Haitian flags were distributed and the celebration began with traditional eats–moru-codfish, aran-herring, cassave and patties. Hours later, Brooklyn’s pre-celebration of Flag Day ended with joyous flag-waving led by Peniel Guerrier and local rara musicians and spirited dancing by the audience throughout the St. Francis College gallery
The program entitled “Boukman’s Spirit of Revolution Prayer” featured the background to the uprisings that led to and carried out the first and only successful slave revolution. Interpreted quotes from prayers and letters of the Haitian luminaries –Makandal, Boukman, Touissant, Dessalines and Define magnified the historical underpinnings.
Ernst Severe voiced the thoughts of African escaped slave Makandal who was about to be executed–decades before the actual revolution–and escaped to the mountains.
Makandal: “There I found my kinfolk living in separate tribes not unlike the tribes of Guinea. But I had other ideas, I seized upon my people the need to unite against the common oppressor and rid him from this island. And so we have waged a reign of terror against the whites of Saint-Dominigue. My weapon of choice… the herbs that thrive on this merciless island. This island that has far too long bore the pain and suffering of Black men and women. But no more!! Forces joined, we will defeat them!
Atibon played Boukman (Jamaican-born vodou priest whose ceremony at Bwa Kayiman is said to have ignited the revolution).
Boukman: “The god who created the sun which gives us light, who rouses the waves and rules the storm, though hidden in the clouds, he watches us. He sees all that the white man does. The god of the white man inspires him with crime, but our god calls upon us to do good works. Our god who is good to us orders us to revenge our wrongs. He will direct our arms and aid us…and listen to the voice of liberty…”
Frito beat the drums.
Severe also read from Dessalines, James St. Furcy interpreted Touissant, and Laury Bapichon portrayed Defile (the mad woman who post-independence picked up the corpse of the slain Dessalines and gave him a proper burial). Jessica St. Vil Ulysses and Delano Jean-Pierre gave a beautiful dance performance in front of an oversized Haitian flag.
Acknowledged local politicians kept their remarks to a minimum.
Grenadian-heritage councilman Jumaane Williams, whose office sponsored the event, noted that his district has the highest number of Haitians in any district in the United States.
He spoke directly on the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) given to Haitians for 18 months in light of the January 2010 earthquake and urged it to be extended. He put his position right out there, “I love Obama and want to vote for him again, but if he doesn’t extend TPS to Haitians, I think we should consider whether or not we want him in office next term.” Continuing, “It’s morally reprehensible to send people back to a country that was destroyed without trying to help them. There’s nothing to debate. Every other country that needs it gets it.”
“It’s a huge unfulfilled promise that the U.S. has not done more, both historically and with the current crisis in Haiti, to help out this country,” said Councilman Stephen Levin.
District Leader Rodneyse Bichotte started off the evening with light banter with Jumaane and some history; Councilwoman Lettitia James was also present. The event was organized with the help of Rose Guerrier.