In 2004, Ayti celebrates her 200th anniversary of liberation. Formerly known as "Saint-Domingue" - her liberators, Franoise Dominique Toussaint lOuverture, Henri Christophe, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Alexandre Ption, Charles Blair, Andr Rigaud, General Moyse and hundreds of thousands of freed Africans whose names remain unknown, renamed our new homeland Ayti or "Haiti" after the indigenous Arawak, Caribe, and Taino inhabitants. "The land of many mountains" acknowledged the decimated ancestral owners of the island in manner faithful to her new African roots. Aytians, Blacks and gens de couleur, consorting with the play of words, revealing open secrets, and building silos of enlightenment, renamed the land, Ayti, the Yoruba word for "an immovable force." We had become the land of Ogun!
We witness the 1791 Ceremonie of Bois Cayman led by Vodou priest Hougan Boukman Dutty and priestess Manbo Cecile Fatiman. Here, the terms of self-governance and determination were set in place at one of the first critical massings of the nations: Dahome, Arada, Igbo, Nago (Yoruba), Mahwi, Fon, Ginen, Senegali, Mandingue, Kongo, Wanyole (Angola), Etopie, and other peoples of the Americas. Ago! Ago ci! Ago la!
Over 40,000 captured Africans and disenfranchised mixed race citizens came together in ritualistic, self determined, political, and inevitable actions that brought about a revolution that not only forever changed the course of our own history, but in ways as yet unrecognized, altered the course of world history. Vodou, an ayti in and of itself - the true Mother of the Pan-African Movement - with rites of united consciousness, blood, gunpowder, tears and steel, untied the ropes of bondage holding displaced Africans.
In 1803, Catherine Flon Archarie created the Aytian flag. By 1804, Ayti was the world's "first black republic." In fact, she was the first and only nation of free men and women. Yet the "world" namely the US and Europe - failed to recognize her. When on January 1, 1804 after 13 years of battle, over the roaring of cannons, cheering crowds and ringing church bells, Dessaline's voice triumphantly resonated in Kreyol, "Long live independence!" there was no sense of the nature of the hardships to come from without and within our ranks. For over one hundred years, the people and leadership of Ayti continued to be penalized with diplomatic, economic and political impunity.
Ayti's generals, in defeating the French army, forced Napoleon into a state of bankruptcy which led to the sale of the land known as Louisiana thus increasing the United States land mass by one-third. Beaten into submission, France gave up its holdings in Southern Africa to the British, thus dramatically impacting on Anglo-Boer relations and shaping the subsequent grip of Apartheid in the region.
Fy o sove lavi mwen, nan miz mwenye o. From the harsh taxes imposed by the Americans and Europeans for our defeat of France; to American serial invasions from 1849 and 1913; to disdainful relations with our co-joined neighbor, the Dominican Republic; to the violent overthrow of the totalitarian Duvalier regime; the conspiratorial ouster of the first democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide and the vilification of Ayti's sacred spiritual tenets Vodou, Ayti has paid and continues to pay dearly for independence.
With a history both painful and glorious behind us Ayti's travails are not over as continued infighting, the IMF, and US foreign policy continue to shackle us. In the coming generations our need to redefine the directives of nation building by serving as Ogun's machete to carve new paths of liberation and independence for ourselves grows stronger. Two hundred years ago Aytians recast Jacobin notions of liberty, egalitarianism, and fraternity into freedom for all people. Two hundred years from now, how will democracy, civic society, and sustainability be defined for our children's great grandchildren? Komen nou tout ap adjae? Ideally we should individually and collectively in the Diaspora and in the homeland continue the lessons of the revolution within us.