"What became of the Black people of Sumer?' the traveler asked the old man, for ancient records show that the people of Sumer were Black. `What happened to them?' `Ah,' the old man sighed. `They lost their history, so they died."
--A Sumer Legend
January 1st marks the commemoration of one of the greatest days in the modern history of Afrikan people! In 1804, the free republic of Haiti was established on the Western portion of the island of Hispanola. The establishment of this nation was no small task. It was lead by Afrikan men the likes of Touissant L'Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Never in the history of the world had a people freed themselves from enslavement, then establish a nation--one that continues to exist to this day.
L'Ouverture and Dessalines
Although it has often been stated that the Haitian revolution was inspired by the French and American revolutions, we should be clear that the condition of enslavement itself, creates it own desire for freedom. It does not need external motivation, it simply needs opportunity. The actual slave revolt began and was lead by an enslaved person from Jamaica, named Boukman. He was a priest versed in the traditional spiritual practices of Afrika. The person who took control of the revolution, however, was a self-educated former house slave named Touissant L'Ouverture. He established Saint Domingue as a French "protectorate," appointing himself as governor-for-life, and issuing a Constitution. Napoleon responded by sending French soldiers and warships to the island, under the command of his brother-in-law, General Charles Leclerc. The purpose of the expedition was to recolonize and restore slavery to the island. As the French forces approached, L'Ouverture faced defection from some of his generals. Thereafter, L'Ouverture agreed to surrender as long as he retained his rank, and his army was integrated into the French army. Soon he was deceived by the French, and shipped to a French prison, where he died shortly afterwards. This betrayal, and more importantly, the fear that the island under French rule would restore slavery, caused Dessalines to pick up the sword again. As the French forces died from yellow fever the Afrikans intensified their struggle. Dessalines would lead the rebellion to its completion, finally defeating the French in 1803. On January 1, 1804, he officially declared the former colony independent, renaming it "Haiti" after the Arawak indigenous name for the island.
Why all Afrikan people should commemorate this day
The Haitian Revolution lasted from 1791–1804, a period filled with political in-fighting, bloody battles, shifting political alliances, and betrayals. But in the end the Afrikans were victorious. And the entire Afrikan Disapora, those enslaved in the Caribbean, South America, and North America, came to know and even celebrate the triumph of the Afrikans in Saint-Domingue. Why, would the Afrikan world reverberate from this event you say: Because the Haitian forces did not stop there; they were on a mission to end slavery wherever it existed. They wiped it out in eastern part of the island, present-day Dominican Republic; they assisted Simon Bolivar in his efforts to free Latin American, offering soldiers and arms, only wanting in return the promise he would forbade slavery, which he did; they were the inspiration for numerous slave revolts, including Gabriel Prosser's and Denmark Vessey's (both in America)--it has even been said that Vessey was Haitian. Thousands of freed Afrikans or ex-slaves from around the diaspora went to live in Haiti, the land of free Black people.
Whereas the loss of Haiti was a decisive blow to France and its colonial empire, it was a glorious event for the enslaved in human history, and more immediately, it made a statement to enslaved Afrikans in the new world. It is for this reason that the establishment of Haiti is worthy of commemoration to all Afrikan people (or any people who have at one time or another in their history been subjected to enslavement)! Despite much of the travails in Haiti's history, we can and should still revel in its historic accomplishment. We must not lose sight of the work that still needs to be done for Afrikan restoration and hopefully Haiti's recent acceptance into the African Union will help to ignite or even accelerate the process. The Haitian Revolution is historic and as Afrikan people in the diaspora, the descendants of the enslaved, we should all be celebrating it commemoration. Shame on us if we don't!!!