On Thursday night, as I sat watching Ryan Coogler’s film Black Panther, based on the comic by Marvel, I couldn’t help wondering, is Wakanda, Haiti?
My mind was racing. There was so much to unpack. I thought of the economic power of the African American community, Coogler showing the conflict between African Americans and Africans, (something I identified right away being a Haitian Canadian), and the African American feelings of abandonment and not belonging.
I loved seeing The Dora Milajel, Black Panther’s armed forces and how they reminded me of the legendary Dahomey Amazons, and various African female tribal warriors, and Gaddafi’s bodyguards. As well, Haiti’s very own female revolutionary warriors, which I later explain.
I went home and pondered the last few days. I thought of how the similarities of Wakanda is to Haiti’s history, and what my great-grandmother told me as a child.
Many Haitians, when we immigrate to other countries we don’t discuss our history to others. Few know much about Haiti, only that it is the first free black republic country and that it brought on lots of economic repercussions enacted by the French, the British, and the Americans through the years. That is all the outsiders know about Haiti.
Like Wakanda, the outside world, has their perception of Haiti. They’ve been told repeatedly a version of Haiti’s history that’s been cherry picked by American and European powers, with misinformation, anti-Haitian propaganda in the interests of western imperialism.
Mainstream media continues to depict Haitians as poor helpless people, distorting history, censoring images of majority of the island that is quite beautiful, all in an effort to sell poverty porn to the world, and punish Haiti for what it did in 1804.
An image of a country is quite important for tourist dollars, just so you know.
Due to all of this, it has made some Haitians feel embarrassed, ashamed of who they are, forgetting their history and where they originated. Some Haitian immigrant parents, push assimilation so hard onto their children, not realizing the repercussions of doing so will lead to erasure of their identity, culture and feeling lost.
For Haitians like me, we’re not embarrassed. I lived in Haiti, still have family there I speak to all the time, I know my people’s history. I refuse to subscribe to what others say, I never felt a need to assimilate, be accepted or validated by anyone whether it be black or white. I am Haitian.
It was drilled in my head, by my great-grandmother and other members of my family, our people, our direct lineage were rebels, warriors, leaders, emperors, and Presidents.
Many immigrants, like Haitians don’t share details of their history to others, especially in America, because there is an American privilege, imperialism and an arrogance that permeates throughout the country, and is also deeply rooted in the African American community as well, where there is an unwillingness to listen to other people in the Africa diaspora about their history, culture, and how they relate to Africa.
The perception seems to be if one is African, Caribbean, or Latin American identifying with their culture, heritage, tribe, and nationality, is somehow a denial of Blackness. For us, it’s all intertwine.
When I watched Black Panther, I can see and relate to everything to the people in the fictional land called Wakanda, because that is Haitian history.
Like Wakanda, Haiti is considered poor, but to us it’s rich. Haiti is not in Africa, but it’s an extension of Africa. It’s small and isolated situated in the Caribbean waters. We too are warriors, we have our own culture, a language to call our own, and we want the colonizers to leave us alone. Other than the French language and Catholicism remaining by the colonizers, it’s more Afrocentric than Eurocentric than any diaspora in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti actually preserved more of the African traditions, beliefs, culture, ideology, and practices and infused African language, into Taino/Awawak language with the French and Spanish made it into Creole.
One of the major similarities I noticed in Black Panther was the conflict between T’Challa and Killmonger, who battled for power, and had different ideologies. Haiti itself had Henry Christophe and Alexandre Pétion, who battled for power after one of our first founding fathers, Emperor Jean-Jacques Dessalines was assassinated.
Christophe and Pétion, eventually compromised by establishing two governments: the Kingdom of Haiti versus the Republic of Haiti. Both men did not see eye to eye.
Christophe who called himself “King Henry”, was actually born in British colony Grenada, was more of an Anglophile. He embraced the British empire, and its culture, trading with them, establishing universities, the arts, several palaces, and building the famous Citadelle Laferrière. A fortress, with weapons, and supplies in case of a French invasion.
Meanwhile in the south of Haiti, Alexandre Pétion was focused more on the people of Haiti. According to accounts after Haiti proclaimed independence,
“…the plantations of the colonists were confiscated and became the property of the Haitian state, one of the first act of Alexandre Pétion was to pass a law called “National Gifts” distributing lands to farmers, and former soldiers and officers who fought for Haiti’s Independence, thus creating moderate and small rural estates, this generous act boosted his popularity and earned him the nickname of “Papa bon coeur” (good hearted daddy); he understood that the best way of developing national spirit was to attach citizens to the soil, by making them the owners of the land they cultivate. The agrarian problems which at the time was one of the greatest preoccupations of the United States of America and the majority of European countries, was solved by the Black Republic in the most democratic manner under the leadership of Alexandre Pétion.”
He also helped in liberating other nations from slavery. He provided ships, supplies, weapons to Simon Bolivar, and his people to liberate Venezuela, Colombia, and other parts of South American from Spain.
Similar to what Black Panther ends up doing at the end and will do in Avengers: Infinity War.
While Henri Christophe, who would later be despised by the people for his feudal policies, chose to take the cowardly way out, by killing himself, in fear of being assassinated or risk a coup.
For Alexandre Pétion, who was called “Papa Bon-Cœur” (Father Good Heart), was beloved when he died in March 29, 1818. To this day, he is still remembered in Haiti, and throughout Latin America.
White foreigners could not own property in Haiti up until Constitution of 1918. However, during the revolution Polish soldiers who was under French rule was brought over to fight against Haitians, not knowing the Haitians were battling for independence, eventually sided with Haitians and fought against the French army. Polish stayed and married Haitians.
Everything was in the interest for Black and Brown people of Haiti.
Haiti, the jewel in the Caribbean, thrived for some time. There was peace for awhile, but then internal conflicts and external forces eventually prevented it to continue to thrive.
Haiti became an example for many other countries across the globe to fight for independence. In fact, it has been documented that countries such as the United States, Britain, and Spain purposely kept news of Haiti’s revolt a secret, fearing that slaves in their colonies and lands would be inspired to revolt as well. In turn, Haiti was punished for not being worthy of commercial exchange or trade in later years.
Like Wakanda, the colonizers to this day can’t leave Haiti alone.
Another major similarities Haiti have with Wakanda, which many do not know is, our Haitian female revolutionary warriors and soldiers. We had lots of them.
Cécile Fatiman, was a voodoo mambo priestess and the wife of Jean-Louis Pierrot, Haitian president from 1845 to 1846. She told Haitians in 1791 at Bois Caïman in a voodoo ceremony, to take revenge against the French oppressors and, “Cast aside the image of the God of the oppressors.”
It was to seal their fates, create loyalty and unity among the rebels which was critical to the success of the Haitian Revolution.
She was actually the start of our Revolution. Women often initiated the wars.
When Okoye in Black Panther stated to Nakia,
“I am loyal to that thrown. No matter who sits on it”
It made sense to me. Haiti had its own Okoye that would go to battle and die for her leader, her people at any moment in time.
Like notable Haitian women warriors: Sanité Bélair and Marie-Jeanne Lamartiniére.
Bélair fought and was a sergeant in the army of Toussaint Louverture. She was known for her bravery, because when she was captured by the French army, she refuse to wear a blindfold and demanded to be shot like her husband, but instead they decapitated her because of her gender. Before she died, she shouted, “Viv Libète anba esklavaj!”(“Liberty, no to slavery!”).
Marie-Jeanne Lamartiniére is also a memorable figure in Haitian history. She was a soldier during the Haitian Revolution and fought in traditional men garments. She led the charge, load the guns, distributed the cartridges, and fired at the siege of Crête-à-Pierrot that was besieged by a French army of over 12,000 men.
One account stated, “how could they, the army of Napoleon and the strongest fighting force on Earth, lose to a slave woman such an underwhelming amount of men?!”
“… By far, the French watched their work of destruction when, stunned, they saw on the walls of the fort, a woman who excited the fighters. It was Marie-Jeanne, the wife of Lamartinière. Sword in hand, rifle in hand, she shared all the dangers of the heroic defenders of Crête-à-Pierrot.”
Some account stated after the war, she became Dessalines’ personal bodyguard and head of his security detail. Other accounts say that she was only his mistress and the position of bodyguard was given to her so as not to illicit suspicion from his wife, but what remains true is that the only assassination attempt on Dessalines that succeeded was the one time she was not guarding him on October 17, 1806.
One of the most beloved, fearless woman in Haitian history is Défilée la Folle also known as Dédée Bazile, who carried the body of Haitian Revolution’s leader and founding father turn governor-general, turn Emperor, Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
Dessalines, would later be so loathed by the people as Emperor, after his assassination, his body was mutilated by a mob of people and his killers threatened anyone who tried to bury him.
Défilée la Folle, a former slave, ignored the threats, took Dessalines’ body, and gave him a proper burial.
A monument at the northern entrance of the Haitian capital marks the place where the Emperor was killed.
In Haiti, we are reminded of our history, the Haitian men and women who fought for our independence, on stamps, in our bank notes, in monuments, and in books.
For me, unlike Black Panther who was born in Wakanda, I was born in Canada, but my rebel blood comes from Haiti. Mixed with all sorts of people.
T’Challa is both African and Black Panther. I’m a Carribean Canuck. We both live in world of duality.
Even though I left Canada at a tender age, maintain my Canadian nationality, French being my first language, picked up the love of figure skating, (which I later would do for over 10+ years in the states), what I hold dear to my heart is, my impressionable and formative years in Haiti.
Before coming to America, I lived with my large extended family, and fierce, independent, beautiful great-grandmother who told me stories, our history and who we are. I learned Creole from them. I still speak it to this day. My family always surprise how fluent I am. I learned how to make majority of the food, soup joumou, griot, poisson, rice and beans from them.
I remember in kindergarten and 1st grade singing every morning the National anthem, in the courtyard of my school, “La Dessalinienne” named after Haiti’s revolutionary and first leader. To this day, still remember it.
“Pour le Drapeau, pour la Patrie (For the flag, for the country) Mourir est beau, mourir est beau! (To die is beautiful, to die is beautiful) Notre passé nous crie (Our past cries out to us) Ayez l’âme aguerrie! (Have a seasoned soul!) Mourir est beau, mourir est beau (To die is beautiful, to die is beautiful) Pour le Drapeau, pour la Patrie (For the flag, for the country) Mourir, mourir, mourir est beau (To die is beautiful, to die is beautiful) Pour le Drapeau, pour la Patrie.” (For the flag, for the country)
So, when I see injustice occurring in America, with racism, sexism, the corruption, my Haitian side of me says, kill your masters my American friends, get your freedom, don’t wait for it, don’t ask for it, just do it. Travel abroad and learn other cultures. Decolonize your minds as a friend says.
Black Panther realize, he has to help the world. For me, I try to do the same and provide what I know to friends.
Granted, Black Panther is fictional. It will be an inspiration for so many at this moment in time and the future to come. As it should, but for me, I have real life superheroes from my people’s history, that I was told while growing up, that I could identify with, be proud of, and that I can inspire to become.
Independent, strong, fearless, and smart warriors.
Now the unfortunate thing though is, Haiti doesn’t have, (not that I know of), the sound-absorbing element, called the vibranium that came from a massive meteorite which Wakandans are protecting from the world.
However, what Haiti does have, something we Haitians have known all our lives, and my family and great-grandmother told me since I can remember — Haiti has gold and lots of it.
After the 2010 Earthquake, the secret was revealed. All the gold came popping up out of the earth.
Haiti continues to fight to protect its freedom and resources, from foreign invaders and colonizers. It’s been a battle, with the government corrupt and cozy with the empires. We still have a long way to go.
Only wish we could have the same advanced technology like Wakanda, so we can protect ourselves. However, Haiti is still rich in history, culture, and other resources. I hope me boasting about Haiti being the real Wakanda, will teach and inspire others to fight for equality, justice, and freedom.
For that Bugatti Spaceship, if Haiti has one, I wouldn’t tell you.
I gave the film an