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17462: Lloyd: Danny Glover and Haiti (fwd)

From: Robin Lloyd <robinlloyd@greenvalleymedia.org>

Here is an article I wrote for my monthly column-
Robin's Nest - in the Peace and Justice Newsletter of Burlington, VT.
Even our backwater is going to know about the biCentennial!
Robin Lloyd

The history of the abuse of Haiti, which in our lifetime has become a
tragedy, is also the story of Western civilization's racism.
--Eduardo Galeano

Danny Glover and Haiti

In preparation for the 200th anniversary of the Haitian Revolution of
1804 my video production company, Green Valley Media, is preparing to
release a DVD that will feature two of our previous Haiti films and
related materials, including an interview with the actor and activist
Danny Glover, who came to Burlington on October 20th for the Vermont
International Film Festival (VIFF).
VIFF had a special focus on Haiti this year, and Danny has been the most
visible promoter of building awareness of the astonishing Haitian
Revolution of 1791-1804. Defying Europes finest armies, slaves won
their freedom and established the first independent Black republic in
the Western hemisphere. Danny is ambassador at large for Cruising Into
History, a cruise ship journey to Haiti planned for August of 2004
I interviewed Danny for the DVD in Harlem. Together with Ron Daniels of
the Center for Constitutional Rights and presidential candidate Al
Sharpton, he was promoting the cruise to an enthusiastic Afro-American
audience. He became most animated when he discussed the movie script he
is working on about the life of Toussaint LOuverture  former slave and
brilliant military strategist during the Haitian Revolution.
He was one of the truly great men in history, Danny has written.
Toussaint was a committed proponent of the rights of man, and was the
leading strategic and military mind during the slaves long, but
eventually victorious war against France.
It is difficult today to even begin to imagine how philosophically bold,
daring, and truly revolutionary it was in the late 1700s for Toussaint
to commit himself to the complete eradication of slavery  not just in
Haiti, but where ever it existed. This had a tremendous psychological
impact on the enslaved throughout the Caribbean, the United States, and
elsewhere. It had an equally dramatic psychological impact on
slaveholders and hastened the dismantling of slavery elsewhere.
Toussaint and his ideas constituted a very dangerous combination to the
United States, which had a large slave population. American slaves knew
about, and were energized by, the Haitian Revolution. From that point
on, there was a real fear among slaveholders that they could lose their
way of life.
A year ago, I was in Haiti a year ago interviewing Haitians on what they
think of the upcoming celebration. Former Aristide supporter and
organizer Ari Nicolas said  There is nothing that can dissuade a
Haitian from believing that defeating slavery deeply disturbed the
whites. We stopped them from making millions {off the slave trade} and
they will never forgive us. Under present circumstances, he implied,
We cant really celebrate our 200th anniversary.
So, why is Haiti the poorest country in the western hemisphere? Could it
be that Ari is right: Haiti has never been forgiven?
A few facts: Haiti was completely isolated, economically and
politically, by the surrounding slave owning powers for decades. The
French government in 1825 demanded 90 million gold francs to
"compensate" white planters for property loss due to the revolutionary
war. The indemnity insured that Haiti would remain in debt to French
financiers for most of the 1800s. In 1863, President Lincoln finally
recognized the Haitian government. But that didnt stop the US from
invading and occupying the country from 1915 to 1934.
In 1991, I interviewed the first democratically elected president of
Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide. That year marked the 200th anniversary of
the beginning of the slave revolt that lasted 13 years. What was he was
planning for 2004? I asked. Aristide said that Haiti, and, he hoped, his
government, would have time to build genuine democracy and prepare for a
celebration that would make the whole world aware of the Haitian peoples
glorious victory over oppression. But he was overthrown only seven
months after taking office.
He was brought back to Haiti in 1994, and elected to the presidency
again in 2000. Unfortunately, he is no longer the idealistic liberation
theology priest he once was. According to many reports, he has formed
some unholy alliances to stay in power. Meanwhile, the US government
has gone out of its way to undermine his elected government.
For over two years, the United States, the European Union, and
multilateral lenders have been holding up some $500 million in aid and
loans because they say Aristide's government and the Lavalas Family
party have failed to reach a compromise with opposition parties who are
protesting allegedly fraudulent parliamentary contests in 2000.
Washington has backed a tiny opposition party called the Democratic
Convergence, which has little popular support but has received some $120
million from the U.S.-based right-wing National Endowment for Democracy.
Recently, there has been a glimmer of hope, The Inter-American
Development Bank announced that it will start releasing nearly $200
million in loans held up by the political maneuvering of the U.S.
government. The money will go towards Haitian government projects for
clean water, health care, education and rural road repair.
At this point, its too late to significantly repair the infrastructure
needed to encourage tourism for the 2004 celebrations. But here in
Burlington we can blow the conch shell in solidarity, and make an effort
to learn more about this unique nation to our south.

PS Check out our website for more info on the DVD. It is $19.95 plus $3

Robin Lloyd
Green Valley Media
300 Maple St.
Burlington, VT 05401