16, 2013

John Grisham, “After Guantánamo, Another Injustice,New York Times, August 10, 2013

Image: First Marine Battalion (United States) landed on eastern side of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on 10 June 1898. Source: Wikipedia.

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Les chefs d’état d’Haïti, 1804-2011

Les chefs d’état d’Haïti, 1804-2011 (Éditions Combit/Edisyon Konbit, 2006). Source: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ)

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Port-au-Prince, January 12, 2010

[Port-au-Prince, January 12, 2010, 16:53.]

Image: Cathédrale de Port-au-Prince à Haïti (1922). Source: Gallica.

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10 Books for 2015

Mayme A. Clayton, portrait, 1973

1. Amy Jacques Garvey, Garvey and Garveyism (Black Classic Press). Thanks and praise are due to Black Classic Press for reissuing Garvey and Garveyism, Amy Jacques Garvey’s remarkable biography of her husband, the Jamaican pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Originally self-published in Kingston, Jamaica in 1963, Garvey and Garveyism is among the most lucid and inspired accounts of the rise and fall of the man and movement. But it is much more than a straightforward history of a “great man” of Black nationalism. Garvey and Garveyism is also the testimony of a woman who, in failing health and with diminishing resources, shouldered the everyday logistical burdens of the single greatest Black political organization in history while upholding its long-term legacy. As such Garvey and Garveyism is a heart-wrenching and bittersweet story of pan-African love and struggle.

2. Lester K. Spence, Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics (Punctum Books). Lester K. Spence’s Knocking the Hustle is the book many of us have long been waiting for. Spence analyzes contemporary racism through the lens of hardnosed political-economic critique while offering a radical interpretation of neoliberalism that accounts for the structuring forces of whitesupremacy. Brilliantly caustic and eminently readable, Knocking the Hustle unravels the culture of insecurity, precarity, and dismal entrepreneurialism that has marked out the terrain of Black political life in a world completely turned over to the market. Necessary reading.

3. Project Nia, Chiraq and its and  Meaning(s) (Half Letter Press) and Baltimore Teens, The 2015 Baltimore Uprising: A Teen Epistolary (Research and Destroy). Two monographs from independent publishers offer a welcome alternative to the banality and market-driven backwardness of mainstream, corporate media while speaking to the critical importance of Black community control over representation. Edited by educator and activist Miriame Kaba and the youth justice organization Project Nia, Chiraq and its Meaning(s) is a moving and sharply poignant compilation of statements documenting how young Chicagoans view and interpret their city and its largely negative representations. Meanwhile, The 2015 Baltimore Uprising: A Teen Epistolary – a compilation of tweets from Baltimore youth beginning the day of Freddie Gray’s death – is a smart, raw, and eloquent statement from a group too often derided, as “thugs.”

4. Mia E Bay, Farah J. Griffin, Martha S. Jones, and Barbara Savage, Eds., Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women (UNC). Comprised of fifteen essays by Black woman historians and literary scholars, Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women recovers the neglected, marginalized, and often-times dismissed intellectual production of Black women thinkers from across the African Diaspora. Included are essays on Black women writers and educators, religious leaders and social reformers — a group who, taken together, shatters the traditional parameters of intellectual history while forging a radical intellectual tradition. Pathbreaking.

5.Frantz Fanon, Écrits sur l’aliénation et la liberté, Jean Khalfa et Robert J.C. Young, eds. (Éditions La Découverte). While the past year has witnessed the publication of a stunning number of new studies on the life and thought of Frantz Fanon, arguably the most important is the volume Écrits sur l’aliénation et la liberté, edited by Jean Khalfa and Robert J.C. Young. Compiling Fanon’s psychiatric writings in a single volume, Écrits reinforces Fanon’s reputation as a critic of colonialism while demonstrating his literary agility across genres. Included in the volume are Fanon’s doctoral thesis, essays and commentary from the newspaper of the Blida-Joinville Hospital (where he served from 1952-1956), occasional pieces from the FLN newspaper El Moudjahid, and a number of plays. An extraordinary study of the connections between clinical praxis and revolutionary praxis, Écrits adds weight to the case for Fanon’s continuing importance.

6. Robert Vitalis, White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations (Cornell). Political scientist Robert Vitalis has turned from his studies of the Middle East to write a trenchant history of the birth of US international relations and the counterculture of Black thought that accompanied it. In White World Order, Black Power Politics, Vitalis demonstrates the role of racist thinking – from evolutionary theory to social Darwinism to racial anthropology — in the emergence of twentieth century US foreign policy doctrine. A the same time, he shows how a constellation of scholars at Howard University, including Alain Locke, Ralph Bunche, Rayford Logan, Eric Williams, and Merze Tate (the first Black woman professor of political science in the United States), contributed to not only the early history of Black Studies and African Studies – but attempted to establish an institutional and intellectual edifice for a radical Black Internationalism. Written with energy and verve, White World Order, Black Power Politics recovers a critical chapter in the counterhegemonic history of Black Atlantic thought.

7. Dagmawi Woubshet, The Calendar of Loss: Race, Sexuality, and Mourning in the Early Era of Aids (Johns Hopkins). Dagmawi Woubshet’s The Calendar of Loss is a stunning and much-needed tribute to those who died in the dark, early days of the AIDS epidemic. Woubshet reads the archives of the writers, poets, and performance artists of the eighties and nineties, giving pride of place to the brilliant, elegiac political and aesthetic interventions of figures including Melvin Dixon, Thomas Glave, and the neglected Haitian-American poet Assotto Saint. Sorrow songs, elegies and obituaries are Woubshet’s texts in this book of mortuary hermeneutics, but so too are the art of AIDS orphans from his native Ethiopia. Together, they combine for an astonishing meditation on mourning – and a fitting tribute to the dead.

8. Edward Paulino, Dividing Hispaniola: The Dominican Republic’s Border Campaign Againt Haiti, 1930-1961 (Pittsburgh). Edward Paulino’s Dividing Hispaniola is an inquiry into the modern history of antihaitianismo in the Dominican Republic that demonstrates the importance of Dominican class relations in shaping the national cultures of race during the regime of dictator Rafael Trujillo. Paulino shows how an urban elite, supported by US imperialism, mobilized an anti-Haitian sentiment for their own economic interests in conjunction with the demonization of what Trujillo cast as a creeping, belligerent, and degenerate Haitian state – a state that threatened Dominican whiteness. Dividing Hispaniola offers a serious, deeply researched account of the origins of modern-day Haitian-Dominican relations and the contemporary crisis of citizenship faced by Dominicans of Haitian descent – and of Black Dominicans – that upends the poorly formulated liberal stories of an inter-island squabble among estranged siblings.

9. Sarah Haley, No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity (UNC). The recent history of capitalism vogue amongst historians of the United States has belatedly discovered a link between capitalism and slavery. It has not, however, realized the place of Black women in the history of slavery and capitalist accumulation – or the writing by Black women on the history of capitalism. To that end, Sarah Haley’s No Mercy Here is a timely, astute, and provocative intervention. Drawing on the historiography of Black feminism, Haley examines the lives and labor of Black women in Jim Crow Georgia, focusing on the regimes of terror, violence, and incarceration that shaped their worlds and defined their incorporation into the market economy. In gut-wrenchingly vivid prose, Haley also unearths the histories of Black women’s resistance to racial capitalism and patriarchal subordination – sweeping aside, in the process, much of the work on the history of capitalism that has come before her. Crucial.

10.  Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith, Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks, Eds. (SUNY). What can be said about Barbara Smith? Over more than forty years she has cemented her reputation as an activist, organizer, editor, scholar, and writer. She was a founding member of the National Black Feminist Organization, the Combahee River Collective, and Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. She edited the anthology Home Girls and contributing in no small measure to the theoretical development of Black Studies, Black Feminist Studies, and Black Queer Studies. In Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn me Around editors Alethia Jones and Virgnia Eubanks have compiled a collection of interviews, oral histories, editorials, essays, and statements that document every moment of Smith’s political and intellectual history. It’s an incredible archive of Smith’s work, one whose lessons and insights are as important to understanding the Black struggles of the past as they are to those of the present.

Mentions: Max U. Duvivier, Trois etudes sur l’occupation Americaine d’Haiti (1915-1934) (Memoir D’encrier). Paolo Friere, Pedagogy in Process: The Letters to Guinea-Bissau (Bloombsury). Aisha Finch, Rethinking Slave Rebellion in Cuba: La Escalera and the Insurgencies of 1841-44 (UNC). Brian Meeks, Critical Interventions in Caribbean Theory and Politics (Mississippi). Natasha Lightfoot, Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation (Duke). Robert A. Hill, Ed. The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Volume XIII: The Caribbean Diaspora, 1921-1922 (Duke). Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec: L’armée indigene: La défaite de Napoléon en Haïti (Lux éditeur) Nelson A. Denis, War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s colony (Nation Books). Dawn Lundy Martin, Life in a Box is a Pretty Life (Nightboat). The Mandeeq.

The Public Archive’s prior readings lists: Radical Black Reading: 2011. 2012. 2013. 2014. Reading Haiti: 2011. 2012. 2013. Radical Black Cities: 2012. 2015.

Image: Mayme A. Clayton, Portrait, 1973, Los Angeles Times Photographic Archives, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Library, UCLA.

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Seven interviews with Andrew Cyrille

[Andrew Cyrille: Brooklyn-born avante garde jazz drummer of Haitian descent.]

A fireside chat with Andrew Cyrille, Jazz Weekly (date?)

Body and Soul: An Interview with Andrew Cyrille, Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice (2010).

Interview with Andrew Cyrille, Intakt Records (2003).

Andrew Cyrille: DownBeat interview: directors cut (2004).

Andrew Cyrille: Art Science, Part 1, JazzTimes (2011).

“All That’s Rhythm!” A Chat With Drummer Andrew Cyrille, Washington City Paper (2012).

Dialogue of the Drums: Andrew Cyrille,  The Black Perspective in Music (1975). [Paywall]

Image: Paul Osipow, Riccochet (1997-99). Used as cover art for the album Route de Frères by Andrew Cyrille with Haitian Fascination on Tum Records.

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Prince Hall on the Revolt in Saint-Domingue

Beloved Brethren of the African Lodge:

It is now five years since I delivered a charge to you on some parts and points of masonry. As one branch or superstructure of the foundation, I endeavored to show you the duty of a mason to a mason, and of charity and love to all mankind, as the work and image of the great God and the Father of the human race. I shall now attempt to show you that it is our duty to sympathise with our fellow-men under their troubles, and with the families of our brethren who are gone, we hope, to the Grand Lodge above.

We are to have sympathy, but this, after all, is not to be confined to parties or colors, nor to towns or states, nor to a kingdom, but to the kingdoms of the whole earth, over whom Christ the King is head and grand master for all in distress.

Among these numerous sons and daughters of distress, let us see our friends and brethren; and first let us see them dragged from their native country, by the iron hand of tyranny and oppression, from their dear friends and connections, with weeping eyes and aching hearts, to a strange land, and among a strange people, whose tender mercies are cruel,—and there to bear the iron yoke of slavery and cruelty, till death, as a friend, shall relieve them. And must not the unhappy condition of these, our fellow-men, draw forth our hearty prayers and wishes for their deliverance from those merchants and traders, whose characters you have described in Revelation xviii. 11-13? And who knows but these same sort of traders may, in a short time, in like manner bewail the loss of the African traffic, to their shame and confusion? The day dawns now in some of the West India Islands. God can and will change their condition and their hearts, too, and let Boston and the world know that He hath no respect of persons, and that bulwark of envy, pride, scorn and contempt, which is so visible in some, shall fall.

Now, my brethren, nothing is stable; all things are changeable. Let us seek those things which are sure and steadfast, and let us pray God that, while we remain here, he would give us the grace of patience, and strength to bear up under all our troubles, which, at this day, God knows, we have our share of. Patience, I say; for were we not possessed of a great measure of it, we could not bear up under the daily insults we meet with in the streets of Boston, much more on public days of recreation. How, at such times, are we shamefully abused, and that to such a degree, that we may truly be said to carry our lives in our hands, and the arrows of death are flying about our heads.

My brethren, let us not be cast down under these and many other abuses we at present are laboring under,—for the darkest hour is just before the break of day. My brethren, let us remember what a dark day it was with our African brethren, six years ago, in the French West Indies. Nothing but the snap of the whip was heard, from morning to evening. Hanging, breaking on the wheel, burning, and all manner of tortures, were inflicted on those unhappy people. But, blessed be God, the scene is changed. They now confess that God hath no respect of persons, and therefore, receive them as their friends, and treat them as brothers. Thus doth Ethiopia stretch forth her hand from slavery, to freedom and equality.

Brother Prince Hall, An address delivered to the African Lodge at West Cambridge, Massachusetts on June 24, 1797. Source: The Black Past.

Image: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “Brother Prince Hall [ca. 1735-1807].” The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

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Haiti: The Second Occupation

Guest post by Jemima Pierre.

July 28, 2015 marked the one hundredth anniversary of the landing of US Marines in Haiti and the beginning of a military occupation of the Black Republic that lasted until 1934 — nineteen years in total. With its massacres of Haitian peasants, its control of Haiti’s finances, its suppression of the Haitian press, and its dissolution of the Haitian legislature – all backed by a combination of Jim Crow ideology and Monroe Doctrine exceptionalism – the US occupation represents a searing annotation in the history of Haitian sovereignty. Yet the memory of the US occupation sits awkwardly in the context of the Haitian present where a new, second occupation of Haiti is currently in its eleventh year. It begs the question posed by @public_archive, “How do you memorialize occupation in the middle of occupation?”

The second occupation began June 2004 and was established under the pretext of “stabilizing” Haiti after the U.S.-sponsored ouster of the country’s democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide. During the 2003 “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” France, Canada, and the US hatched a plot to overthrow Aristide. The following February their plan was implemented. Aristide was kidnapped by US marines and sent to a military base in the Central African Republic. US President George W. Bush announced afterwards that he was sending US forces to Haiti to “help stabilize the country.” As Peter Hallward documents, the invading “Franco-American” force targeted and killed Aristide supporters, installed a puppet Prime Minister, and enabled the formation of a paramilitary force that organized anti-Aristide death squads. The United Nations, then led by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, then cleaned up. According to Hallward, UN Security Council voted unanimously on April 29, 2003 to send, “an 8,300-strong UN Stabilization Force from 1 June, under the leadership of Lula’s Brazil.”

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is a multi-billion dollar military occupation that has had in any given year between 6000 and 9000 military troops and police in addition to thousands of civilian personnel.  While there is no civil war in Haiti, and while crime rates are higher in other nations in the Western hemisphere – including Jamaica and the U.S. – MINUSTAH has had its illegal mandate renewed and extended every year. During this second occupation, the US and its allies, France and Canada, have been able to install another puppet government, the neo-Duvalierist Michel Martelly. Martelly, who has been ruling by decree since January 2015, has opened up Haiti to radical economic fleecing, including the giveaway of land and the Republic’s gold and mineral resources. He has also diligently worked to reinstate the Haitian military. And in a horrific parallel to first US occupation of Haiti, MINUSTAH has committed numerous acts of violence against the Haitian people – including rape and assassination. MINUSTAH is also responsible for bringing cholera into the country, a disease that has killed more than 9000 Haitians and infected hundreds of thousands. Despite the deaths, and despite the evidence proving their culpability, the United Nations has enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

While the current occupation was initiated and continues to be largely funded by the U.S. and the United Nations, Haiti’s sovereignty has been extinguished by a multiracial coalition of Caribbean, Latin American and African countries. This may be the most sinister and least talked about aspect of the occupation, but it is perhaps the one that most requires our attention and contempt. In the first instance, there is Brazil. Brazil has been in charge of the military wing of the occupation since its inception. It has spent upwards of $750 million on maintaining military control. For Brazil, the country in Latin America with the largest Black population and a supposedly leftist government, Haiti is its “imperial ground zero.” Brazil has used its contribution to the occupation of the Black Republic to demonstrate its credentials as a regional power and to show the Americans and Europeans that it is ready for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. For Brazil, Haiti is also a training ground for domestic security and enforcements; its Haitian forces return to the country and deploy the tactics of military terror on its own poor Black and Brown favela dwellers.

The second occupation’s new Black leadership is, however, as egregious as Brazil’s involvement. The head of the MINUSTAH mission in Haiti is Sandra Honoré, of Trinidad and Tobago. A career diplomat and former ambassador to Costa Rica, Honoré takes up the post previously held by Mariano Fernández Amunátegui of Chile. Her deputy is Carl Alexandre, an African-American attorney who previously worked as the “Resident Legal Advisor” for the U.S. Embassy in Haiti. This Black leadership is accompanied by a multinational military force made up of a number of South American, Caribbean, and African countries, including Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Jamaica, Grenada, Benin, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Guinea, Cameroon, Niger, and Mali.

One-hundred years after US Marines landed in Haiti, it seems like the entire world has colluded to undermine the sovereignty of the world’s first Black nation. Under these circumstances, we cannot memorialize Haiti’s first occupation without rebuking those responsible for the second.

Jemima Pierre can be reached at pierrej[at]

Image: Rear-Admiral W. B. Caperton and Haitian leaders, Port-au-Prince, September 18, 1915.

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Bizoton, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 28, 1915

Et seul un petit soldat obscur, Pierre Sully, se fit tuer, la carbine au poing, en défendant l’accés de son post au marines de l’amiral Caperton. Nul autre ne “brigua l’honneur d’une si belle mort.” Aussi personne n’a-t-il aujourd’hui le droit de jeter l’anthème aux autres, puisque tous ont survécu à la honte.

Dantes Bellegarde, Pour une Haiti heureuse (1929)

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