“In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue”... so starts the song learned by every school child in America. What the song does not tell us is that he dropped off 40 European settlers in Haiti. They all died in one year but not before they claimed Haiti as European territory. In 1697 the French were given control of Haiti which was the western part of the Island called Hispanola. Over the years Haiti became an immensely wealthy French Colony, making riches out of the labor of Black African slaves working in the sugar and coffee fields, and cultivating indigo.
In 1803 the slaves rebelled under a Black General named Toussiant L’Ouverture and, after beating the great French General Napolean, Haitians declared themselves independent. This history made them an independent free Black nation; the first free Black nation in the world. First the White Europeans and the then New America angered at Blacks wanting and taking their freedom, began to ostracize the Haitians.
The Whites were said to be afraid that the spirit and strength of the Haitians to overthrow their slave masters would infect Black slaves in other countries to want their freedom also. Indeed there were rebellions in other Caribbean nations that resulted in freedom from Spain and other nations, causing further isolation of Haiti and ultimately causing it to be called the poorest nation in the world. If we were allowed to spend our money and do business there, they wouldn’t be so poor.
In the last few days since the earthquake destroyed so much of Haiti, the world has seen the same spirit and strength of the Haitians. One woman after being pinned in a grocery store for six days came out singing songs of victory over death and, no doubt, thanks to her God. Others were in the streets singing and dancing. I cried at the sight of such strength of my brothers and sisters, as they sang. It reminded me of the song, “What a friend we have in Jesus”, because it was written by Joseph Scriven at the graveside of his fiancée’s death in an accident.
On a personal note, when my wife and I took a cruise some years ago to the Western Caribbean, we were allowed to stop and get off of the ship at the Haitian coast. However, no passengers were allowed to go into towns, allegedly because it was dangerous.
I believe that a more vibrant and prosperous Haiti will arise out of the tragedy of the earthquake.
The story of Haiti’s earthquake played itself out as African Americans in the United States celebrated the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King. King’s story is similar to that of Haiti’s Toussiant L‘Ouverture who led a rebellion against years of slavery, discrimination and hopelessness. The result of the King movement was a symbol of equality, named Barack Obama. I pray that the so-called Joshua generation will rise to it’s true potential in America and in Haiti.
The danger in America and in Haiti is who is allowed to serve as leaders. Haiti has had its share of corrupt Black leaders most notably the family of Francois Duvalier (Papa Doc) followed by his son Jean Claude (Baby Doc) who raided the treasury of the country and left, much as the rule of how George Bush left America, in near depression.
President Barack Obama’s demonstration of the spirit of helping others, rather than narcissism, may mark a time when America shares its historical blessings by helping our Haitian brothers become great again. We still need coffee and sugar. Why can’t we buy it from our brothers?
You may give a hand to our brothers by giving to those who are helping.
Here are a few places to donate to:
Doctors Without Borders: www.doctorswithoutborders.org. Telephone: 1-888-392-0392;
UNICEF: www.unicefusa.org. Telephone: 1-800-4unicef;
American Red Cross: www.redcross.org. Telephone: 1-800HELP-NOW.