Global Voices: Haiti

The Caribbean Comes Together After Hurricane Irma

Global Voices: Haiti - Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:28

A public Facebook status update posted by Trinidadian Wendell Manwarren after hearing of the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma, which reads, “Time to Rally, Caribbean People.”

It is unusually still in the Caribbean. With nary a breeze, the heat is almost oppressive. But as hurricanes cut a path through the region, skies will turn from blue to menacing grey, and sunshine to downpour in a New York minute — and this is happening further down the archipelago, in territories that weren't even in Hurricane Irma‘s direct path of the northern Leeward Islands.

But despite the lethargy that the weather is inflicting, people are energised, banding together to send supplies, money, and other forms of relief to those affected.

The strongest storm of the Atlantic hurricane season since Wilma in 2005, packing wind speeds of up to 185 mph (295 km/h), Irma quickly became a Category 5 cyclone powerful enough to be picked up by seismographic equipment:

Seismometer recordings from the past 48 hours on Guadeloupe show Cat. 5 #Hurricane #Irma driving closer toward the Lesser Antilles

— Stephen Hicks (@seismo_steve) September 5, 2017

With the nation of Antigua and Barbuda in the front line on the night of September 5, 2017, there were serious concerns about the country's ability to handle the onslaught:

#Irma is now gone off the scale – it is now a Cat 5+ with 175 mph sustained winds – may the lord bless our souls

— Antigua Met Service (@anumetservice) September 5, 2017

The smaller of the two islands, Barbuda, was practically flattened and for a time, all communication was lost. By September 6, the prime minister was calling for a complete evacuation of the island, saying it was “uninhabitable”. The damage was so widespread that there was nowhere left for people to shelter in safety — especially since Hurricane Jose is hot on Irma's heels, and seems intent on battering the same targets.

From Jamaica, Facebook user Annie Paul posted:

A Facebook status update by Annie Paul, in which she says, “What's really worrying is that Jose is chasing behind Irma like this…”

Barbuda recorded one hurricane-related fatality on the island, and it is astounding that there weren't more. Videos of the aftermath quickly began circulating on instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp and social media channels. There were accounts likening the experience to a horror movie: people running from house to house as roofs were blown off, 40-ft. containers “flying through the air”, and “cars flying over our heads”.

‘Let's look out for our own, for we are ONE CARIBBEAN’

As Irma continued to wreak havoc, more and more islands were added to the list:

Facebook status update from Holly Bynoe: “Barbuda, St. Martin/Maarten, Saba, St. Bart's, Tortola, Anagarda, Virgin Gorda. My heart breaks.”

We forget the Turks & Caicos Islands. In Irma's path, N of Haiti. High point abt 140 ft above sea level. Full of Haitian/J'can/DR workers

— Judy Raymond (@heyjudeTT) September 5, 2017

Citizen media videos coming out of Tortola were also distressing.

Netizens soon started asking for suggestions as to the best way to help, and contact information for any trustworthy organisations that would be coordinating relief efforts. Even those who had been through the deluge themselves, but fared better than places like Barbuda and St. Maarten, were concerned about the welfare of their neighbours. From St. Kitts, Dele Adams said:

Hi guys! Thanks for checking in. We in St. Kitts

Categories: Global Voices: Haiti

‘My Freedom Is Mine’ — Caribbean Netizens Discuss Emancipation Day

Global Voices: Haiti - Wed, 08/02/2017 - 22:27

Emancipation Day sparks online debate on hard-fought freedoms.

Redemption Song Statue, Emancipation Park, Jamaica. Photo by Mark Franco, used with permission.

On August 1 each year, several Caribbean territories — including Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica — commemorate Emancipation Day in honour of the day in 1834 when the British emancipated enslaved Africans. The day sparked passionate dialogue on the holiday's meaning and the manifestation of enslavement in contemporary society.

On Twitter, Jamaica's governing party remembered its significance:

183 years ago, on August 1st, Jamaica made strides towards #EqualRightsAndJustice. 311,000 slaves in Jamaica were freed. #Emancipation

— JLPJamaica (@jlpjamaica) August 1, 2017

Others shared this focus on a way forward:

August mornin’ come! Freedom, to chart our own destiny. To aspire, to build, to become. #Emancipation #Jamaica #OneLove #1st1000Matter

— Early Childhood JA (@ECCJA) August 1, 2017

#Jamaica celebrated 183 yrs of #Emancipation today. But the legacy of slavery still affects my home today. Its time to move forward together

— Rachael Minott (@rachaelminott) August 1, 2017

Emancipation as a product?

Cultural appropriation immediately came to the fore in online debates about Emancipation Day. Facebook user Rhoda Bharath shared a link to an article pleading with Black America to “stop appropriating African clothing and tribal marks,” noting that “if we are ignorantly using a culture that is not ours, we are appropriating.” In the comments thread Bharath added, “To me, the thing to remember is which culture had power and which culture was dominated […] Appropriation occurs when a dominant culture takes over or lays claim to a subordinate culture.”

In the same vein, Bharath bristled when she read a news report quoting Khafra Kambon, chairman of the Emancipation Support Committee (ESC) in Trinidad and Tobago, who said, “It is important to recognize the unexploited value of the Emancipation product.” Bharath countered:

Was Khafra Kambon quoted correctly here in today's Express?
I just got a nosebleed.
Product? For whom?
Unexploited? For who to come and exploit? And turn it into a commercialised pappyshow?
Emancipation celebrations should not be a product.

How do we remember?

Netizens also discussed the enduring effects of slavery. On Facebook, Trinidadian playwright Tony Hall linked to an interview with Black American attorney Bryan Stevenson, who summed it up by saying, “I don't think slavery ended in 1865. I think it has just evolved.”

Journalist turned filmmaker Kim Johnson posted an article he wrote a few years ago, triggered by a picture he kept, which details the history of the abolition of slavery and how Emancipation Day came to be marked in Trinidad and Tobago:

When I first came across the photograph of the slave it felt white-hot with meaning, as if it would burn the New York Times page on which it was printed. […] Neither the subject nor the photographer was named, only the date and the place: 1863, a Louisiana cotton plantation. And the fact that the man was a slave who had been flogged by his ‘owner’. […]

On the Holocaust Monument in Israel, dedicated to the victims of the Nazis, is the inscription:
‘This must never happen again.’

We in the Caribbean have been more ambivalent towards the horror and shame that was plantation slavery. The sons and daughters of both slaves and slave-owners must live together, and indeed have gone far towards building a civilisation from the charnel house of history. Our monument is ourselves, our society and culture. Its inscription: ‘Do you remember the days of slavery?’ […]

It is a memory which changes over time and which, according to UWI Professor of History Barry Higman finds ‘its most complete expression in the celebration of the anniversary of emancipation’.

Deeply affected by the injustice of slavery, Johnson remembered a trip he made to the slave port of Badagry in Nigeria, which highlighted the complicity of Africans in the Transatlantic Slave Trade:

Chief Bowei explained, ‘The descendants of the slave masters talk with so much pride and they show you the graves of the slavemasters, their ancestors and show you the grave of this man, he was a slave master and they are so proud and I get so disgusted, that’s me. My very first time to Trinidad I just laid low to study the people in Trinidad. To see if they had any bitterness in them especially toward pure Africans as a result of the slave trade and all that.’

The power of statuary

Jamaica-based blogger Annie Paul curated tweets about the type of monuments used to mark emancipation in various parts of the world. It was inspired by the following tweet from Samuel Sinyangwe, who, on a trip to Barbados, was enthralled with a statue depicting Bussa, who led a slave revolt in 1816:

First day in Barbados and we drove past this monument three times. I've never seen anything like it. (1/x)

— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) July 2, 2017

In a follow-up tweet he explained:

In my entire life I've never seen any monument that symbolized the power of black liberation in the way this statue does. By design.

— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) July 2, 2017

Paul found this Twitter thread “fascinating because in Jamaica the curatoriat was dead set against what it considered clichéd representations of the enslaved bursting out of chains. This directly influenced the selection of Jamaica's Emancipation Monument.”

Sinyangwe added:

The statue I remember seeing growing up in Orlando was this one. It celebrates confederate soldiers fighting to keep black people enslaved.

— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) July 2, 2017

It was taken down ONE MONTH ago. And they'd never replace it with a statue like the one in Barbados.

— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) July 2, 2017

Twitter users from all over the region soon began posting photos of monuments commemorating emancipation in various countries, such as this one of Cuffy in Guyana:

This is Cuffy in Georgetown, Guyana. He led a slave revolt starting on Feb. 23, 1763, a day which Guyana still recognizes as Republic Day

— Randy

Categories: Global Voices: Haiti
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