Long past nightfall, deep within the Massif du Nord, we still hear Dutty Boukman exhorting us towards a new day—as he did once before. His prayer, our prayer, is old yet new, its words ever relevant to the task at hand: << Bon Dye ki kreye la tè a. Ki di solèy la klere. Bon Dye ki bay lanmè a tout dwa li merite. Ki pèmet loray gronde. Bon Dye ki gen zorèy pou li tande. Ou menm ki kache nan nwaj yo. Kap gade. Siveye. Fè yo sonje la verite: dènye sa ki te dèyè gen pou pran devan ! >> The last shall be first.
<< Pa lage nou nan mitan tanpèt la . >> Keep us safe from the storm. << Pwoteje nou anba maladi etranje yo pote pou nou. >> Spare us from diseases which strangers bring to us. << Pa kite kolon yo pwoche peyi nou . >> Keep the colonists away from our land.
<< Sezi lang tout moun k ap niche bòt rayisab yo . >> Take the tongue from those who would lick the boots of our oppressors. << Anseye san-konprann yo; di yo dlo pa kouri nan je Ayisyen pou moun swaf ka plen vant yo . >> Teach the strangers that our tears are not to satisfy their insatiable thirst.
<< Nou pa ka pataje lanmou pandan nou antere anba dekonb arivis. >> We cannot share love, when we are buried under the rubble of their greed. << Koute vwa libète k ap rele anmwey andedan kè nou. Doulè ki pa janm ka fin blese n; doulè ki pa janm ka fin kase kè n. Pran doulè sa yo pou nou . >> Take away the pain that wounds our broken hearts. Delivre nou, Bon Dye .>>
We do not send up prayers blindly. It seems that our simplest of prayers–to live with dignity as full members of the human village–has been reduced to absolutions mounted atop the wings of the obscene. Subsisting on the dark side of an island haunted by double consciousness, we are the last of the Original Suffer heads.
According to Europe, the wages of our freedom is the boot of submission. Found guilty of freedom gained, we are currently serving a sentence of a life of pain. Was this not our lot according to the deeds of the colonizers? While they and the rest of the world proclaim us the lowest of low, we know better, for Boukman’s words dance on our lips.
We do not want your factories and their slave wages. We are not the training ground for your ruddy-cheeked millennials. You can take your Cholera back home with you; we are finished with it. You say you come here to work with us; yet every time you swing the machete, the blade cuts our electricity, spills our blood, dries up our water, and breaks our bones.
The world bottles our tears and drinks deeply. It is an abomination to us that you seem to find satisfaction in sitting so far from suffering, in the opulent confines of corporate cocoons, spinning threads to wrap around the necks of children.
You come here and hide tools and machines on the island that should be used to rebuild our cities and only bring them out to insure your own comfort. You are the monster. Ayiti’s suffering is a referendum on your humanity.
Only when Ayiti is free of tormentors will we be able to deal with the vicissitudes of Mama Earth, be it weather or earthquake.
The challenge of rebuilding is no greater than the challenge of gaining freedom, and it is that knowledge that keeps the light shining in our hearts in the midst of pain. Even with all that you have done to us, we are willing to share the vision of our beautiful future.
Be clear that you can no longer march in with starched collars and pressed sleeves and order us about.
Ousmane Sow’s Louverture (kdu photos)
If you are not willing to have the same dirt under your fingernails and the same scrapes on your knees—as it is with our brothers and sisters who scratch out life from the hills of Jérémie, Chantal, and Les Cayes each day—then this is not the job for you.
Ayiti will be free of all that ails her, with or without your help. Bondye te delivre nou yon fwa deja. Delivrans nou sou wout.
Photograph Courtesy of Jason Harris.
Baltimore-based writer and 2015 Kimbilio Fiction fellow, Jason Harris, is the editor of the speculative fiction anthology REDLINES: Baltimore 2028, as well as the author of the soon-to-be-released novel Fly Girl. His work can be found at www.newfuturism.com