Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 04:53:10 PM, January 12, 2010

Evelne AlcideSeisme (Earthquake), 2010. Museum of International Folk Art/Museum of New Mexico. Click links for more information; click image for larger version.

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A Decade of Radical Black Reading

Soon after The Public Archive launched in 2010, we began featuring reading lists that, for the most part, appeared under the banner “Radical Black Reading.” To mark nearly a decade’s worth of publication, we’ve culled a number of entries from the lists, focussing on work that in our view deserves more attention while offering some direction for the decade to come.

  • Edited by Sokari Ekine and Hakima Abbas and published by Fahamu Books and Pambazuka Press, the Queer Africa Reader, emerged out of a defining moment in African history: The 2010 charges for “gross indecency and unnatural acts” pressed against Tiwonge Chimbalanga, a Malawaian transgender woman, and Steven Monjeza, her male partner. The charges served to bring the muted discussions among queer African activists, intellectuals, and artists out into the public while spurring Ekine’s and Abbas’ editorial labors. The result is nothing short of path breaking. Combining forty-two essays, testimonies, statements, and stories by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex contributors from across the continent, the Queer Africa Readerchallenges the idea of Africa as the “homophobic continent” while providing an urgent, engaging, and eloquent account of both the diversity of African LGBTI experience, and of the polyvalent strategies of African queer survival, resistance, and liberation.
  • Two publications out of Chicago – a city whose successful grassroots push for reparationsfor the victims of police torture bequeath us with an inspired hope — distill the possibilities and potential of the work of radical publishing alongside local movements for social justice. Melina Fries’ The Red Summer Self-Guided Walking Tour: Chicagois a spare and disturbing but ultimately enlightening cartography of the history of racist violence in Chicago, in particular the violence of the summer of 1919. Chiraq and its Meaning(s), edited by educator and activist Miriame Kaba and the youth justice organization Project Nia, is a moving and sharply poignant compilation of statements documenting how young Chicagoans view and interpret their city and its largely negative representations. Both books were issued in elegant Risograph editions by independent publisher Half Letter Press, an imprint of Temporary Services; both offer a welcome alternative to the banality and market-driven backwardness of mainstream, corporate media while speaking to the critical importance of community control over representation. (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.”)
  • The state is at the center of a number of recent monographs that have examined questions of democracy, dictatorship and neo-colonialism in contemporary Haiti. Justin Podur’s Haiti’s New Dictatorship: The Coup, The Earthquake and the UN Occupation(Pluto) scrutinizes the ways in which the international community has choked Haiti’s sovereignty since the 2004 coup while promoting a supposedly benign international occupation of the country. Jeb Sprague’s thoroughly-researched Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti(Monthly Review) examines the growth of right-wing paramilitaries and their role, supported by money and political muscle from the United States and the Dominican Republic, in subverting Haitian grassroots democratic movements. In the 2005 book Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority(Fernwood), Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton, shed light on Great White North’s role in the overthrow of democracy in the Black Republic; a section of Yves Engler’s latest, The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy(Fernwood) pillories Canada’s post-earthquake callousness.
  • In the exceptionalEslanda: The Large Unconventional Life of Mrs Paul Robeson(Yale), historian Barbara Ranbsy has brought Elsanda Goode Robeson out from the shadows of her often-over shadowed husband. Eslanda Robeson was tirelessly committed to women’s liberation, anti-racism, and anti-colonialism. She was also a journalist and an anthropologist who trained with Bronislaw Malinowski and wrote the neglected monograph African Journey in 1941. Rambsy recounts Robeson’s intellectual and political career – including her unflinching testimonybefore the House Un-American Activities Committee – while reconstructing the complex contours of her longstanding and unconventional relationship with Mr. Robeson. It’s an engaging history of Black politics – and of Black love. 
  • In Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal, David Austin recovers the critical role played by Montreal as a nexus for Black Power and Caribbean left activism and takes the Canadian state to task for its attempt to undermine Black politics while marginalizing Black Canadian citizenship. Austin, among the foremost chroniclers of West Indian and pan-African political and intellectual histories, argues that Montreal in the late sixties was defined by a public hysteria generated by white fears of Black sexuality, which were used to justify a repressive state of security. Fear of a Black Nationbuilds on two previous works by Austin: A View for Freedom, an oral history of the St. Vincents-born, Montreal-based cricketer and organizer Alphonso Theodore “Alfie” Roberts, and You Don’t Play with Revolution, an edited collection of CLR James’ Montreal lectures and talks. Together, Austin’s “Montreal trilogy” is necessary reading for understanding the history of Black Montreal – and the history of the African diaspora writ large.
  • Part academic treatise, part personal memoir, Carol Boyce Davies’ genre-breaking and boundary-bending Caribbean Spaces: Escapes from the Twilight Zoneis theoretically grounded in the foundational geography and geomorphology of the Antilles. Yet if the archipelagic impulse towards flux, fragmentation, and fluidity has oftentimes led to a silly, apolitical academicism, Davis knows exactly where she comes from – and exactly where she’s at. Recounting a lifetime of migrations from Trinidad to Ibadan and Brooklyn to Brazil, Caribbean Spacesheralds a commitment to Black freedom – both at home and abroad – with insurgent style and righteous grace.
  • Kingston, Jamaica’s Ian Randle Publishers has just released three readers dedicated to Caribbean thought. The first two, Caribbean Political Thought: The Colonial State to Caribbean Internationalismsand Caribbean Political Thought: Theories of the Post-Colonial Statewere edited by political philosopher Aaron Kamugisha of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill. The Colonial State to Caribbean Internationalismsoffers a simply astounding compilation of five-hundred-years worth of manifestos, constitutional excerpts, and speeches – from Jean-Jacques Dessalines famous “Liberty or Death” proclamation to the interventions of Sylvia Wynter, with contributions from Aime and Suzanne Cesaire, Antenor Firmin, George Padmore, Marcus Garvey, Frantz Fanon and others along the way. It includes the 1912 program of Cuba’s Partido Independiente de Color and Dantes Bellegarde’s 1930 appeal to the League of Nations on the threat of the United States to world peace. Theories of the Post-Colonial Statecomes as a continuation of the first volume and focuses on the post-World War II examination of Caribbean political life after independence and decolonization. Kamugisha assembles a jaw-dropping collection of theorists and intellectuals including Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Norman Girvan, Eudine Barriteau, Patricia Mohammed, Stuart Hall, and Edouard Glissant, to name but a representative few. The third volume, Caribbean Cultural Thought, was co-edited with Yanique Hume, a critic and dance who also teaches at UWI Cave Hill, and contains the formative interventions on Caribbean aesthetics, sexuality and gender, cultural identity, nationalism, and social change, and religion and spirituality.Dedicated to the peoples of Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad – and to the region’s thinkers and theorists – together, these readers are indispensible guides to the intellectual history of the region. On their publication, Kamugisha gave thanks “to the ancestors for Caribbean thought in pursuit of freedom.”
  • Arguably the most important book on Reconstruction since W.E.B. DuBois’ Black Reconstruction, Nell Irvin Painter’s Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction recounts in harrowing detail the forms of state violence – lynching, terrorism, bulldozing – meted out on Blacks in the US that spurred the late nineteenth century flight from the South. A forensic accounting of white supremacist violence, Exodusters is also a moving history of Black autonomy as Painter describes attempts to found free Black communities in Kansas, and recounts African American hopes of return to Africa.
  • 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.
  • Kwakwakaʼwakw writer, artist, and activist Gord Hill’s 500 Years of Indigenous Resistanceoffers a compressed, incendiary, introductory account of the incessant history of Native resistance to colonialism in the Americas. Beginning in 1492, Hill’s history also provides the deep historical background to background to the ongoing struggles for indigenous sovereignty against settler colonialism represented byIdle No More, NoDAPL and MMIWG. Also see The Winter We Danced: Voices From the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movementedited by The Kino-nda-niimi Collective, the late Métis writer Howard Adams’, Prison of Grass: Canada from a Native Point of Viewand Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous People’s History of the United States.
  • We don’t think Butch Lee and Red Rover use the terms “neoliberalism” or “racial capitalism” but in many ways, Night-Vision: Illuminating War and Class on the Neo Colonial Terrain, is a vertigo-inducing critique of both. Lee and Rover historcize the rise of imperial- and corporation-friendly multiculturalism, seeing its emergence in the radical push back against the movements for decolonization and Black and Third World sovereignty. They also map the landscapes of the new modes of global, neocolonial capital accumulation, identifying, in the process, its historical subject. “Our primary question,” they write, “is who is the modern proletariat and what role does it play as a class? The answer is simple: it is primarily women, children, and alien labor. Those who are colonized.”

The Public Archive’s prior readings lists: Radical Black Reading: 2011201220132014. 2018. Reading Haiti: 20112012. 2013. Radical Black Cities: 20122015Reading Against Fascism.

Image: Joanna Banks seated in front of her collection, ca. 1990s (photograph by Harold Darwin, Anacostia Community Museum)

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The Point is to Change the World: Andaiye, 1942-2019

Andaiye, born Sandra Williams, was a Guyanese social, political, and gender rights activist. She was an early member of the executive of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) in Guyana, alongside Walter Rodney, among others, and served as Coordinator and Editor, International Secretary and Women’s Secretary, until 2000. A founding member of the women’s development organization Red Thread in Guyana in 1986, Andaiye was also an executive member of the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA). She worked with the Women and Development Unit of the University of the West Indies (WAND) from 1987 to 1992, and from 1987 to 1996 with CARICOM,where she was a resource person preparatory to the 1995 World Conference on Women held in Beijing. Other groups with which she worked include the Global Women’s Strike (GWS), the Women’s International Network for Wages for Caring Work, and Women Against Violence Everywhere (WAVE).

Karen de Souza and Alissa Trotz have created an incredible website dedicated to Andaiye’s life and work. The Point is to Change the World, an anthology of Andaiye’s selected writing, edited by Trotz, is forthcoming in 2020 from Pluto Press. Below we provide links to a number of tributes to and interviews with Andaiye as well as her editorial “An Open Letter to Young People,” originally published as a Women’s Eye View column in the Stabroek News in 1997, and reprinted in Alyssa Trotz’s In the Diaspora column in the same journal just after Andaiye’s death.

Andaiye, An Open Letter to Young People, Stabroek News (June 2019)

Tributes

Andaiye: An Extraordinary Woman, Stabroek News (June, 2019).

Hundreds bid farewell to women’s activist Andaiye, Guyana Times, (June, 2019).

Andaiye celebrated in moving farewell, Guyana Chronicle (June 2019).

Trinidad and Tobago Tributes to Andaiye, Trinidad and Tobago Newsday (June 2019).

39 years since Walter Rodney fell; Andaiye, Walter Rodney’s colleague has rejoined the ancestors, Pambazuka (June, 2019).

Andaiye, Caribbean Radicalism, and a Black Woman’s Critical Imprint, Association of Black Women Historians (October, 2019)

Interviews

She Who Returned Home: The Narrative of an Afro-Guyanese Activist, Meridians 5 no. 1 (2004). [$$$]

Counting Women’s Caring Work: An Interview with Andaiye, Small Axe, 15 (2004).

Red Thread’s Research: An Interview with Andaiye. Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, no. 7 (2013).

Andaiye: 11 September 1942, Georgetown, British Guiana — 31 May 2019, Georgetown, Guyana.


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A Year of Growing Revolution: A Retrospective on 2019 from Haïti Liberté

The Brooklyn-based journal Haiti Liberté has developed a well-deserved reputation for providing some of the best coverage of Haitian affairs available. Their reporting on the insurgencies in Haiti of the past year has been indispensable, especially as the mainstream media has largely refused to deliver sustained coverage of the country. To begin 2020, Haiti Liberté has published a timeline of the events of 2019. It offers an unflinching, critical history of the present. Check it out. And don’t forget to subscribe.

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Michel Hector, 1932-2019

From our friends at the excellent Dream Variants blog:

A few years ago, my interest in the history and development of Haitian labor movements and radicalism led me to a renewed interest in the works of Michel Hector. From his various works written under the pseudonym Jean-Jacques Doubout to his later writings on the Haitian Revolution and the genesis of the state, Hector illustrates the utility of Marxist and materialist theory for understanding Haitian historical development. Furthermore, as a militant involved in the labor and socialist movements, Hector’s objective analysis offers key insights into different moments and conflicts over strategy, ideology, tactics, and goals of the various left-wing political parties and labor federations. Furthermore, without Hector and his legacy rooted in the long history of Haitian Marxist critique, contemporary scholarship on the Haitian Left would be impoverished and sorely lacking the testimony and analysis of a participant of its struggles.


His work, in both Spanish and French essays and monographs, also provides key sources and an interpretative framework for understanding Haiti’s position in the larger political economy of the last two centuries. The earlier work written under the name of Doubout explores the Marxist framework for analyzing the development of social classes and the “semi-feudal” nature of the economy for most of the 19th century. Doubout explains this in Feodalisme ou capitalisme by arguing that the Haitian Revoluton was neither anti-capitalist, nor anti-feudal. One can debate the utility of using terms like feudal, but if understood as “feudal-like,” the dichotomy is warranted. Then, the rupture beginning in 1915 with the US Occupation and a rapid increase in the size and number of large-scale agro-industrial firms and proletarianization proceeds. Hector’s work follows this development to the early labor movement of the 1920s and 1930s (through figures such as Joseph Jolibois, Jacques Roumain, and Christian Beaulieu), paving the way for the “explosion” of 1946 and independent labor’s influence on politics.


Hector, however, also outlines the importance of changes in political economy during the second half of the 19th century with a limited opening of Haiti to foreign capital and enterprise, particularly after 1860. Hector is one of the few historians I have come across whose work encompasses that period in class formation and the extent to which the US Occupation merely accelerated a process that had begun in the later decades of the 19th century. His works include useful chronologies and timelines on the development of capitalist industries in the country, pivotal dates for strikes, and the formations of unions and political parties. Hector’s also one of the few sources who wrote about artisans and wage-workers in that period, 1860-1915, including the incipient proto-proletariat into what may be early formations of class consciousness. 


While some may take issue with his Marxist-inspired critiques of the MOP’s Fignolé or the UIH’s lack of a clear political program or almost anarchist-inspired politics (essentially, playing with fire just as the Duvalier dictatorship was increasingly tyrannical), Hector’s oeuvre is foundational for any kind of clear comprehension of the history of modern Haiti. His later work, which, unfortunately, I have not completely read, encompasses social movements and political crisis, such as the piquets of the 1840s and the 1946 revolution. A return to studying early Haiti also manifests, requiring close reading for analysis of the colonial period. In short, Hector’s long list of published writings assist in elucidating the entirety of our past, as well as the applicability of Marxist framework for the Caribbean. Rest in peace, Michel Hector Auguste.

Michel Hector Auguste: November 20, 1932, Cap-Haïtien – July 5, 2019, Pétion-Ville.

Re-posted with permission from The Dream Variants, July 9, 2019.

Also see:

Watson Denis, “Hommage au mapou Michel Hector (1932-2019) : professeur, historien et militant politique,” Le Nationale, July 12-15, 2019.

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December 14, 1929: Haiti in Revolt

“Haiti in Revolt!” The Militant, December 14, 1929. See the original here.

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Representing Haiti

When it comes to the political efficacy and ethical obligations of digital platforms, The Public Archive: Black History in White Times has been an irresolute failure. The site was launched soon after the 12 January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. It was meant to serve as a response to the toxic efflorescence of racist representations of Haiti in the international media following the quake. These representations, of Haiti as either “a former colony of France” or as “the poorest country in the hemisphere,” were not new. Nor were the portrayals of Haiti as accursed, as irredeemably corrupted, or as the site of repeated social tragedy and political farce. What was new, however, was how these older invocations were supplemented by a steady stream of invasive and abject representations of Haitian people themselves, or, more frequently, of their maimed, mutilated, or lifeless bodies strewn amongst the rubble of Port-au-Prince—and used to produce a spectacle of black suffering and degradation that affirmed black victimization while stoking white moral righteousness…

Read more at SX Salon.

Image: Photo du passage de Vénus sur le soleil à Haïti, le 6 déc. 1882, par Eugène Marie Ferdinand Chapuis. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Société de Géographie, SG W-13

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October 13, 2019


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