From: Cikiah Thomas
On a day designated to celebrate the achievements and triumphs of African people everywhere, the Haitian Revolution, despite attempts to erase all traces of its significance from modern civilization, stands out like a pinnacle in a dream, a seminal moment in the wide swath of human history. In this day and age when Haiti is often caricatured as a troubled and poor beggar state, ravaged by nature and devastated by political bedlam, it is with reverence that we remember that Haiti was once a pioneer, a true vanguard of human freedoms when it embarked on its anti-slavery revolution of 1804, the first successful slave rebellion in human history culminating in the proclamation of Haitian independence.
Known as Santo Domingo, Haiti became the first Caribbean Republic to be governed by Black Africans after the launch of this successful revolt. Propelled by the exemplary leadership of François-Dominique Toussaint L'ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Haitian Africans resisted the rapacious greed and unrelenting violence unleashed by white French enslavers whose solitary intent was to exploit cheap and expendable slave labour in the production of sugar, tobacco and coffee. With this resistance to European exploitation and to the colonial enforcement of inequality, Haiti earned for itself the notorious symbol of resistance par excellence. From that moment henceforth in the 19th century, the balance of power between master and slave could never remain the same. Wherever and whenever there was the mass enslavement of Africans, whether in the Americas and or in the Caribbean, whether perpetrated by the French, English, Danish, Spanish, Portuguese or Americans, all concerned had to pay serious attention to this African mass uprising. The self-emancipation of Haitian Africans was a source of inspiration to other enslaved Africans everywhere and a threat to slaveholders anywhere. The birth of an independent Haiti acted as a trigger to spawn the birthing of many other nations and peoples. This African act of liberation also served to frighten the old European colonial guardians who reacted punitively and with interminable vengeance.
Despite its promising beginning, Haiti today appears languid lacking in the basic necessities of contemporary life: no housing for its people, no running water for its villages, and no healthcare facilities for its ailing, no medicines for its sick, no schools for its children, no food for its hungry and no real power for its people. In many ways the Revolution seems to have been turned back, stifled; and the perils of unrestrained capitalism have replaced the insatiable greed of colonialism. The quest for cheap labor and the desire to have free markets continue to prevail, and while there is no more talk of slavery, Haiti is still held shackled in a state of dependency on American capital and external governance, creating yet again another foundation for wealth generation and wealth accumulation by a privileged few stationed abroad.
As it was in 1804, so it is in 2011. In 1804 there was an express need for a new, humane and alternative way to liberate African Haitians from a state of inhuman servitude. In 1804 the Haitian people demonstrated what is possible when a people collectively rose up in struggle to resist the physical, psychic and moral depredation flowing relentlessly from iniquitous systems of oppression and from racial inequality. As in 1804, the evidence today also shows that Haiti's independence is once again threatened by an aggressive North-Atlantic alliance that continues to refuse admittance to a free regime of independent thriving Africans into the modern world of democratic nations. There is no doubt that Haiti's emergence on the international scene in the early nineteenth century served as a phenomenal testament of the vigour and fortitude of a people, providing for us a supreme example of the birthing pains associated with the liberation of an African nation-state. There is also no doubt that this country of martyrs have given and taught us a great deal about perseverance in the face of adversity. Today, more than ever, and together, we can and should rally to support as much as we can, and in whatever ways we can, a people who have had their wealth stolen from them; a people who are in the process of rebuilding their nation and who have given up so much already by way of their suffering; a people whose legacy and spirit we share in so many ways.