Friday, August 29, 2014

Blue vs. black is a domestic security concern by Bertin Louis and Tobias T. Gibson

Blue vs. black is a domestic security concern by Bertin Louis and Tobias T. Gibson

In the past week, national media outlets have been a deluge of images and stories from Ferguson. In the wake of a shooting of an unarmed black teen by a police officer, protesters took to the streets. And local police responded, according to multiple media outlets, in a “militarized” fashion. Indeed, the images have been frightening to most Americans.

President Obama, speaking days after the initial shooting, suggested that we need to “remember that we’re all part of one American family. We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law, basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest, a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us, and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.” Sadly, however, this is not true of blacks in this country. African-Americans are often left on the outside looking in, hoping for equality under the law and wishing that the dignity of every one of their men, women and children was revered.
The summer of 2014 we hear story after story of black boys and men like Mike Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford III and Jonathan Ferrell being killed by police as well as police abuse of black women such as Rosan Miller, Ersula Ore, Marlene Pinnock and Denise Stewart. There is a canyon-like divide being built in this country between African-American citizens and the police forces that ostensibly are charged to protect and serve them.

President Obama further suggested that “now is the time for healing. Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.” His statement ignores the wider impact. This is not confined to a single city. If the United States is to be a real community, “united by common values,” then we need to unite by making those values common, seeking justice for these victims, and we should start with the division between black and blue.

A 2009 poll showed that only “14 percent of African-Americans said they had a great deal of confidence in local police officers to treat blacks and whites equally. More than twice as many whites (38 percent) had a great deal of confidence in the local police to provide equal treatment. More than three times as many blacks as whites said they had very little confidence in their local police to treat the races equally (34 percent vs. 9 percent).”

The divide between black communities and police officers is also reflected in the racial profiling of black citizens. A 2011 study of data from 13 states analyzed the causes and consequences of racial profiling. The research found that blacks are disproportionately stopped by law enforcement at greater rates than whites and are searched at greater rates than whites even though whites were guilty of carrying contraband more often than blacks or minorities in eight of those states.

When a third of a population is so disaffected with law enforcement, when African-American trust in the police is barely double digits, and when black citizens are being seen as criminal due to the color of their skin, there should be real concern about the possibility that disaffection will lead to rebellion or revolt. If there is little to no trust in the most visible government agency, many would argue that this justifies protest, maybe even violent protest. Indeed, this position has been taken by liberal and conservative commentators alike in the wake of the protests in Ferguson.

Leon H. Wolf, a white conservative columnist, opined that there is not “an excuse to look past endemic abuses that have cropped up in the system or to throw up our hands and declare that we must accept the bad with the good. … Are we really okay with asking people to just accept that cops can gun down a teenager and whitewash the whole incident? ... Because I’m not. I think if the cops don’t believe that there’s some line that will cause the public to rise up in arms against them, we are in deep trouble.”

Similarly, probable presidential hopeful Rand Paul wrote that “it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”

The racial divide has moved beyond a moral problem in this country. It is time that local, state and national governments took the threat to its black citizens seriously as a threat to the long-term viability of the nation itself. Police need to protect African-Americans and stop killing them. And we all need to stop acting like these events happen in isolation.

Tobias T. Gibson is associate professor of political science and security studies program director at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. Bertin M. Louis Jr. is an assistant professor of anthropology and Africana studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and vice chair of the Africana studies program.

Source:  St. Louis Post-Disptach

Monday, August 25, 2014

"We need to use the language of the people to help uplift the people:" An Interview with Wynnie Lamour (Part II)

"We need to use the language of the people to help uplift the people:" An Interview with Wynnie Lamour  (Part II)

Docteur Lou: I want us to talk about your role as a translator, more particularly your work on FrankÉtienne?

WL: I have translated an excerpt of Franketienne's "Dezafi" for Transition Magazine.
Translating from Haitian Creole to English is an exciting process for me.
You have to think consciously of what is being said in one language, take that and convey the same idea/emotion/thought into another language.
It was challenging and fun and frustrating and exciting all at once.
My hope is to one day translate the novel in its entirety into English.

Docteur Lou: To the individuals who are unfamiliar with Franketienne and his works? Who is he? What contributions has he made to Haitian literature and culture?

WL: Franketienne is a living legend.
He is considered one of the founding fathers of Haitian Literature, and is also one of the founders of the genre of literature known as Spiralism.
His novel "Dezafi" is credited as the first full-length novel to be written entirely in Haitian Creole.
His a novelist, a sculptor, a playwright -- the list goes on. His connection to Haiti is genuinely to the people.
Speaking with him is an experience with someone whose insight is so deep, you get lost in his words, and they stick with you long after you've left his presence.

Docteur Lou: Marvelous!

Docteur Lou: Briefly, what does Dezafi tell us or reveal about Haitian cultural identity or for a better world the Haitian soul? What is the importance of Dezafi in Haitian literary canon?

WL: "Dezafi" tells the story of the people.
and how they overcome a major challenge in their town.
It reveals little about Haitian cultural identity that's not already clearly known to the world
- that the Haitian people are a revolutionary people.
Dezafi is one of the first novels in which the Haitian people could see themselves written into the literature.

Docteur: Can the readers of “Haitian: Then and Now” access your translation of Dezafi online?

WL:  My translation of an excerpt of Dezafi is available through Transition magazine only.

Docteur Lou:  What is your vision for the Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York for the next 5 or 10 years from now?

WL: I envision HCLI being a cultural center where anyone can learn the language. I want HCLI to be the place that parents plan to send their children to learn the language of their ancestors.
I envision HCLI being a hub of information regarding the Haitian Creole language.

Docteur Lou: Thank you.

Docteur Lou: Are there any links to your website would you like to share with our readers?

WL: The main page has all the information about HCLI:
It explains what services we offer and what courses are currently in place.

Docteur Lou: Anything else would you like to share with us?  Any final thought?

WL: I would like to thank you for the opportunity to share with you and the Haiti: Then and Now community. It's important that we all support each other in our efforts to move forward.
It is really is up to us to continue what was begun so long ago and to make our ancestors proud of their sacrifice.
It was really my pleasure speaking with you!

Docteur Lou: I thank you very much for your time and collaboration. Kembe la! As they say in English, keep up the good work!

WL: Mesi anpil zanmi mwen!

WL: We will talk again soon.

Docteur Lou: Definitely!

To access Part I of the interview , click on the link below:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

"The language of the Haitian people is Haitian Creole:" An Interview with Wynnie Lamour (Part I)

"The language of the Haitian people is Haitian Creole:" An Interview with Wynnie Lamour  
(Part I)

Docteur Lou: "Haiti: Then and Now" thanks you for the opportunity to dialogue with you.

WL: No, thank you Docteur Lou. The pleasure is truly mine.

Docteur Lou: How are you doing today?

WL: I'm doing well. Quite busy, as per usual.

Docteur Lou: Wonderful!

Docteur Lou: For those who do not know Wynnie Lamour, please tell us about you...

WL: There is so much to share! Let's start with- I'm a Haitian-American Educator from Brooklyn who founded the Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York.

Docteur Lou: where did you grow up? 

WL: I was born in Haiti and spent the first few years of my life there. When I was about 5 years old, my family and I moved to Brooklyn.

Docteur Lou: how was your childhood experience in Haiti?

WL: I was very young when I left Haiti so my conscious memories are pretty limited. I have a lot of memories of dreams of memories.

Docteur Lou: what is your best childhood memory…if you’re able to name one?

WL: Let me think about it...there are so many to choose from. My favorite memory of Haiti is all the smells of that good Haitian food. I remember running around the halls and the rooms as they filled with the smell of whatever delicious dish was being made that day. So most days, I already woke up to something sizzling, boiling, being peeled, you named it.

Docteur Lou: I also love the smells of a good and well-executed Haitian dish.

WL: Yes! Especially since it's an all day affair. At least, it was in my house. My grandmother, even when we eventually moved to Brooklyn, would still wake up earlier than most to prepare the food for the day.
Docteur Lou: Did you have any difficulty integrating in the American society and culture?

WL: I was very young when I first moved to Brooklyn, so in terms of learning the language, that happened fairly quickly. The biggest change for me was the weather. New York can be COLD! Especially for a young girl whose soul is filled with sunshine and runs around barefoot as often as she can. However, the biggest challenge for me was growing bi-cultural.
Having one culture at home that did not correspond with the culture outside continues to be something that I battle regularly.

Docteur Lou: did you encounter any anti-Haitianism while attending school in the U.S.?

WL: One of my earliest memories of school here in NYC was being asked by a classmate if I was Haitian. I was still learning English then, so the English word "Haitian" was still foreign to me.
But I knew enough by the tone of her voice to tell her "no."
She spit the word out, as if she were asking me "are you an ... alien?"

Docteur Lou: Did you ever feel ashamed of Haiti or were you ashamed of being a Haitian?

WL: For a long time, I denied the Haitian side of myself (at least outside of the home).
I was never personally ashamed to be Haitian.
I mean, come on. The food, the people, the music, the strong sense of community that's inherent in how we treat each other.
There's nothing there to be ashamed of.
But I was made to feel ashamed sometimes.
Constantly being reminded of Haiti being "the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere."
Being called dirty and smelly (even though, as I'm sure you know, Haitians take such pride in sending their children to school in only their very best).
Having people expressed surprise at "how well I speak English."

Docteur Lou: What would you say to young Haitians... including those who were born in the U.S. to Haitian parents and others who have come to America at your humble age?

WL: I would tell them to be patient and to remember, that as children of revolutionaries, there really is nothing that we won't be able to overcome.
It's hard to be bi-cultural. It's hard to have family that may not understand where you're coming from, or friends who cannot relate to your issues.
But the strength to get through that is there. With patience, it will become clear.

Docteur Lou: What high school did you graduate from?

WL: I graduated from Midwood High School in Brooklyn.

Docteur Lou:  I want us to tackle another topic: your College experience. Where did you go to College? What did you study?

WL: I'm a self-described language junkie.
Docteur Lou: Can you say more about that?

WL: Growing up in a multi-lingual home instilled in me a love of language.
I have many conscious memories of what it took to learn English as a second language.
The challenge to do well was always important to me.
I began learning Spanish also at a young age and by the time I got to College, my interest in how language works and what's behind the nuance of every language was strong.

Docteur Lou: Did you major in linguistics and Language Acquisition at the University?

WL: I majored in Linguistics, with a focus on Syntax and Etymology.
Although, I did take quite a few courses on Language Acquisition.

Docteur Lou: Your former academic training in Linguistics has prepared you to found the Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York. Tell us about the Haitian Creole Institute…

WL: HCLI is an educational platform for the formal study of the Haitian Creole Language.
HCLI is dedicated entirely to the Haitian Creole Language.
I've been teaching Haitian Creole for a few years now and after it started to grow beyond me, I decided that it was time to create a space that was dedicated entirely to the study of Haitian Creole.

Docteur Lou: When did you establish HCLI? What has led you to the creation of HCLI? Any philosophical and/or practical motives?

WL: Ultimately, I founded HCLI in October of 2013. I found that there was no ONE place in New York where one could go learn the language.
Our philosophy of teaching is based on the principle of Mindfulness.
We purposely keep our classes small so that learning is an intimate experience.
We teach the language in a way that builds a sense of connection not just to the language, but also to the culture of Haiti.
We teach the language in a way that builds a sense of connection not just to the language, but also to the culture of Haiti.
In teaching mindfully, that is consciously, we allow our students to create a relationship with Haiti.
Allowing them the space to ask those difficult questions, allowing them the time to share those stories that are important to them -- all this only adds to the learning experience.

Docteur Lou: Great! Why Creole? In other words, what is the value of learning Haitian Creole and connecting the acquisition process with the Haitian culture?

WL: Why not?
The language of the Haitian people is Haitian Creole. That can never be contested.
We live our lives fully and richly every day with Haitian Creole.
One of our main goals at HCLI is to battle the negative imagery that's often associated with speaking Haitian Creole.
Still others criticize the language because the majority of the people who speak it are a dark, brown people.
In creating a space where one can learn Haitian Creole formally, I'm reminding the world that our language is as relevant as any other language.
It is as structured, as rich in variety, as useful and as important to its people as any other language.
In allowing people the room to learn the language formally, I'm helping to create the scaffolding that will help carry on the language to the next generation, especially among the Dyaspora.

Docteur Lou: Do you have a specific target audience?  Let’s say students born in the U.S. to Haitian parents who are not proficient in Haitian Creole or are you open to anyone who desires to learn Haitian Creole and culture.

WL: HCLI is open to teaching anyone who would like to learn the language.
However, we offer a variety of courses to meet the needs of our students. We are currently offering Haitian Creole for Heritage Learners.
This course is designed for those who have some understanding of the language (or exposure) but have never formally learned the language.
Docteur Lou: What do you say to those who claim that Haitian Creole takes Haiti further back, and as a language, Haitian Creole does not contribute to our social and intellectual development?

WL: If they are Haitian, I would challenge them to try and go ONE DAY without using any Haitian Creole.
If they are not Haitian, I would ask them what they know about Haitian Creole.
If their knowledge is limited, I would invite them to learn more about our rich language.
I would invite them to read some of our poetry, our novels, our LITERATURE. Because, it's out there. Sometimes, people need to be reminded.

Docteur Lou: What would you say is the role of Haitian Creole in the project of Haiti’s reconstruction and our collective efforts—both in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora—to construct an effective and democratic civil society and political life in Haiti? 

WL: We need to use the language of the people to help uplift the people.
The more people are educated in the language in which they feel most comfortable expressing themselves, the better it will be for all of Haitian society as a whole.

Docteur Lou: Excellent!

Docteur Lou: Did you lose any relatives or friends in the 2010 Haiti earthquake?

WL: I did not lose anyone in my immediate family
But I did lose some distant family members and friends.

Docteur Lou: I’m sorry. 

WL: Thank you.

To read Part II of the interview, click on the link below: