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#3643: Grey-Degraff debate on Creole spelling : Backer comments

From: Alice Eddie Backer <edback50@yahoo.com>

Fellow Corbetters,

I have been silent on this list so far but I have been
following the "Mambo Racine"/Linguist Degraff debate
regarding the spelling of certain creole words very
closely. I have also read every word of a thread in
which several non-haitians and some haitians, Ms. Grey
a.k.a. "Mambo Racine" included, have called Haitians

Given that I am not a linguist, I was not going to
intervene in the former debate, but several facts have
convinced me to put in my 2 cents:
1) I learned to spell creole when I was a teen-ager
attending high school in Haiti, and as if by magic,
what I learned looks a lot like what Mr. Degraff has
been advocating. i.e Manbo and not Mambo, rasin and
not racine, san and not sans etc.

2) Common sense dictates that in a debate between a
linguist whose specialty is Haitian Creole and a Manbo
whose specialty would be voodoo, I would rather trust
the linguist when it comes to matters relating to
creole spelling.

3)... (And this is literally the straw that broke the
camel's back) ... I read in Essence today that
researchers believe that one of the reasons Black
people in this country suffer from blood pressure at
higher rates than Whites is that they often bottle up
opinions.  The article encouraged people of color to
decry bias and arrogant attitudes when they saw them.

So here (for my sanity and health and probably for
that of quite a few Corbetters) is my opinion. 

A) Ms. Grey should probably learn that IT NEVER HELPS
ONE'S CASE to attack the very people whose approval
one is seeking. I am neither a linguist nor a manbo,
but as a student of the law I have spent a great deal
of time learning how to discern unsincere, bogus
arguments. Credibility is key. However, Ms. Grey lost
her credibility in the eyes of  many on this list
before this debate started, whne she partook in
calling haitians "dishonest" despite the fact that her
livelihood, i.e. her "Mambo" career, was provided to
her by an (overly generous!) Haitian houngan. She has
repeated outmoded platitudes about haitians and
"dishonesty" that prove how very disconnected she is
from a haitian reality she claims to understand. 

BE SEPARATED FROM HAITIANS. In other words, it is
ludicrous to claim to embrace haitian vodou while
insulting haitian people as "dishonest". Ms. Grey
should make up her mind; if she thinks Haitians are
inherently "dishonest", then she  has no business
dabbling with Haitian vodou which is a product of
Haitian historical, cultural and socio-economic
realities. Whether she likes it or not, her embracing
of vodou proves that she identifies more with Haitian
cultural traits then she would have it.  Given  her
negative view of Haitian culture, she has a lot of
soul-searching to do.

Ms Grey's disdain for Haitian culture, the hand that
nonetheless feeds her, is further examplified by her
bull-headed, childish, bickering with a Haitian
linguist whose knowledge of Haitian creole is much
more updated then her original source, the Houngan who
trained her. Here it is worth noting that vodou, as
all religions, has its progressives and its
conservatives. The tradition of spelling creole
according to french orthographic rules was started by
such French colonial writers as Moreau de St-Mery in
their transcription of creole songs during the French
colonial reign. Although that tradition was still
alive in Jacques Roumain's Gouverneurs de la Rosee, IT
standardized phonetic spelling which was embraced by a
convention of creole-speaking countries THROUGHOUT THE
GLOBE. (I'm sure Mr. DeGraff could fill us in on that
movement). Given that Ms. Grey's Houngan is a voodoo
priest and not a linguist he is likely not even aware
of the importance of a politically-correct spelling of
creole, like many of his generation. A spelling,
which, by the way, can only help the  precarious
literacy process in Haiti since it is more
illiterate-friendly than the french spelling.

C) Of course it may be that I am udderly mistaken and
that in fact, Ms. Grey's target audience is not
Haitian at all but rather  is comprised of those
non-haitians who, in her image, like vodou but think
of haitians as thieves and liars.  Under this
scenario, it becomes all too clear that Ms. Grey's
name-calling of Haitians may be yet another marketing
ploy to sell her services to a given market. (The
anti-Angela Novayan crusade being  another such
marketing technique).  Well, I truly hope that her
dishonest marketing scheme  has successfully attracted
the vodou-curious but racist share of the vodou market
to her. She and that market deserve each other. 

Meanwhile, let's hope that that share of the market
which is interested in Vodou AND who respects Haitians
and the complexity of their culture and language has
already understood that they will need to look
elsewhere (to the Manbos and houngans who talk less
then the know-it-all "Mambo" but who know their stuff)
for the type of progressive and politically-evolved
vodou services that they are looking for. 

Chak pen gen fwomaj yo, e mpap achte fwomaj madan
gre-a!!! (Each bread's got its cheese, and Ms Grey's
cheese ain't made for mine!)  

Wishing you a vulturism-free quest for truth,

A. Backer     

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