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The declaration is intended to be universal, as was Dessalines’ declaration in 1804. Unfortunately

for us there are billions of people in this world including many in this country, who do not

 enjoy all the benefits of this universal declaration. But some are much worse off

 

 

 Book by John Maxwell

How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists

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Christmas in Hell

Or A Dread of Black Freedom

By John Maxwell

 

Christmas in Jamaica is bad enough. One good thing about Christmas Day is that it means the end of weeks of aural assaults by mindless rhymesters perverting songs of worship to paeans of praise for hucksters of all kinds, from shopkeepers to banks, from autoparts dealers to purveyors of cheap, non-returnable, eminently breakable, non-biodegradable trash tricked out in plastic, tinsel and lead paint to lure innocent children and entrap their parents. And, as a bonus, there are the sound-system parties, which allow you to dance in your own home to music played two miles away.

An Alternative Scenario

If you think this is bad, consider another scenario.

Consider that you are a citizen of another land, one steeped in history—a history of resistance to oppression, a history which includes the first proclamation on Earth that all people were equal, including women and children.

This land, which for convenience we'll call Ayiti, was introduced to Christianity by a bunch of marauding savages bearing swords and caparisoned in the fierce colours of their leader, a Genoese adventurer named Cristobal Colon, aka Christopher Columbus. This character had induced Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, the monarchs of two Spanish kingdoms—Aragon and Castile—to bet their farms on the discovery of a new route to China, then as now, the fabulous land of magical herbs, spices, and other goods which would make life bearable for the inhabitants of Europe, just emerging from the Dark Ages.

Our hero had managed to convince Ferdinand and Isabella on the basis of a map obtained from an African who claimed to know the way to China aka Cipangu. If the Spanish got to Cipangu before their European cousins, great wealth and power would be theirs; all the tea in China would be theirs for the asking, in addition to carpets, silks and luxuries only dreamt of in Europe.

When Columbus' "doom burdened caravels" hove to in Ayiti, the million or so people who welcomed him could never have guessed that they would soon be history. Within thirty years the populations of the West Indies had been so reduced that in the four larger islands now re-christened the Greater Antilles) less than a thousand remained alive in 1519. This is according to the testimony of Bartolomeo de las Casas, a Spanish monk who came with the conquistadors and was an eyewitness to the Conquest. Another historian, Gonzalo Oviedo, estimated that of the one million Indians on Ayiti when the Spaniards arrived, less than five hundred remained half a century later– the "natives and … the progeny and lineage " of those who first occupied the land.

‘They died in heaps, like bedbugs …’

In the Caribbean and in Mexico, Peru and Colombia smallpox and other diseases introduced by the Spaniards killed the 'Indians' by the million. Relatively small Spanish expeditions were able to conquer huge empires because the native populations were swept away by diseases to which they had never been exposed and for which they had no immunity.

Toribio Motolina, another Spanish priest, wrote that in most provinces in Mexico "more than one half the population died; in others the proportion was a little less; they died in heaps, like bedbugs."

More than a hundred years after Motolina, a German missionary writing in 1699, said the so-called Indians "die so easily that the bare look and smell of a Spaniard causes them to give up the ghost."

The destruction of the 'American Indian' populations and cultures has meant an incalculable loss to human ethnic and cultural diversity. It was they who gave us words like barbecue, canoe, hammock and hurricane and crops like corn, potatoes, cassava and tomatoes.  The people of ancient Egypt, the pyramid builders seem very far away in time; the Olmecs, Maya, Aztecs, and Incas, who also built pyramids and played games very much like basketball, soccer and Jai alai, seem much closer.

To Jamaicans and people of the Caribbean, the sense of loss is almost palpable in relation to the lost civilisations of Africa, destroyed by the slave trade, which, like globalisation, set brother against brother, tribe against tribe and nation against nation.

Africa was targeted because the Europeans knew that their own people could not survive for long in the hot, humid, mosquito-ridden Indies and that sugar, replacing gold, as the commodity most likely to make men rich, was too hard a work for them.

Turning to Africa meant the devastation of many ancient civilisations – many disappearing almost without trace, further impoverishing mankind's cultural diversity and robbing Africa of the populations and skills it needed for its own development.

Although the Europeans found large quantities of gold, silver and copper in the "New World’, gold was never as lucrative as sugar and the cotton and rubber extracted from the plantations of the Americas. And nothing was as lucrative as the slave trade

As Sybille Fischer remarks in her book Modernity Disavowed:  “Colonialism in the Caribbean had produced societies where brutality combined with licentiousness in ways unknown in Europe. The sugar plantations in the new World were expanding rapidly and had an apparently limitless hunger for slaves.”

'A wretch like me!'

One of the modern Jamaicans' favourite hymns at funerals is 'Amazing Grace' penned by a slave trader after he retired from the trade, rich and comfortable. It was his way of atoning for his crimes, and perhaps, of saying thanks to God.

Nothing can atone for the misery and degradation imposed on the 25 million or more people transported into slavery or the millions more slaughtered when they fought to avoid capture. Nothing can atone for five hundred years of racist victimisation, nor the five hundred years of brutality and dangerous behaviours, beaten, inculcated and burned into the psyches of the enslaved and their descendants.

The inhabitants of Ayiti, now almost all African, like the people of all the enslaved islands and lands of the Americas, were engaged in an unending struggle to destroy slavery. In Surinam, in Barbados, and Grenada in the United States of America, in Nicaragua and in the Caribbean the slaves rose time after time to break their chains. In Jamaica they had some success. The Maroons fought the much better armed British to a standstill and wrested from them a treaty of non-aggression and non-interference in 1739. It was a treaty soon broken by the British.

Desperation and the will to be free fuelled the Tacky rebellion of 1760. This rebellion dwarfed the Maroon Wars and was an islandwide conspiracy, which lasted six months. The aims of the leaders included driving out the white population, and partitioning Jamaica into principalities in the tradition of the Akan-speaking Koromanti who were at the heart of the rebellion. One of them, a man called Bouckman, fled to Ayiti when the rebellion was finally crushed.

There, in Ayiti, he ignited a struggle for freedom, which ended with the expulsion of the last foreign soldiers from Ayisien soil. 

In 1804, after ten years of warfare, the rebel slaves and their free allies defeated the armies of Napoleon (twice), and of Britain and Spain. Dessalines declared Ayiti independent and free and declared the country a refuge from slavery anywhere.

He also pronounced the first known declaration of universal human rights, giving legal equality to all human beings, men, women and children.

It was a hundred and forty four years later, in 1948 that the world caught up with Ayiti in producing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Next December 10, almost exactly a year from now, the world will celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the United Nation's proclamation of the Universal Declaration.

The preamble to the Declaration is not very well known. It goes like this:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts, which have outraged the conscience of mankind;

And the advent of a world, in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

"Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

The declaration then proceeds to list the basic principles of the declaration beginning with Article 1.which says that

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

And it continues to explain in Article 2 that

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

The declaration is intended to be universal, as was Dessalines’ declaration in 1804. Unfortunately for us there are billions of people in this world including many in this country, who do not enjoy all the benefits of this universal declaration. But some are much worse off than others. Among those are the people of Iraq, of Palestine and right next door to us, the people of Ayiti, that imaginary place where slavery was abolished by the slaves themselves.

In Ayiti, aka Haiti, these rights and the Universal Declaration do not apply.

Rather like the captured Islamists in neighbouring Guantanamo Bay, a little to their northwest, the Haitians all 8 million of them, live in a concentration camp. The Haitian version is designed to stifle their freedoms and liberties and engineered to prevent them from being led by leaders of their own choice.

Nearly four years after US Marine were landed there for the third time in a hundred years, the freely elected president of Ayiti is an exile in South Africa. He was kidnapped from the presidential palace by US Marines led by the US Ambassador to Haiti and transported, as "cargo" with his family to the Central African Republic – the American idea of hell on earth. From there he was rescued in a mission led by the black US congresswoman Maxine Waters and TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson. They chartered a plane and headed off to the Central African Republic themselves to bring President Aristide and his wife Mildred and their two daughters back to the Caribbean. It took them hours of negotiating with the country’s dictator to get him to release the Aristides.

President Aristide came to Jamaica where the government felt constrained by tradition and popular sentiment, to welcome him, but found itself unable to resist US pressure to get him out of the Caribbean.

Aristide's sin was to want to fulfill the mission of his ancestors, to build a paradise on the dungheap left behind by Haiti’s colonisers and exploiters.

Nearly four years later a Haitian president is in office but Aristide's and his people’s enemies are in power.

The country is ruled by the US Ambassador, and is policed by a so-called United Nations force – MINUSTAH whose second commander, a Brazilian General killed himself after a friendly chat with leaders of the Haitian elite.

MINUSTAH’s only distinctions are killing a large number of women and children in their pursuit of so-called bandits who seem to be mainly pro-Aristide youth, and the rape and other sexual abuse of young Haitian children, some as young as ten.

A Dread of Black Freedom

From the earliest days as an independent nation the Americans have feared and dreaded Haiti. As an asylum for escaped slaves, it threatened the slave system in the American south. And after France extorted billions of dollars in gold from Haiti in 'compensation' for the loss of capital (slaves) and land, in Haiti, the US lent money to the Haitians to pay the debt and ruined them with the interest.

As I have said before: while arms never subdued Haiti, it was defeated by the power of financiers in a sinister preview of the modern tactics of the IMF and the World Bank.

Despite all the harassment, the 10,000 murders of activists and leaders, the Haitian people, united in the Fanmi Lavalas, have continued to support their leaders and their culture. A few months ago one of their leaders, Dr. Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, was kidnapped after a meeting with some Americans. He has not been heard from since. A few weeks later another leader, Dr Marlyse Narcisse, was kidnapped but released when there was a tremendous howl of Haitian and international outrage that apparently embarrassed the powers that rule Haiti.

And so the Haitians survive, without rights, at the mercy of a United Nations corrupted and intimidated by the power of the United States, Canada and France acting in concert.

The United States, Canada, France and Haiti all signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

They all agreed that “. . . disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts, which have outraged the conscience of mankind and they promised to make the world a more civilized place.

The spectacle of these three self-styled democracies combining to crush the rights and hopes of 8 million poor people is obscene, but perhaps not as revolting as the fact that Haiti's relatives and friends in the Caribbean, Jamaica and the others, but especially Jamaica, can sit and watch the Haitians’ sojourn in Hell as if they were watching a Disney fantasia or a Christmas Pantomime.

Copyright©2007 John Maxwell  jankunnu@gmail.com

Related link: A Conversation with Randall Robinson (video)

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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A Wreath for Emmett Till

By Marilyn Nelson; Illustrated by Philippe Lardy

This memorial to the lynched teen is in the Homeric tradition of poet-as-historian. It is a heroic crown of sonnets in Petrarchan rhyme scheme and, as such, is quite formal not only in form but in language. There are 15 poems in the cycle, the last line of one being the first line of the next, and each of the first lines makes up the entirety of the 15th. This chosen formality brings distance and reflection to readers, but also calls attention to the horrifically ugly events. The language is highly figurative in one sonnet, cruelly graphic in the next. The illustrations echo the representative nature of the poetry, using images from nature and taking advantage of the emotional quality of color. There is an introduction by the author, a page about Emmett Till, and literary and poetical footnotes to the sonnets. The artist also gives detailed reasoning behind his choices. This underpinning information makes this a full experience, eminently teachable from several aspects, including historical and literary—School Library Journal

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 30 December 2007

 

 

 

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