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Remembering the Haitian Revolution

As we welcome a new year on January 1st, Grassroots International pays tribute to the anniversary of the Haitian Revolution, which was won on this day in 1804. As the first country in the Latin American and Caribbean region to liberate itself from European colonization, and the first country in the world to abolish slavery, Haiti inspired struggles for liberation throughout the rest of the region and beyond, and it remains a critical reference point in present-day struggles for social justice, embodied by our Hatian partners. Below is a poem by Grassroots International’s Milourdes Augustin in commemoration of the Haitian Revolution.

Milourdes explains: “I was inspired to write this poem after learning a little about the women’s role in the Haitian Revolution from my colleague. I then did research online over the following year or so and as well as watched many documentaries about Afrika and those who were enslaved in the Taino islands. I also learnt a great deal about the women’s roles in Ayiti and the revolution through helping organize a multiple part series that centered women’s leadership in Ayiti and the historical context of the people and their achievements being the first Maroon island (black liberated people that fought their enslavers and won). I was taught the history of the men that led the liberation when I was a child in Ayiti but it wasn’t until my adulthood that I learned about the role of the women. I want to uplift their voices and achievements and ensure that history never forgets the strong and powerful fanm Ayitian”

Nou pat kriye (We Did Not Cry)

Nou pat kriye

Noun te leve

Et noun te

Gomen pou nou

Libere

Fanm Ayitian yo

Nou tet la

 

Brought in ships

While kicking 

And biting

They say we lived in huts

But our societies surpassed theirs

For centuries they

Envied 

Us and our ways of life

They tried to fight us

But our skills were too much 

For them to handle.

On the field

The women led

Along with the men

As we cut down 

These Pale faces 

That threatened our children

And ways of life

We fought

We strategized

We won every battle against

The Pale and ignorant ones.

 

But our neighbors grew 

Envious of our victories,

Our schools, including universities

Became something they could not 

Steal for themselves.

Instead of learning from us,

Our neighbors wanted to take from us

So they partnered with the 

Pale faces to disrupt our ways 

Of life.

 

They teamed up to destroy civilization

And imprison us as slaves

And then we, as enslaved people

Were to build their civilizations for them.

Do you not understand the errors of your ways, 

Pale ones and those who stand

With them, the faces of oppression and

Injustice?

 

They weakened our 

Forces

With diseases;

Like they did to those of Turtle Island

 

They divided us with their cruelty 

By stealing and murdering 

Our children 

The nonbinary warriors

And two spirited and multi-spirited forces 

 

We cried as we fought back

A mother with a broken 

Heart

Cries until her strength is gone

But remains a warrior

Trying to protect the other mother’s children

 

They brought us to the coast

A place where lovers would go

To be alone

Children would go 

To learn the ways of the 

Waves

Tradespeople would board

Their ships 

To explore new land and trade with

Other nations

 

But this trip was a 

Somber one

For we were not going by 

Will

Nor returning

With triumphs

 

On the ships 

The women were 

Planning their escape

While the Pale ones

Came to get us one by one

To rape.

We would look on the ship for ways 

To fight back

Even killing a few

Along the way

Even if it meant 

Our own lives would be

Tossed to the ocean waves

We did not fear the water

For she has always been sacred to us

We would return to the

Great Divine

 

We fought when we landed

On what is now called Puerto Rico

We fought when we landed

On what is now called Cuba

We fought and we won

On what is now called Ayiti

 

Same peoples 

Spread and mixed 

With the cousins of Turtle Island

We continued to plot our great escape

We fought and we planned 

And were killed

But the Divine

Breathed life back into us

For she was with us

Fighting and planning the liberation

Of her children

 

We won the revolution

Not by the talent of the men 

But the tenacity of the women

And their determination to

Protect their children

And sacred life

 

Ayitian (Haitian) women 

By way of Afrika 

Your courage has not been forgotten

We uplift your voices each day

And pray you know that 

You are not nameless

You did not fight

In vain

You were not raped 

In vain

You did not win the Haitian Revolution in vain

 

You won the revolution

And came home to tell the

Children

Together you made a feast

As the men gave away our

Victory

We cried when we learned this

And wanted to 

Tackle down our own men

For this betrayal

But they yearned for power

When all we wanted to do is 

Protect life.

 

We, the women of Afrika

Living in Ayiti

Continue to fight for our children

And the protection of life

 

Noun kenbe fem

Nou goumen 

Nou libere

Nou refuse kite yo

Pren noun ankor

 

Leve dance

Leve chante

Ayibobo

Noun la! 

Fanm Ayitian an la, cherie.

Et nou pat jame kite yo 

Fe sa ankor.


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