Thursday, October 16, 2014

From Toussaint to Price-Mars: Rhetoric, Race, and Religion in Haitian Thought Reviewed by Tammie Jenkins

Joseph, Celucien L. From Toussaint to Price-Mars: Rhetoric,Race, and Religion in Haitian Thought. North Charleston: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 2013. ISBN: 978-1490400952. 372pp.

 Reviewed by Tammie Jenkins

            In From Toussaint to Price-Mars: Rhetoric, Race, and Religion in Haitian Thought, Joseph explores the  Haitian intellectual tradition using works from four noteworthy men as intergenerational discourses embedded in a “rhetoric of freedom” (61) and a “rhetoric of resistance” (69). Joseph examines the contributions of Toussaint Louverture, Antenor Firmin, Jacques Roumain, and Jean Price-Mars, to the development of the Haitian intellectual tradition across time and geography. Maintaining that the Haitian intellectual tradition is not a homogenous construct, but a multiplicitous, intersecting, and divergent set of discourses, Joseph opens From Toussaint to Price-Mars with an introductory section which explains the scope and sequence of the text as well as his thesis and objectives. Using original works, translated texts, and his personal narratives, the author furthers this investigation by articulating the role of race, religion, and identity in discourses of Haitian intellectualism.  
            Containing seven chapters From Toussaint to Price-Mars has been chronologically subdivided into three parts: Part 1: “The Rhetoric of Race and Freedom,” Part 2: “Engaging the Race Concept and Haitian Afrocentrism,” and Part 3: “Reflections on Religion and Critical Theory.” Featuring an introductory chapter on “Engaging Race, Rhetoric, and Religion,” Joseph provides a synopsis of his previous book Race, Religion, and the Haitian Revolution: Essays on Faith, Freedom, and Decolonization and refers to his present work From Toussaint to Price-Mars, as a sequel to his aforementioned text, the author situates this book as a continuation of his investigation into the role of rhetoric and religion in the development of the Haitian intellectual tradition. Examining the “ideas and writings” (1-2) of four key Haitian intellectuals, Joseph argues that the Haitian intellectual tradition began shortly after the revolution and has continued its evolution into Haiti’s “postcolonial present” (3). The book concludes with an appendix which further describes the Afrocentric underpinnings of Antenor Firmin’s work. In From Toussaint to Price-Mar, Joseph uses data collected from archival and historical records, personal documents, and recorded speeches, to analyze the rhetoric contained in works by Louverture, Firmin, Roumain, and Price-Mars as evidence of a Haitian intellectual tradition. Anchored in “Black Atlantic thought and culture,” (3) each chapter connects the succeeding intellectual’s work to that of a predecessor.
In Part 1: “The Rhetoric of Race and Freedom,” Joseph provides a brief biographical overview of Louverture’s early lived experiences which the author views as a contributing factor to Toussaint’s intellectual development. Reaffirming the place of Toussaint in the development of the Haitian intellectual tradition and its evolution, the author refrains from regurgitating accepted historical accounts associated with Louverture, instead, Joseph describes Louverture as a man of “deep commitment” (9), letters, and ideas, whose texts exceeded European notions of freedom.  In From Toussaint to Price-Mars Joseph presents and image of Louverture as a political activist, who used his texts to propagate his rhetoric of freedom and resistance in larger societal conversations. Using excerpts from Louverture’s original 1792 letter, Joseph examines Toussaint’s concept of freedom in a post-Revolutionary Haiti. The author found that Toussaint’s texts contains an orality that moves from the page in ways which enabled him to use his words to interject his ideas into larger societal discourses. The author uses this analysis to (re)situate Louverture, in the literature, as a multi-faceted intellectual leader of the newly created Republic of Haiti, who possessed the ability to use language in ways which enabled him to infiltrate the public sphere.
            Part 2: “Engaging the Race Concept and Haitian Afrocentrism,” extends the discourses introduced by Louverture into the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In this section, Joseph examines the Afrocentric underpinnings of Antenor Firmin’s intellectual ideas. Using Firmin’s The Equality of the Races, Joseph examines the ways in which Firmin promoted the reclamation of Egypt as the ancient African civilization of Kemet. Acknowledging that Firmin’s, the progenitor of ethnology, intellectualism challenges white ideas of black inferiority, Joseph maintains that Firmin’s rhetoric of freedom and resistance promoted the rewriting of European history to include the achievement of Africa and its civilizations. The author proposed that Firmin’s ideas are ingrained in the Haitian intellectual tradition through his desire to (re) position “the Haitian intellectual in the tradition of the Black Atlantic vindicationism and the anti-racist narrative in the history of ideas” (92) which Firmin deemed necessary for the development of black racial pride and the reconnection of diasporic blacks with Africa.
            In Part 3: “Reflections on Religion and Critical Theory,” moved the Haitian intellectual tradition towards discourses of religion and nationalism, in which works by Jacques Roumain, founder of the Haitian Communist Party, are used by Joseph to position Roumain in the role of public intellectual. Drawing on Roumain’s novel Master of the Dew, Joseph investigates the ways in which Roumain’s text challenges social class hierarchies and economic disparities. Roumain, a member of the Haitian indigenisme, embraced Marxism, a theory expounded by Karl Marx, in his book the Communist Manifesto, as way to unite Haitians. Using Marxism as his conceptual lens, Roumain added a “rhetoric of pain and suffering” (227) to the prevailing discourses of freedom and resistance already present in the Haitian intellectual tradition.
Returning to discourses of religion and nationalism, Price-Mars uses his “religious sensibility” (272) to redefine and articulate his rhetoric of freedom and resistance in the early twentieth century. Addressing discourses of “Haitian identity and the religion of Vodou” (273), Joseph uses Price-Mar’s So Spoke the Uncle, to examine the ways in which hybridity and intertextuality are interwoven in Price-Mars rhetoric of freedom and resistance. The author contends that Price-Mars integrated ideas drawn from Firmin and Rouman into his works to encourage Haitian citizens to embrace their African heritage, their history of enslavement, and to work toward the creation of a national Haitian identity.
From Toussaint to Price-Mars presents an extensive overview of the range in which the Haitian intellectual tradition has contributed to the articulation and dissemination of ideas and thoughts, anchored in conversations of freedom and resistance. In From Toussaint to Price-Mars, Joseph selected text written by four outstanding men whose works serve as representations of the Haitian intellectual tradition. This book stands as one of the first to explore and to situate the influences of Louverture, Firmin, Roumain, and Price-Mars on the development of a Haitian intellectual tradition; however, From Toussaint to Price-Mars overlooks the contribution of women to the establishment of this tradition. Nevertheless, scholars with interests in Haitian History, Rhetorical Studies, Cultural Studies, as well as Black Atlantic and Diasporic Studies may find From Toussaint to Price-Mars a useful primer.

Independent Scholar

Monday, October 13, 2014

"Haiti: Then and Now" Welcomes Tammie Jenkins!

Tammie Jenkins, Ph.D.

Tammie Jenkins is an independent scholar, who received her Ph.D., in Curriculum and Instruction with emphasis in Curriculum Theory from Louisiana State University after completing a dissertation on intertextuality in spoken word poetry, in May of 2014. She is a certified public school teacher practicing in the area Special Education. Her current publications include book reviews in a variety of journals and numerous upcoming edited book chapters. Her research interests includes: Africana and African American History, African and Diasporic Religions, and Popular Culture. Her publications include book reviews in The Popular Culture Studies Journal, and the Journal of Popular Culture. She peer-reviews for the following journals: Callaloo, Journal of Balanced Reading and Instruction, Journal of African American History, Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, Journal of Popular Culture, the Popular Culture Journal, Ethnic Studies Review, and the Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy. Dr. Jenkins is also on the editorial board for the Journal of Balanced Reading Instruction. In her leisure time she enjoys spending time with family and friends as well as cooking and reading. She currently lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with her two sons. 



Thursday, October 9, 2014

"When Baron Samedi comes: The Death of Jean-Claude Duvalier" by Patrick Delices

"When Baron Samedi comes: The Death of Jean-Claude Duvalier" by Patrick Delices

Patrick Delices | 10/9/2014, 1:05 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 4, one of the most brutal dictators of Haiti, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was dying of a heart ...
Jean-Claude Duvalier with his father, Francois Duvalier
Special to the AmNews

"Saturday, Oct. 4, one of the most brutal dictators of Haiti, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was dying of a heart attack at his home in Thomassin, a Port-au-Prince mountaintop suburb, as an old, familiar friend, dressed in a top hat, black suit and dark glasses, paid him a final visit. Duvalier’s friend who visited him on that day as he clung to his life while facing death was Baron Samedi.
In the philosophy and science of Haitian vodou, Samedi is the lwa (god or master) of the dead. Samedi is also the master and giver of life within the worldview and spiritual reality of Haitian vodou. In the hopes of giving the people of Haiti life again, Samedi decided to visit Duvalier as he was having a heart attack. In his unwelcome visit to Duvalier’s home, Samedi, with his imposing and puissant mien, happily greeted Duvalier with his strange but convincing, nasal-toned voice by saying, “Come with me!”

Even though that was the last time Duvalier heard the words, “Come with me,” it certainly was not the first. Duvalier had known Samedi since his birth, July 3, 1951, when he probably heard the words “come with me” or “follow me” from a man who closely resembled Samedi in stature, appearance, voice and actions, especially regarding the countless deaths of Haitians who opposed him.
A Samedi impersonator would often appear to Duvalier and the people of Haiti as he was preparing for the mass funeral of the people of Haiti while giving his son, Duvalier, life. Unlike the real Samedi, this impersonator, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, would only bring death and destruction to the people of Haiti and riches and good fortune to his son Jean-Claude.

Often dressed as Samedi, Francois Duvalier ruled Haiti with an iron death grip from Oct. 22, 1957, until his death April 21, 1971. During his oppressive reign, Francois Duvalier would order an unwilling Jean-Claude Duvalier to come with him to witness Haitian political prisoners being tortured by way of sulfuric acid baths.

Before his death in 1971, Francois Duvalier established a ruling oligarchy in Haiti. Moreover, by 1971, Francois Duvalier established a hereditary dictatorship in Haiti as he named Jean-Claude as his successor. Hence, one day after his father’s death, at the tender age of 19 years, the unprecocious Jean-Claude Duvalier unwillingly followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming the world’s youngest head of state as the president of Haiti.

Jean-Claude Duvalier was, at first, unwilling and uninterested in becoming president of Haiti, perhaps because of his early experience with his father as he tagged along to witness the most repugnant forms of torture on the people of Haiti. As such, Jean-Claude Duvalier motioned for his older sibling Marie-Denise Duvalier to succeed their dad as president.

However, Jean-Claude Duvalier’s nightmarish experience with his father did not alleviate the pain or suffering perpetrated on the people of Haiti as exhibited by the elder Duvalier—it only exacerbated the pain and suffering under his brutish style of rule. Unfortunately, like father, like son. Jean-Claude Duvalier followed in his father’s footstep as an evil, mean-spirited, brutal dictator who simply served the avaricious interest of the European-American world while oppressing the people of Haiti.

In partnership with the invisible hands of the Western empire, both father and son wreaked havoc on the economics, politics and culture of Haiti. Financially, both father and son misappropriated millions of foreign aid dollars, as they would transfer the aid money into their own personal accounts while the people and economy of Haiti remained impecunious. This impecunious economic reality in Haiti was also a result of the fact that foreign investors were exempted from paying taxes, as wages for Haitian workers reached only $2.50 dollars not per hour, but per day.

Financially, Jean-Claude Duvalier also engaged in using Haiti as a major port for international drug trafficking, along with the lucrative business of selling the body parts and organs of deceased Haitians. Moreover, with the “strong influence” of the World Bank, IMF and NGOs, Haiti engaged in an open market economy as tariffs were liberalized and governmental services became privatized. As such, local Haitian industries were devastated by diminishing revenues from Haitian exports.
Politically, land was confiscated from the peasants; extortion was at an all-time high; opposing voices were suppressed; political opponents were either imprisoned, tortured or killed in Jean-Claude Duvalier’s network of prisons called the “Triangle of Death”; fear and terror ran amuck under the constant threat of the Haitian rural militia known as Tonton Macoute; freedom of the press was virtually nonexistent; and human rights, abuses escalated, along with poverty, disease, malnutrition and corruption.

Culturally, the public image of Haiti was further falsified, as evident with the AIDS epidemic and the “boat people” crisis. Western press would frequently associate, in a negative manner, AIDS with the people of Haiti without identifying the role of Western governments and NGOs in the development and spread of AIDS in Haiti. Similarly, in terms of the “boat people” crisis in Haiti, the Western press rarely reported the role played by NGOs, such as CARE and USAID, along with the United States in “nudging” Jean-Claude Duvalier to bypass key investments in education, health care and rural development. Interestingly, after Jean-Claude Duvalier’s dictatorship, Haiti had the second most NGOs, roughly 10,000, meddling in its economic, political and cultural affairs.

Upset with his brutal dictatorship and failed leadership, the people of Haiti sent Jean-Claude Duvalier into exile in France Feb. 7, 1986. However, after 25 years, Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti Jan. 16, 2011, only to die at the age of 63 on Oct. 4. While some people feel that Jean-Claude Duvalier cheated justice, he was nonetheless unable to cheat death.

As the Haitian government and the global community delayed in bringing Jean-Claude Duvalier to justice, Samedi took justice upon himself by telling Jean-Claude Duvalier to “come with me!” For many Haitians, that particular day of justice couldn’t come soon enough.
Jean-Claude Duvalier is survived by two children, Nicolas and Anya Duvalier."

Source:  Special to the AmNews

"Haiti: Then and Now" Welcomes Professor Patrick Delices!

Professor Patrick Delices

Professor Patrick Delices is a Pan-African Haitian scholar who taught
the History of Haiti, Caribbean Politics, African-American Politics,
and African-Caribbean International Relations at Hunter College and
served as a research fellow at Columbia University for the late
Pulitzer Prize historian Manning Marable.  Professor Delices also
served as a contributing editor to the Haitian Times and is a
journalist/political analyst for the New York Amsterdam News and the
Black Star News.  Currently, Professor Delices is working on a book
about the global impact of the Haitian Revolution. He can be reached
at or

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Why Krugman's Vocabulary Needs to Be Refreshed by Gina Athena Ulysse

"Paul Krugman's "Voodoo Economics, The Next Generation" does not make any more sense today than it did back in 1980 when presidential candidate G. W. Bush used this term to criticize Ronald Reagan's claim that cutting taxes on the rich would actually - "magically" lead to greater economic growth.

It remains as derogatory now as it was then. As several Times readers noted in their comments to Krugman, the terminology is passé and fails to convey its actual point. One pleaded with him to stop using this term because it doesn't mean anything. He wrote "... [these words] sound good but it doesn't tell people what is wrong with the tax cut slogan." Others piped in, myself included, noting that it is problematic for other reasons. The fact is that most people still have antiquated notions of the religion that this stereotype evokes. Alas! Comments have such limited readership.

Call me overly sensitive. The use of this term threw my epistemic violence sensibility meter so completely out of whack Monday morning that it was virtually impossible for me to get through the piece and follow what the Nobel Laureate (whom I actually like to read sometimes) had to say. No wonder, as Tim Worstall eloquently noted in Forbes this term is a "rhetorical misdirection."

Indeed, with its direct references to the most archaic of tropes (black magic, cult, inward-looking or progress-resistant, vindictiveness) Krugman's "Voodoo Economics, The Next Generation" shows a socially limited attachment to an outdated term. His column could not make it any clearer why the New York Times, which has been repeatedly petitioned over this terminology by concerned individuals and collectives over the years, needs to revise its style sheet. The Haitian Vodou religion is not Krugman's voodoo.

One of the earliest letters to the editor about misrepresentation of the religion was published on January 5, 1917. Titled "Injustice to Haitians," it was written by anthropologist Elsie Clews Parsons who stressed "the journalistic display of contempt for another people and of utter irresponsibility should not pass unnoticed." Parsons was responding to an article with a slew of horrific headlines including "Voodoo Practices Demand for Sacrifice of a White Child."

Words matter. Their significations do not simply disappear because we will them away. And in the last two months NYT editors in particular have come to know this only too well. The portrayal of Mike Brown as "no angel" and Shonda Rhimes as an "angry black woman" are indications of how blackness configures in mainstream white imagination to paraphrase Toni Morrison. The voodoo economics redux is yet another example of a structural predisposition that continues to deny blacks complexity, hoarding it as the sole property of whites.

The NYT needs to hit the refresh button (to paraphrase Dan Morse) and stop confounding voodoo with Vodou. The fact is that others have actually already done so.

In October 2012, in response to the long-term efforts of a collective based in Haiti and abroad, the Library of Congress changed its subject heading from voodoo to Vodou because the former is pejorative. They recognized that our history left us with particularly racially charged and cruel notions of blackness that continue to differentially mark us structurally and individually in the most penalizing and hurtful ways. Indeed, it was time that an institution devoted to learning choose to leave the stereotypes behind and join the 21st century.

It is high time that the Times consider doing the same."