There is a rubble of lies about Haiti that is as difficult to bulldoze as the debris following the 2010 earthquake. The most entrenched of these lies is the notion of a violent Haiti. Despite statistics proving otherwise, the misperceptions arising from these three lies continue:
Lie # 1: The spiritual leader of Haiti's Revolution, Boukmann, placed the country on the wrong path of violence at the Bwa Kayiman gathering.
Lie# 2: The founding father of Haiti, General Jean-Jacques Dessalines, was a violent leader who annihilated "whites" after independence.
Lie # 3: Under the leadership of Jean-Pierre Boyer, a belligerent Haiti invaded its neighbor, the Dominican Republic.
The lie concerning Boukmann is widely believed by missionaries and evangelicals in Haiti. These groups have apparently embraced the former Christian teaching that slavery was a condition imposed by God and not by man. Consequently, the evangelicals argue, it was wrong to rebel against slavery. They fail to recognize that Christian imposed slavery was Haiti's original demon. Boukmann ended the violence against humanity in Haiti.If anyone contributed to peace, if anyone contributed to building a path to God in Haiti, it was Boukmann. He helped to create the peace in which Haitians could live and worship freely.
While there are some in Haiti who will trade their allegiance to Grann Èzili for a bowl of rice and a bottle of water, the vast majority of the population will not. Evangelicals need to learn that Haiti is already God's country. Haitians have always called upon God and their ancestors for grace and protection. Bondye devan, Ginen yo dèyè. Pat Robertson cannot introduce Haitians to God. If he truly wants to find God, let him come to Haiti and see God in action.If he can reject the racism of the Code Noir, written by Louis XIV, a descendant of Saint Louis of France, then he can be ready to embrace the liberator, Boukmann, as a man of God.
Boukmann battled slave-owners for me. Boukmann died for me. I will always honor him. Se li ki gran Lwa lakay mwen.
Dessalines who completed the Revolution begun by Boukmann is also said to have been a man of violence. Many school children in Haiti have been force-fed this lie although few have digested it. Not surprisingly, initial history books used to educate school children in Haiti were written by the French Brothers of Christian Instruction.These books espoused a slave-owner perspective on Haitian history. Rather than saying Dessalines imposed capital punishment on people who engaged in or worked towards re-instating slavery in Haiti, they prefer to say that Dessalines killed whites. This distortion depicts Haiti's founding father as a villain rather than as a humanitarian hero working to impose moral order. Dessalines did not punish slave-owners because they were white. He imposed capital punishment for criminals who violated the human rights of others. After three hundred years of slavery in the Americas, Dessalines' government was the only one to impose capital punishment for those who engaged in the monstrous crime of human trafficking. At the time, this allowed people of African descent to live with their human rights protected on the island of Haiti.
Those who perpetuate lies about Dessalines do not inform us that Dessalines classified all people of Haiti as belonging to one race -the human race. In Dessalines' Haiti, Polish soldiers with white skin were protected under Haitian law that defined them as Haitian citizens belonging to the same race as all other Haitians. These soldiers had fought alongside the Haitian Revolutionaries, they were not slave-owners. They were allowed to live in Haiti with the same privileges accorded to all descent human beings.
Dessalines worked to protect the peace in Haiti. It is Dessalines who built the forts that have come to define the country as a fortress of liberty. It is Dessalines who sought to establish an economic plan that would ensure that Haiti's wealth and resources would be enjoyed by all of its citizens. Dessalines' efforts to protect human rights, provide security, and promote economic self -sufficiency have become bedrock pursuits for our entire planet. As Haiti rebuilds after the catastrophic earthquake of January 12th, it is Dessalines' vision that once again resonates.
Dessalines defeated slave-owners for me. Dessalines died for me. I will always honor him. Se li ki gran Lwa lakay mwen.
As we post this essay a few days before Easter Sunday, it is fitting to recall these Haitian heroes who gave their lives, without hope of resurrection, so that the people of Haiti could live a life of dignity with honor and respect.