Tag Archives: imperialism

A Black Brit Goes to Haiti

You may recall that a couple of months ago I was bursting with excitement about going to Haiti.  If you were following closely, you may have noticed that I wrote very little about that trip.  If not, well, now you know.  The truth is, as holidays go, it was an extremely intense, thought-provoking experience.  I couldn’t write in part because I didn’t know what to say.  There was so much to say! But I also had A LOT of questions.  Last night I saw a film, The Agronomist, which provided a lot of answers.

A Film For You

indexThe film highlighted the quest of Haitians to secure participative democracy in the twentieth century.  The documentary examines the life’s work of Jean Dominique, a journalist, broadcaster and Haitian activist over four decades and exiled twice.  Fearless, hope-filled, passionate and patriotic, under him Radio Haiti was the first station to broadcast in Kréyol, the first language of 90% of Haitians.

I won’t lie, it was a Hotel Rwanda moment for me.  Perhaps because I had such beautiful recent memories, the flagrantly deliberate man-made suffering of one people just broke my heart.  I had never quite got my head round this Aristide chap who seemed to pop in and out of power in Haiti.  Never felt the full fear inspired by the Tonton Macoutes, never understood why the UN are still in Haiti.   Now it all makes horrifying, chilling sense.

I’m not talking heartbreak based on pity.  It’s the weeping that comes after the rage.  Made by American film-maker Jonathan Demme (Silence of The Lambs, The Crying Game, Philadelphia), I watched it as part of an event called Voir Haiti Autrement (See Haiti Differently) organised by a community organisation here called Jamais Deux Sans Trois.   You should DEFINITELY see The Agronomist.  Whether you’re slightly sceptical about the sincerity of American foreign policy and its commitment to democracy, are into inspiring social justice-themed documentaries, or just enjoy a good story, it’s for you.  If you’re in Martinique, you should definitely check out the association.  C’était une soirée géniale. Continue reading

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ROFL!! : When Teaching History Meets Colonialism in Martinique

I love Martinique.  Love it!  Why?  Because I catch the most jokes here.  I write this with a silly grin, teary eyes and chuckling.  This place is nuts.  It’s like Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted.  Beautiful but incomprehensibly crazy.  Though it might be a crap analogy because I remember feeling like I didn’t ‘get it’.  Although it’s possible that it is therefore the perfect analogy.

But I digress.

What had me laughing so hard I felt compelled to blog about it?  Slavery – history versus the discourse here? The state of education in contemporary Martinique?  Or perhaps both?  I’ll let you decide.

First off, I was not alone.  The group of crying splutterers included me, two Martinican dudes, and two girls, one Martinican and one Guadeloupean.  We had convened at 8am and were reviewing the contribution of our comrade in educational struggle, who was also a Martinican, at around midday.  His task was to translate the fruits typically found in a jaden kréyol Matinitje (literal translation: traditional Martinican creole garden) into kréyol – as in the language so that creole-speaking students learning to read and write their language could have a written reference point aka a dictionary while they learned a bit of Martinican cultural history.  There’s a real and problematic lack of learning materials in creole – the first language of many if decreasing numbers of Martinicans (and St Lucians, Dominicans, Guadeloupeans, Trinidadians and Haitians…Mauritians, and Seychellois…but that’s another story).  Bref, this was an important task. Continue reading

6 Simple Reasons To Be Ridiculously Excited About Going to Haiti

Français : Le général Toussaint Louverture.

Français : Le général Toussaint Louverture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not really into blogging on the road.  I know lots of people write about their experiences as they go along and it gives a real sense of immediacy to their travel writing, but it’s just not me.  I like to take the whole trip in and reflect on it before I write it up.  Everyone’s different, it’s just my way.

Part of it is probably that I like to do one thing at a time; if I’m exploring and discovering someplace new, I’m really not trying to interrupt the magic with a trip to the internet cafe, or worse, a hunt for one.

I’m also one of those black people that despite the advent of modernity, deep down still won’t celebrate my birthday before it’s actually happened.  The travel version of this superstition about jinxing the future by acknowledging it, is not writing/blogging about a place before I go.

But boy.

Life is short.

Anything could happen before I go, when I reach, or before I get back.  Given that I seem to tell every passer-by that says hello that I’m going to Haiti, with a grin that suggests that I’ve won the lottery, I figure I should outline why exactly I’m on a Serious Hype Ting as one might say in South London. Continue reading

Silver Linings: An Unanticipated Stop in Barbados

2013-08-16 18.37.28I am living my dream.  I love my job and my colleagues.  I love my location, I love the life I am building and I’m happy with what I’ve built thus far.

But I’m also slightly under the weather and have been for a while.  En plus, I’ve been on the road a lot in the past few months which has only compounded it/dragged it out.  My own denial in the hope that it would go away so that I could get on with enjoying my life has undoubtedly Not Helped.  Alas, I is but a mere mortal.

Please note, under the weather, really means just that.  I’m not playing down a terminal illness.  It’s just that when you are leading a high-energy lifestyle, a bit poorly can feel like a death sentence. Continue reading

Christmas Carol Singing – Caribbean stylee!

As a recent emigré, this time of year has the potential to be the hardest.  Despite subjection to some notoriously painful Christmas do’s with colleagues, I love the Christmas season.  Christmas spirit for me is all about quality time, ideally spent at Christmas dinners, drinks and parties; with friends, family, food, laughter and good vibes, all in huge quantities.  A good few thousand miles away from home however, forgive me if I was more than a little slower than usual in getting into the Christmas spirit this year.  Thankfully, round here the Christmas vibes are no different even if the unchanged climate seems unsettling at first.  I definitely enjoy the party; it’s called chanté nwèl, literally ‘singing Christmas’, which conveys the idea of a vibrant, musical personified Christmas perfectly.

Chanté nwèl, is basically carol singing. But that doesn’t do it justice.  Continue reading

Travel = a need not a want

I can’t honestly explain what makes me want to travel.  Where my itchy feet come from I don’t know.  I like to think I am part of a great epic of black women moving by force, by choice, but moving nevertheless.  I sometimes think it is the Brit in me.  Raised as I was at the latter end of the times when it was still okay to idolise the great explorers of the nineteenth century.  To think of them as great rather than the imperialist baddies they were.

While the conscious black person in me always knew how morally repugnant it was, the Brit in me imagined myself with that beige hat on head, and cutlass in hand, big grin on my face as I carve out a new route through some hitherto ‘undiscovered’ place obscured by trees.  It’s such a familiar recurring image that I smile as I write it.

I’m smiling because I’ve been able to write what I’ve never been able to articulate.  The need to see new things, the craving to understand the world.  It’s the black person in me, paradoxically, who knows that if I really want to know, I have to ask the people.

Continue reading