I can’t figure out what’s up with the site so here is a version without pictures. Working on the fix now.
My family and I moved to this country when I was a very little girl. I don’t remember the move. I don’t remember much of my childhood before school but when I reflect on my integration into this country I recall one distinct experience.
I remember playing with kids in the neighborhood, something my mom rarely allowed me to do. But somehow I found myself running up and down Davidson Ave with other kids.
On second thought, my mom wasn’t with me. It was my baby sitter Dawn or my uncle Floyd or maybe even Uncle Rudolph.
Anyway, I remember, at first playing in front of the building: 1726 Davidson. But I remember pushing my luck and running and jumping further and further away, moving up the block. I was so happy to have friends to play with.
But, I knew I was playing myself so I kept an eye on whoever was watching me.
One part of the block felt like the sun shined on it constantly. That was my side and it was probably because there was an abandoned lot in front of my building so the sun wasn’t blocked by these behemoth sized buildings.
The other side of the block was very dark, which made it unwelcoming in one sense but the people on that side were like me, they had accents like mine, wore the same clothes my uncles wore (you know the rasta man net vests), they had locs and smelled like the earth (y’all peep what I’m saying here. LOL!).
So while I was afraid to be on that side of the block, I kept running and playing on that side. And I can’t remember how, or why, but I got into some conflict with a little boy who was Black American and these Puerto Rican girls.
I can’t recall what started it but I know what ended it.
The little Black American boy started calling me an African Booty Scratcher and making monkey sounds and monkey movements.
I didn’t understand.
But I yelled at him that I wasn’t African. I was Antiguan!
That didn’t help.
All the children began to laugh hysterically at my accent and began mocking me. And then one of the little Puerto Rican girls said, “Oh, so you’re a Haitian Booty Scratcher.”
They all began to chant “Haitian Booty Scratcher! Haitian Booty Scratcher! Haitian Booty Scratcher!” over and over and over again.
My eyes welled up.
But eventually one of the Rasta men came over and ran the kids off and told me to, “go back where I come from” which simply meant go back to the side of the block where the sun shined.
I walked back to 1726 Davidson knowing if I was crying by the time I got there I would be in big trouble.
Crying was never allowed.
No crying and no complaining.
Because to do so, would mean I would be banished to staying in the house because I couldn’t handle playing with the kids, “out ah-road” (outside).
So, I swallowed those tears before returning to the sunshine. But what I could never swallow was my new nickname that followed me for the rest of my time living on that block. Every time we walked to the train and every time I got on the cheese bus I heard the kids singing, African or Haitian Booty Scratcher.
Which had me fucked up.
Because, again, I was Antiguan.
I was a few years older than I was in this picture. This picture that was taken on my dad’s tennis court on the resort, community center, commerce center, farm, cultural center on his 99 acre piece of land that he owned aptly called: Black Out Cultural Center (I told y’all I’ve been mad Black since meh born! And pretty cute and stylish. Lol)
I’ve shared this picture because I want you to get an idea of how early ideas of African and Haitian inferiority were implanted into my psyche. After the African Booty Scratcher debacle, somewhere in my childish brain, I decided that being African, Haitian and Black were bad things. Things for me to run away from. Things for me to shun.
I wanted to disassociate myself from those things as much as possible.
There was only one problem.
I was madddddd Black.
My complexion that is, and no one, friend, family or foe would let me forget it.
I’ll get back to this, but take this short detour with me.
Happy (financial) New Year
I know you’re looking, like why the hell did she put financial in there? Well, it’s simple. How the hell we have a New Year in the dead of Winter? Humans, at least our indigenous fore-parents lived by the rules of nature not by man.
So that meant that the New Year would be a time of new life, because newness equals life kind of.
New means the beginning,
a seed sprouting from earth,
the sun returning to the planet and staying longer, providing sustenance to all earths creatures…
so which time of year would that be?
Yep, you guessed it. Springtime.
And if you believe in Jesus, you know he wasn’t born in the Winter. Most Biblical scholars know that. They know that if Jesus existed and if he was born, it was in the Spring time and that the Romans only moved his birth to December 25th to coincide with the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice. If you read us often then you know I covered this in the post: Collective Work and Responsibility.
But just in case you missed that. Watch this.
So this here, New Year which is celebrated on January 1st, for me, only symbolizes when the man says the New Year begins based on finances. It’s the new fiscal year. By the end of this week we’re going to be talking about tax returns, refunds and trying to claim kids that aren’t ours to save money.
And we know that this New Year was designated by by Julius Cesar and the Roman Empire. This date for the New Year, is all about money and power.
But you didn’t hear that from me.
I personally consider my birthday, my New Year. I make goals and an objectives for my new turn around the sun. My other New Year is the Spring Equinox, the time when things grow and we begin to return to the sun or rather the sun begins to return to us.
Sidebar: I share this information with my Soul Sistah Series group. Link me if you want to dig into this further.
Ok, why am I talking about this?
Because January 1st as the celebration of the New Year is a DAMN FARCE. I told y’all before I am no longer celebrating European Holidays.
No, seriously, I’m going through all of this to finally get to my point.
Haitian Independence Day
January 1st, for diasporic people should be…ok ok ok could be used to celebrate the Emancipation and Independence of Haiti which happened on January 1st 1804.
On that day Jean-Jacques Dessalines proclaimed the independence of Haiti from foreign colonial rule after 13 years of struggle. In doing this, Haiti changed the world as we know it. The Haitian Revolution was the 1st and only successful slave revolution in history.
“It is not enough to have expelled the barbarians who have bloodied our land for two centuries; … We must, with one last act of national authority, forever assure the empire of liberty in the country of our birth; we must take any hope of re-enslaving us away from the inhuman government …. In the end we must live independent or die.”
– Haitian Declaration of Independence
Now, that’s something to celebrate.
This is what we must educate ourselves on so that we can educate our children.
Recently the movie: 1804: The hidden history of Haiti was released….take a look.
Recovering from being a Booty Scratcher
In my sophomore year at DeWitt Clinton High School, I had to take a mandatory research paper writing class. This meant that the entire Fall Semester was dedicated to finding a topic, doing the research and writing a 20 page paper on said topic.
SideBar: Don’t kill me. But I need y’all to sit with that. 4 months was spent on throughly researching a topic, with detailed steps on how to actually complete research. Days sitting in the public library, thousands of index cards (We didn’t have laptops. I didn’t even have a beeper.) writing a thesis, thematizing, citing sources, supporting claims with evidence and lots and lots of reading. The reason I am pointing this out is because now you want kids to LEARN how to write a research paper in 3 weeks, maybe 6. It ain’t enough time and you’re not giving enough guidance and you haven’t learned how to use our new technology to support this task effectively. Ok, off my soap box. Keep your eyes, mind and heart wide open for our Black History Month Teacher’s Guide coming soon. But get your coins up and think about what I just said.
Anyway, I choose to write my research paper on Toussaint L’ouverture 200 years after the revolution or was it, Toussaint L’ouverture 200 years of political instability!
I can’t remember but, yes, honey you know I did write that paper. Mess around and I can find this paper in my house right now. I know I’ve told you about it many times, because I used that same paper MANY times in my collegiate career after crafting that 10th grade masterpiece.
I was so proud of myself when I was done. I was so proud of Haiti and so proud of being Black. It was the first time the negative stigma of African-ness and Haitian-ness and Black-ness was erased by immense JOY and PRIDE. I was jealous of Haiti and their gangster-ness but saddened by the political instability that followed.
(Yeahhhhh, the paper was about the political instability.)
And over the next couple of years that PRIDE turned into deeper sadness and shame because Haiti was not successful. Ideas about Haitians and by definition Black/African people’s inability to govern themselves permeated my learning and social experiences. Disease, famine, poverty, natural disasters, corruption, violence, and coups litters Haiti and other countries of the African diaspora, leading me to believe that in fact, there was something wrong with Black folks.
How could I deny what my eyes could clearly see?
Black people couldn’t fend for themselves. That was until new information was brought to my attention…
It wasn’t until the devastating earthquake in 2010 that I learned about the financial debt Haiti had to pay to France for their freedom.
It wasn’t until after the murder of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 that I learned of his desired plan to include Haiti into the African Union in order to help support their development.
It wasn’t until I watched the documentary, Poverty Inc that I understood the role that NGO’s and the rich and the famous; the well intentioned continuously subvert the ability for Haitians (and all people in formerly colonized countries) to become self sufficient in the name of charity and love.
And it wasn’t until Hillary Clinton ran for President in 2016 that I understand the full nature of the way the Clinton foundation destroyed the Haitian economy.
This information helped me to realize there is nothing inherently inferior or insufficient about Black people and once I understood this I began asking myself, so what happened?
As a matter of fact, I don’t think I knew, knew, knew this.
I had doubts.
But bigger than my doubts was curiosity and drive to seek the answer, which would either prove or disprove my doubts.
Hey y’all, there ain’t nothing wrong with Black people. I got no more doubts.
Soooo, I should have led with this.
And I hope you’ve made it all the way down here because I’m just about at 2000 words.
But today, when you walk back into your schools and classrooms and welcome your students. As you write Happy New Year on the board all I want you to do is take an inquiry stance with the students.
Ask them to list all the ways that January 1st is significant. See if they know about Haiti and what they know about Haitian Independence Day. Shoot, if you have a few minutes play them the video trailer from 1804. Ask them to do some word associations with Haiti.
Spark some curiosity.
Share some knowledge.
Shoot have them read this piece or search the #HaitianIndependenceDay on Social Media. Honor what our Haitian forefathers and foremothers did.
The face on this Haitian currency is Suzanne Bélair, called Sanité Bélair, she was a Haitian Freedom fighter and revolutionary, lieutenant in the army of Toussaint Louverture. Sanite and her husband were captured by the French. Her husband turned himself over as to avoid being separated from her. Both sentenced to death, her spouse was to be executed by fire squad and she by decapitation because of her sex. She watched his execution, where he calmly asked her to die bravely, and went to her own execution as calm as he, refusing to wear a blindfold.
It doesn’t need to be perfect. It does need to be excellent though.
It doesn’t need to be long. It does need to be thorough though.
It doesn’t need to be a history lesson. It could be a history inquiry.
You don’t need to have all the answers now. But, ya butt better develop a plan to deeply engage later.
If you’re thinking, well January 1st was yesterday or I can’t do it today but I can on Friday, but wondering if that’s too late. It’s never too late. It’s never too early.
If you have little kids and think this is too deep. Put on your thinking cap, they can color a Haitian Flag and write thank you letters for the sacrifices of their ancestors.
And you don’t need to be a humanities teacher to acknowledge Haitian Independence Day in your class. But you do need to be an anti racist educator dedicated to education for liberation to be willing to execute.
And if you want some help hit us up on IG or FB at CREADnyc or ask me directly on Twitter @Khalilahloves.
As always, #wearetheoneswe’vebeenwaitingfor
PS: Would you like to do a teacher screening of 1804 where we discuss the movie and how we could use it in our instruction? Let us know.
And lastly, who got some soup joumou for me? I’m out here trying to celebrate!