This song is in honor of Boukmann who gave his life in an effort to rid the world of slavery. He presided over Bwa Kayiman, a series of political meetings to plan for the end of slavery in Haiti. This event had repercussions worldwide. Its success inspired rebellions in South Carolina, Louisianna, Virginia, and throughout the Americas. Along with the efforts of abolitionists elsewhere, the Bwa Kayiman Gatherings led to the end of legal slavery worldwide. Boukmann, Haitian revolutionaries, and other abolitionists transformed the world from one that depended on slave labor to one that functions with paid workers.
The song eulogizes Boukmann because he helped to organize a Revolution that led the world to the most important moral milestones of the past few millenniums. Haiti is the first modern nation to ban slavery and to uphold the dignity of all human beings under the law. The statement “Nou pat fè Bwa Kayiman pou n sèvi etranje” is a way of saying that we are indebted to Boukmann’s legacy to protect the sovereignty of the country. Since Boukmann fought for our rights when he was alive, many Haitian people appeal to him to continue to provide guidance to us as a spirit, a Lwa.
The magnitude of our ancestors’ achievement in transforming the world and ending slavery gives the current generation the confidence that we can lift Haiti out of its poverty. The Haitian people lifted the world from the moral abyss of human subjugation at a time when rich nations and their religious institutions owned people as slaves. The United States did not ban slavery until almost a century later (in 1862) after Bwa Kayiman . The Catholic Church did not follow the Haitian example in rejecting slavery as immoral until almost two centuries later in the 1960s.
The song celebrates Boukmann because of his moral fortitude. His military brilliance organized the Haitian Revolution. After the meetings and the service at Bwa Kayiman, revolution erupted in the north of Haiti on August 22, 1791, and then spread to the entire island. Boukmann and 150,000 Haitian men, women, and children fought and died for the benefit of future generations. One third of Haiti’s population made this sacrifice. The success of the plan laid out by Boukmann at Bwa Kayiman is best seen in the precipitous drop in the number of people arriving to Haiti from Africa after 1791. Whereas 50,000 people were imported to Haiti in 1790, by 1792 only a few hundred came. By 1795, all importation had stopped. The country was on its way to achieving a slave free society.
Boukmann did not start the Haitian Revolution; he brilliantly organized it. The Haitian Revolution had always been ongoing. People rebelled at the time of their capture in Africa. They rebelled aboard the ships. They rebelled on the plantations. The Haitian people continuously fought back. That is why enslaving and selling people was a dangerous enterprise. Few colonists dared to live in Haiti resulting in a ratio of 450,000 people of African descent to 30,000 colonists at the time of the revolution. That ratio facilitated Boukmann’s success.
A Meeting that Transformed Our World
Boukmann organized various methods of resisting and of rebelling into a coherent revolution. Although many fighters joined him, Boukmann lacked the necessary firearms. To remedy this shortfall, he and his followers marched on French forts to seize weapons. He died in battle in November, 1791.
When pondering Bwa Kayiman, one must stand in awe at this event that transformed our world. It is said that the visionaries who participated held a religious service before engaging in battle. That ceremony is of religious interest and illustrates how people use their faith to propel them against formidable odds. The Haitian people stood up to fight against unrestrained human greed. The Haitian Revolution was not a battle between Christians and Sevitè. It was a battle between people who wanted to live freely and those who wanted to benefit from free labor. Fortunately, the Haitian people won this battle and because of their victory, all of humanity won.
Today the Haitian people and the world pay tribute to Boukmann, a hero who made the world a more morally just place. Like many heroes, Boukmann did not live to see the outcome of the revolution he helped organize. However, the world remembers and pays tribute to Boukmann through the United Nations’ declaration that August, the month of Bwa Kayiman, be a month to commemorate the abolition of slavery. August 23 is the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abotition.
Boukmann has inspired many generations of Haitian artists and activists. The popular band, Boukmann Ekperyans is named in his honor. In 2004, artist Christophrer "Freedom" Laroche made a tribute to Boukmann with the hit song, "Twou Bwa Kayiman". Today's young generation of Haitian artists continue to honor Boukmann's legacy.