Haiti map

Haiti in the World

It is a profoundly painful experience to see Haiti suffer so in the wake of this huge earthquake.  With staggering figures in the British press of 100,000 and predictions up to 500,000 dead, it is one time we hope that this is another exaggerated media story. However the actual quake and its deathly rubble is one thing, but the shortage of clean water and absense of adequate medical supplies in the country will certainly take its toll on the poverty bound nation in the wake of the shaking ground.     

The international relief effort is underway and we hope that their efforts are firmly, truly and effectively directed toward the people of Haiti.  It was really weird to see all the European charity workers on TV leaving on the planes, just when you would have thought their help was really needed. Though it was good to hear that skilled and experienced relief workers from the UK, Europe and around the world were on their way also.  And it’s especially good to hear that American forces are being directed towards this cause instead of just protecting oil pipelines and poppy fields in the Middle East.  Though of course, in addition to the humanitarian concern, the US also has the political pressure to stem any flow of refugees from the island toward its nearby borders.      

If a donation is something you can offer then choose a route to get your funds to the Haitians.  Two such routes are ……      

http://www.dec.org.uk/ – Disasters Emergency Committee – Officially coordinating the British efforts across lots of international charities.      

http://www.yele.org/  – WYCLEF JEAN’s (Haitian born) fundraising outfit which has to date raised almost half a million dollars.      

It is understandable that people may have donation fatigue and cynicism towards such appeals but we hope you still do what suits you and your conscience. Even if that’s a heartfelt prayer.      

Haiti - as tourist destination

One reason that Haiti is so important to Bristol 2007 is that it was the first post-colonial state outside of Africa to become independent and led by African people.  The revolution in St Domingue which ran from 1791 to its independence in 1804 was a prime example of  ‘Slaves Who Abolished Slavery’ , to quote the title of one of  Richard Hart’s books.  As a French colony, and a very profitable one for France,  the call for ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ that accompanied the French Revolution in 1789 had a huge impact on the enslaved, the ‘free blacks’ and the ‘gens de coleur’ (people of colour, like Coloureds in South Africa – basically mixed race people) on the island.  The French Revolution basically led to the rise in revolutionary sentiment on that island , and other French colonies, who wanted a piece of those enlightened ideals.      

First the ‘Coloureds’ went to France to seek equal rights themselves. This they got reluctantly and partially, though not for long.  They even got seats in the French parliament.  There was much division on the island between coloureds, blacks, whites and all such divisions meant that it took a while to realise the French ruling classes were not really ready to give up slavery or their profitable colony.   In 1791, a revolution on the island kicked off   – key players were Toussaint L’Overture, Dessalines and Voodoo priest Boukman.  All were assassinated, tricked or captured at some point though not before ultimately succeeding in their creation of a state. It took a while. After trickery and deception from the French;  bolstering by military collusion with the British in the Caribbean – even though they were generally at war with other during these  times –  and years of bloody conflict before St Domingue became Haiti in 1804.   In 1794 France’s new idealist republican government even abolished slavery altogether before Napoleon seized power and restored slavery in French colonies between 1796 and 1804.     

    (see The Truth About Haiti’s Suffering )

    Danny Glover is due to shoot a film about Toussaint in 2010.      

    Toussaint pic


    We are very keen to see this story out there because it’s an important and iconic story.  There’s  hearsay, rumour and this-and-that being said about the film’s provenance, script, sources of funding and the like, but it also just needs to get out there. Whoever the cast, whatever the outcome, it would be good if it just comes out.   If you don’t like Glover’s film, make another one.  Maybe about Dessalines or the Priest Boukman.   However, for now, Glover must have the connections and impact to make sure that a film happens at a level of profile and production values that positions this story as an important piece of world history.  And one that shows us why this island is a place of vital significance to the ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’ ideals.  So with that in mind, we should support Glover and his endeavour to do so.     

    Of course the Abolition story in Britain does not go into this rebellion stuff much. The British establishment chooses instead to paint hagiographic portraits of William Wilberforce freeing the poor slaves.  Though in truth it was revolutionary actions like the Haitian Revolution and the Sam Sharpe rebellion in Jamaica, Bussa in Barbados, the French Revolution itself and so forth that brought an end to that period of slavery.       

    Yes –  we know that slavery is not really over but transformed into worship of the dollar bill, the pounds, the pence and the yen, debt bondage and other forms of forced labour.  But with that in mind, Bristol2007 hopes you can see why Haiti represents a powerful place to direct some of ours bankers’ bills right now.      

    And after the Relief effort, it would be good to keep an eye on that island to see how else they cope ;  how else we can help;  or how we might be inspired by them.  Not only in the aftermath of natural disaster but also in the light of the ongoing political and economic turmoil that Haiti has experienced in recent times, under poor leadership in a hostile world.      

    As you might see from the picture below. This is Haiti normally, BEFORE the Earthquake. That image might give you an idea of it’s economic place in that world.  

    Everyday Haiti-before any earthquake-a place for ‘cast-off’ clothes from the US. (- click to go to tomorrowmuseum.com)


    Background information:

    ABOUT HAITI ? – – – – >


    Haiti’s poverty – as for other poor countries hit by natural disasters – leaves its people wide open to the kind of devastation that has befallen them. And make no mistake, Haiti’s poverty is not just bad luck or something inherently faulty about its natural resources and people. The country has been kept underdeveloped by decades of political and economic interference from Washington to ensure that this former slave colony continues to serve as a cheap source of agricultural exports to the US and as a labour sweatshop for American corporations making textiles and other consumer goods.

    should “former slave colony” really read- 
    ” REBELLIOUS former slave colony”





    I’ve written before about the fact that I am not begging for an apology from Britain and the other slave trading countries.  An apology should be something they offer sincerely, and not something that I should have to beg for.  That said, the disdain in which they continue to trample on the reality that is the legacy of the slave trade as if it is meaningless disgusts me.

    This morning I woke up to news that Gordon Brown said “the time is now right for the UK government to apologise for the actions of previous governments.”  This was quoted from a letter in which he has agreed to apologise for the UK’s role in sending thousands children to former colonies.  According to the story on the BBC News website:

    “Under the Child Migrants Programme – which ended just 40 years ago – poor children were sent to a “better life” in Australia, Canada and elsewhere. But many were abused and ended up in institutions or as labourers on farms.”

    The  Child Migrants Programme dates back to 1618 “when a hundred children were sent from London to Richmond, Virginia which is now one of the United States of America. The final group arrived in Australia in 1967.”  (see here for history.)   I am pleased that Gordon Brown is apologising for this terrible state-sanctioned policy by a former UK government, as it was an abuse of power that has led to generations of physical, psychological and emotional abuse and damage. 

    The apology for the Child Migrants Programme is long overdue, and has been the result of much campaigning from individuals and organisations such as the Child Migrants Trust

    This then leads to an obvious question.  I am sure you can see it coming.  What about an apology for slavery, to the descendents of slavery?

    I am not concerned with reparations in a financial settlement, but rather reparations of an emotional settlement.

    The UKs involvement in the slave trade began at much the same time as the Child Migrants Programme in the early 1600s. (see here for history).  Abolition of slavery across the British Empire did not happen until August 1st 1834.  In many ways the Child Migrants Programme was the slavery it imposed on it’s own people (children) in parallel with the transatlantic trade, sending white children to live in the colonies to prop up the emerging ideology of white supremacy across the world.  It is good that the UK is now apologising for its turning its own children into slaves.  It is estimated that over 130,000 children were stolen and shipped away from their mothers and families over the 4 centuries.  So how about an apology for over 6 million African that the UK enslaved over the same period?

    In recent days there have been questions in the UK press asking if West African leaders should apologise for their part in the slave trade.  I think that is a valid question as it is no use ignoring the fact Africans also exploited their own people, though the benefits of that trade were all manipulatingly weighed in the Europeans benefit, and the cruelty inflicted on the enslaved Africans in the middle passage and beyond were not known to the African people who captured their own and sold them to the white men.  But in the spirit of the emotional reparations and honesty needed to learn from slavery in any meaningful way, yes it is still a valid question about whether African leaders should apologise. 

    This honesty however is not helped by the closed minded defensiveness that happens when the issue of an apology is discussed in the UK mainstream.  For example, see here for a mind-boggingly blinkered article in the Telegraph from “journalist” Ed West, in which he suggests that the descendents of enslaved Africans were done an ironic favour by being enslaved, as they are now doing “better” than their ancestors that still remain on the African continent.  He says this with no acknowledgment that if the Europeans had not exploited their presence on Africa in the first place in the 1600s through to today, under the various guises of Empire, slave trade, colonisation, commonwealth and free trade, then the continent would be doing just fine today by itself. 

    The confusion, turmoil and brutality that Africa finds itself in today is due to the systematic exploitation from European countries over the past 500 years.  It is no wonder that some African countries are in such a mess today with its depressing news of eye watering cruelty that some Africans are now inflicting on themselves.  It is a continent that has not been allowed to know itself for the past 400 years.  In the mid to later 1900s when the European carved invented African countries were given “independence”, it was like telling a child that has never been allowed to go outside his/her house  or think for themselves, to leave home forever at the age of 18 and fend for themselves.

    Europeans conquest for Empire has caused a blanket of confusion over the entire world that is still being felt to this day as witnessed in the political turmoils of countries such as Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Iran, South America, Pakistan, India and nearly every country in Africa.  But as Nneka sings in the post below, simply blaming European oppressors will get us nowhere.  We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, tell them to go f*** themselves and get on with our own lives.  That is easier said than done if you are a five year old dying of Aids in Malawi, but African leaders need to step up and do the right thing.  So far they have not, and many have only depressingly served in their own interests.  Though they have had good teachers.  If the recent expenses controversy in UK government had happened in any African country you can imagine the headlines.  Many African leaders today are leading countries based on antiquated European laws, laws that have long since been revised in their ‘mother countries’, (see this BBC article from Zambia as an example.)

    If there is anything that many African leaders can do today, that they can learn from this present UK government, it would be to apologise to their people for their own failings and for the corruption and exploitation of past regimes.  African leaders need to move forward and do the right thing in the spirit of emotional and honest reparations.  Though for that to have any effect, African people ourselves, on the continent and in the diaspora, need to want to move forward in an honest way.  A body needs to want to heal, in order for wounds to actually begin healing.  No amount of bandaids or kind words will help.

    Africans – by Nneka

    U keep pushing the blame on our colonial fathers
    U say they came and they took all we had pocessed
    They have to take the abuse that they have caused our present state with their intruding history
    Use our goodness and nourishment in the Name of missionary
    Lied to us,blinded slaved us,misplaced us,strengthen us,hardened us then
    they replaced us now we got to learn from pain
    Now it is up to us to gain some recognition
    If we stopp blaming we could get a better condition
    Wake up world!!
    Wake up and stop sleeping
    Wake up africa!!
    Wake up and stop blaming
    Open ur eyes!!
    Stand up and rise
    Road block oh life penalty

    Why do we want to remain where we started
    And how long do we want to stop ourselves from thinking
    We should learn from experience that what we are here for this existence
    But now we decide to use the same hatred to oppress our own brothers
    It is so comfortable to say racism is the cause
    but this time it is the same colour chasing and biting us
    Knowledge and selfishness that they gave to us,this is what we use to abuse us
    Wake up world!!
    Wake up and stop sleeping
    Wake up africa!!
    Wake up and stop blaming
    Open ur eyes!!
    Stand up and rise
    Road block oh life penalty

    Those who have ears let them hear
    Brothers who are not brainwashed takt ruins and rest
    Pick them up and stick them back together
    This is the only way we can change this african weather
    Lied to us,blinded slaved us,misplaced us,strengthen us,hardened us then
    they replaced us now we got to learn from pain

    Wake up world!!
    Wake up and stop sleeping
    Wake up africa!!
    Wake up and stop blaming
    Open ur eyes!!
    Stand up and rise
    Road block oh life penalty

    you got to wake up please
    youuuuu got tooo
    (wake up africa wake up and stop blaming)
    blaming ha ha ha
    open yours eyes your eyes
    stand up and riise
    road block oh life penalty
    wake up…

    A Walk In the Park

    I was lucky enough to attend the slavery trail in Bristol, with only a small group we embarked on this journey where we would learn about slavery and its past. The four of us walked through Queen Square and heard all about the things that had taken place there and the people who were involved. There was so much information to recieve but none of it stuck in my mind, there was nothing within the trail or that was heard that made me feel the need to challenge what I had heard or make me listen more attentively to what was being said.

    We learned who the statue was situated in the middle of Queen Square, walked across Pero’s bridge, looked at the plaque situated on the front of the Shakespere public house, stood outside  Merchants House, saw a few other places and ended at the Redcliffe caves. The Redcliffe caves were said to have stored slaves over night when they came off of the slave ships, it was at this point that I felt something,  like I was actually at a place were black people were kept captive, locked up unable to walk freely as I am today. Then to hear that black slaves were never kept in Bristol is a total contradiction to what stories I have been told in my lifetime. I mean no black slaves what do you mean? after speaking with my mum she informed me that slaves were sold on corn street and i know that i’ve been told that before, so now how am I  supposed to feel. Why is the truth being hidden,  I mean its already happened but why try to deny it.

    My feeling towards the myth that black people were not kept captive is anger and annoyance why is there a trail about slavery in Bristol then. Going on the walk did’nt help me at all, I dont feel that I got anything from it and would not go again, for me this chapter is done its about time we made a new trail which shows the rise of black people , where it all started, who was the first black person to fight for their rights, what did they achieve and continue from there.

     I am not a slave I am free but my mind is not free from thinking like a slave . When will I decide to take responsibility for my own history? Embracing my african carribbean ancestry and making it a positive aspect of my life?  I believe that only then will I be able to share my awareness with my siblings, nieces and newphews, family and friends.

    Where I am Going

    A good question to ask is where am I going with this? what results am I looking for?, what will happen differently when the results are in? As a child I never celebrated black history, I dont remember much about any historical figures, I dont remember my mum, dad or granparents telling me about role models or heroes that were black, where I want to go from here is to re-establish the fact that black people will and can rise up, they can work together within their communities for their communities. 

    From here I want  to celebrate my people together, enabling them to share their perspective of the theory and its effects in todays society but also giving them a chance to commemorate all that young, old, light, dark black  people have achieved.

    Where I’m coming from

    My name is Salama and i am 24 years old i am the fourth child of  nine from my father and the first of two from my  mother.  As a child growing up i always felt that i didn’t recieve the black history i needed to support me with who i wanted to be, I am on a quest to find out the positives in black history. I want to know where black people have lived and what black people have done for up and coming black people today.

    Personally i am aware of what black history can be but I have been overcasted because whenever it is mentioned we only ever hear about slavery. I am not interested in slavery, I want to know what has happened to the legacies of the black people who died to make things right for us. I want to know about the facts about our black leaders and heroes, recieve information about our culture, past and present victories and aspirations.

    With this project i want to open eyes and ears but for this to happen i need to be involved with people in Bristol to gather information.

    Where should i begin?

    his tory

    (Eurocentric) Timeline on Port Cities

    a Timeline on Port Cities website (click pic to go there)

    This timeline is pretty useful. For history in an British school or education system. They are right of course, those who would argue it’s Eurocentric. Though no reason to dismiss it. It’s good for passing history exams in this country true enough! And it gives good references points for orienting our heads around annals of history even if it is on the Gregorian Calendar. Part of living in a multicultural world should be being able to navigate such things no? This is a time of World History.

    Reading History – Coules vs. Dresser   – Two Books :

    The Trade (Victoria Coules)


    Slavery Obscured. (Madge Dresser)

    Recently we’ve been reading some books The Trade by Victoria Coules and Slavery Obscured by Madge Dresser.  They are both excellent ways into the subject of Bristol and its role in transatlantic slavery. The Trade is a nice  easy read. It begins by acknowledging the roaring passions that were ignited with whole 2007 Abolition thing recently. It then flows through the story from the making of Brigstowe (Bristol) through to…well chapter 8 at the moment. Coules draws on a number of sources in recent writing and research including Madge Dresser. That’s the other book. Madge’s is much more academic in its historiography and prides itself on getting close to the sources. Madge is an academic historian. Victoria is a film maker. Victoria wants to share a story that fascinates us, researched it and shared it with us in like an easy but informative documentary film. Madge wants to push back the frontiers of knowledge on the subject and assert new a position.  One thing Slavery Obscured looks to do is clarify the exact nature of the impact of the Africa business on Bristol’s rise in ‘Gentility’ (ironic notion) .  The language of the Slavery Obscured is much more academic – with its research, many images and ploughing of new research sources and directions.  It asserts a certain authority in research in this field.  The Trade is a much easier read since  the language targets a much wider  audience.  It could be read by older primary school children.  Both bring Bristol into the mix giving a much better of picture of exactly what we mean by ‘Bristol had something to do with the slavery’.

    Both are reading well so far, and backing each other up about Bristol, Cabot, Colston, the ‘white slave trade’, (Which Derek Robinson mentioned back in 1973 with his very readable Shocking History of Bristol and giving dates and names to Bristol’s involvment in the ‘Africa trade’.   The Coules and Dresser books  complement each other well. So  more Coules AND Dresser rather than VERSUS. They are useful to bounce back and forth between and feture lots of knowledge there for us to better our understanding of the nature, impact and legacy of Bristol’s involvement.

    Monarchs and Merchants

    What happened to the wealth people featured on this BBC site?

    What’s quite enjoyable about reading books about history is the references to English history. A bit like school.  With Henry VII and VIII, Mary, Elizabeth I, James, Charles, Cromwell and so forth. They are all there. Though some of it also reads like any page of the Financial Times today. Then there’s Colstons and Canynges and Cabots –  Investors in (ad)-ventures, traders and protectors of UK GDP.  New Worlds, New Markets.

    But now. New Identities. For those transported and..

    …for many of those companies, banks, insurance companies, big corporations have changed their names. And business interests.  Well maybe not Tate and Lyle. Like those after the Nazi Holocaust that became safe names like BASF. [as Wikipedia would say – needs citation]

    There are a few institutions that are still evident very strongly today. The Monarchy, Bristol City Council and The Society of Merchant Venturers. Others have changed evolved in identity as well as markets. The monarchy were clearly key investors in licenses and laws to trade and colonise. Though when the whole busines proved proved lucrative, the intested cash.

    Bristol City Council.

    Many of the Society of Merchant Venturers were also members of Bristol Corporation, the council that ran the city. They were powerful men. The setting up of the Society transformed a loose network of traders into a formal organisation to promote trade..

    The members of the Society were the leading merchants of the city and they had asked King Edward VI for a charter (a licence) allowing them to oversee foreign trade. They complained that the city�s trade was being ruined by untrained merchants. The King�s charter gave control of overseas trade to the Society and the rules governing membership stated that members should have been through a proper apprenticeship or training in the �Arte of Merchaunts� (the Art of the Merchant).
    quotes above from Port Cities website

    All the big Bristol names carved into the walls, the streets, the monuments, the houses, the parks and public places are there in this story. It’s impossible to separate from any aspect of English life of the time. A bit like trying to separate the arms trade from other strands of the global economy including our pensions funds and saving accounts.

    The story of the (white) Bristol poor is another thing and they could have been shipped to ‘Barbadoes’ for liberating  a loaf of bread to feed their starving families.  Barbados was not the tourist hotspot we know today (that’s a later market!) but a growing colony in a hostile climate, hungry for labour on sugar plantations.

    Barbadoes, William Mayo , 1722

    From British Library

    The books refer to the time when one notorious Judge Jeffreys comes to Bristol to get the ‘great’ and the ‘good’ back for support the Monmouth Rebellion . This guy is notorious for enjoying cruelty and using his power as a judge to revel in it. But then even he comes to Bristol in the 1680’s to tell the Bristol rich and powerful off for their their cruel habits. The Bristol courts (where the judiciary were also planters and investors in the colonisation project) were conning unfortunate Bristolians who found themselves up for trial for the most meagre of offences,  into taking an alternative sentence in the West Indies .

    But then, Jeffreys telling them off was really a politically motivated thing because the Bristol rich were supporting the rebels against the current monarchy. Because clearly he didn’t care either. Those same bloody assizes (courts / trials)  he held did exactly the same thing.

    The subsequent Bloody Assizes of Judge Jeffreys were a series of trials of Monmouth’s supporters in which 320 people were condemned to death and around 800 sentenced to be transported to the West Indies.
    Wikipedia (Monmouth Rebellion)

    However the times were thus. Those new and emerging colonies not, yet 150 years after Columbus and Cabot, needed labour to generate the wealth required for those investors back home in empire-building ventures.  So as the Taino, Caribs, Arawaks and Native Americans, Amerindians as we know them began to die , from European diseases and just pure genocide, the transported European convicts and ‘volunteers’  also withered in the tropical sun.  With the whole UK /European investment and venture under threat there was a voracious demand for labour.  Hence the Africans were increasingly captured, transported, worked, tortured, bred and belitted for the wealth of Great Britain and Bristol. This was already happening with Portugal and Spain but the British streamlined it.

    Africentric timelines?

    Guardian – Black History Timeline – at least it doesn’t start at 1619… see next

    biography.com – Black History Timeline –  ‘coca-cola’ version that starts in 1619 with Obama prominent in the present.

    Smithsonian Institute – Timeline – Mali, Ethiopia, Nile Valley

    Paul Obinna’s Timeline