Category Archives: Audiovisual Materials

Jean Dominique on Collective Passion and Geopolitics in Haiti during the 1998 World Cup

Post contributed by Laura Wagner, Ph.D., Radio Haiti Project Archivist

In a 13 July 1998 editorial, Jean Dominique of Radio Haïti-Inter reflected on the geopolitical implications of World Cup soccer, focusing in particular on Haitian love for the Brazilian national team. This passion, and the political ramifications of soccer, continue to this day. Just last week, the Haitian government raised gas prices during the Brazil-Belgium World Cup match, in very wrongheaded hopes that people would be too distracted to notice.

Transcript of original editorial, translated from French:

“La France Métisse”: this is the headline splashed across the front page of an Italian newspaper. “Long live King Zidane,” says the one in Algiers – Zidane is of Algerian descent. The victory of the French team yesterday presents certain social dilemmas: Jean-Marie Le Pen’s[1] blood must have boiled to see the Stade de France streaming with black people and beurs (beurs are French people of North African descent). Soccer is no mere sport ; it is something else as well, and the World Cup has geopolitical implications. But in Port-au-Prince, one has to wonder about the phenomenon of Haitians willing to shed their blood for Brazil or Argentina. At first glance, this appears quite strange. In the aftermath of the World Cup, would it not be thrilling and fun to examine how things unfolded at home and elsewhere, beyond technical and professional terms and 4-2-4 formations, penalties, red cards, or semi-finalists?

Flags painted on a brick wall.
Brazillian, Haitian, and Argentine flags. Photograph by Laura Wagner, 2011.

If the vast majority of Haitians are as head-over-heels in love with Ronaldo as are the residents of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, we should seek the cause of this phenomenon. Is it a sense of Latin-American belonging? Is it a racial reflex? — for Brazil, or at least Brazilian soccer, has been strongly permeated with African diasporic origins. Let’s not forget King Pelé or the brown-skinned Ronaldo himself. But then why would we have in our midst so many fans of Argentina, which has nothing to do with Blackness? Our fervor for and aggressive attachment to foreign soccer teams stem from other factors: outsized love for the game, of course, and in the momentary absence of a national team, the people of our land want to take part in a collective passion. We must love together. And, alas, we must also hate together.

Let us recall Carnival ‘98, let us recall those Sundays of sport and culture organized so skillfully by Dady Lescouflair[2]. Throughout all the neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, we came together to appreciate wholesomeness, sport — all sports! — and painting. And so it must be that for us, soccer draws upon collective urges that have as much to do with politics as they do with religion. Let us add immediately that in Haiti, during this month of the World Cup, the political fervor for Brazil and Argentina would seem at first glance to have nothing to do with imminent political choices; some of the candidates have even argued that soccer represents a new opium to distract the masses from pressing economic concerns… But bear with me.

A less simplistic explanation for this phenomenon should allow us to pose other questions, for Haiti’s passion for soccer retraces the very lines that define and connect our world. We should not dismiss the political ramifications: the popularity rating of Chirac and Jospin[3] and France demonstrates that a national team’s victory can be taken advantage of by politicians. But if we zoom out a little more on this World Cup, we discover first off, as did the journalists of Manière de Voir in a special edition of Le Monde Diplomatique that just happened to be devoted to this very World Cup ‘98, that there exists such a thing as a geopolitics of soccer in our world today. It is as global a phenomenon as the economy, but it differs from the globalization of the economy in a crucial way. Whereas the world economy is dominated by the United States, with Wall Street reigning supreme over the stock markets while Hollywood dictates global culture, in the world of soccer, Brazil is the superpower and the United States plays no role at all. One can see perhaps a parallel with today’s geopolitical dynamics, with the main difference being that a global superpower in soccer arouses universal goodwill and the admiration of all, which is not the case for the United States.

The latter has had some curious reactions to the World Cup. Earlier today, I recalled yesterday morning’s mise-au-point in the New York Times. I recently noted the francophobia on display in weekly and daily newspapers during the preliminary matches at the Stade de France. Subsequently, the special envoys changed course, bouncing back by highlighting France’s successful organization of the World Cup. But this only further revealed the feelings of exclusion the Yankees feel in the face of the globalization of soccer zeal. Barely 12% of viewers from New York to Los Angeles watched the games, while some thirty-eight billion people, all told, sat before their television screens around the world. A bit of humor emerges, however, from this American sense of social isolation and exclusion — these Americans who, as everyone knows, prefer baseball and American football to soccer — they call it soccer, by the way, not football. Michael Elliott, the resident francophobe at Newsweek, losing his luster, evokes the hope — wait for it — that his compatriots might start playing soccer in the future, and he adds, with a touch of humor, that it is high time for the American barbarians to begin to civilize. Let us recall with some nostalgia that even Shakespeare was anti-soccer and that in King Lear, one finds the king himself addressing a peasant — which is to say, a man of the people — as a “base football-player.” Well, well!

So, reading that declaration by Michael Elliott, with the barbarians on one side and the civilized on the other, I remembered a joke from a Marine colonel, who said of our country, quote: “How can you expect a people to evolve after nineteen years of occupation, if they have never even learned to play baseball?” A people that cannot learn to play baseball is not a civilized people, according to that Marine colonel. This World Cup has indeed avenged our footballing people…

This perhaps is taking us away from clashes between Haitian fans of Brazil and of Argentina. But have we truly departed from the questions that these strange passions present to us? A mystery remains, certainly, but the vapors of this opium will dissipate quickly, and the realities of everyday life will quickly resume. It will remain once again a diffuse state of mind. The masses of our homeland, like those elsewhere, are able to come together around a collective passion, to transform it into a sort of mobilization. And in the lingering indifference to the electoral crisis of 6 April 1997, is there not an indication of a collective awakening soon to come? It remains to be seen what the motivations of this coming awakening might be…

A taptap (elaborately-painted bus) in Port-au-Prince, decorated with images of Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi and other soccer images. Photograph by Laura Wagner, 2011.

Finally, a small suggestion to one and all concerning the political crisis: why should there not be a decision — at the state level obviously, parliamentary of course — to offer Ronaldo Haitian citizenship, bring him to Port-au-Prince, and then appoint him Prime Minister? But of course, there is the matter of his grandmother’s papers…[4]

Special thanks to Dr. Grégory Pierrot for transcription of the original French text. He recently reflected on race, colonial legacies, and what the 2018 French national team represents to French people of African descent over at Africa is a Country. Thanks also to Eline Roillet for help with this translation.

[1] Jean-Marie Le Pen was a far-right French politician who espoused explicitly racist beliefs.

[2] Evans “Dady” Lescouflair was Haiti’s Minister of Sports and Youth in the late 1990s.

[3] Lionel Jospin of the Parti Socialiste was the Prime Minister of France under right-wing President Jacques Chirac from 1997-2002.

[4] Ericq Pierre was appointed Prime Minister by President René Préval, only to have his nomination rejected by an obstructionist parliament because he could not prove his Haitian citizenship by producing his grandparents’ birth certificates.

Radio Haiti Archive receives second National Endowment for the Humanities grant

This press release is in Haitian Creole as well as English. Scroll down for Haitian Creole.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 9 April 2018

Duke University Libraries

Media Contact: Aaron Welborn, (919) 660-5816

Email: aaron.welborn@duke.edu

Radio Haiti Archive receives second National Endowment for the Humanities grant

Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant will enable continued in-depth description of the audio archive of Radio Haïti-Inter

Durham, NC: The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is pleased to announce that the Radio Haiti Archive project has received a second grant from the NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access. While the first phase of the project, Radio Haiti, Voices of Change, focused on the physical preservation and initial description of the Radio Haiti materials, Radio Haiti, Voices of Change II: Bringing Radio Haiti Home will allow library staff to continue creating detailed trilingual description of Radio Haiti’s audio (in Haitian Creole, French, and English) and to digitally repatriate the archive to libraries, archives, cultural institutions, and community radio stations in Haiti.

For three decades, Radio Haïti-Inter was Haiti’s first and most prominent independent radio station. Under the direction of Jean Léopold Dominique and Michèle Montas, Radio Haiti was a voice of social change and democracy, speaking out against oppression and impunity while advocating for human rights and celebrating Haitian culture and heritage. On 3 April 2000, Jean Dominique was assassinated in Radio Haiti’s courtyard, and in February 2003, amid escalating threats to Radio Haiti’s journalists, the station closed for good.

Laurent Dubois, professor of history and Romance Studies and the director of Duke’s Forum for Scholars and Publics, describes Voices of Change II as a “vital project that will allow this rich archive to be made available as widely as possible, notably in Haiti itself. This is of profound importance, for having learned over the past years about the richness of the materials in the Radio Haiti collection, I consider it the most important archive on contemporary Haitian politics, history, and culture in existence.” In the words of the station’s surviving director, Michèle Montas: “It is so important that these voices, which have meant so much to so many, remain alive and vibrant in the land that created them.”

To follow the Radio Haiti project’s progress and consult the materials, see the Radio Haiti collection on Duke’s Digital Repository and the Guide to the Radio Haiti Papers.

Pwojè Achiv Radyo Ayiti jwenn yon dezyèm sibvansyon National Endowment for the Humanities

Sibvansyon Humanities Collections and Reference Resources pral pemèt nou kontinye dekri achiv odyo Radyo Ayiti-Entè yo an detay

Durham, Karolin di Nò: Se avèk anpil kè kontan David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Bibliyotèk David M. Rubenstein pou Liv ak Maniskri ki Ra) anonse ke pwojè Achiv Radyo Ayiti a jwenn yon dezyèm sibvansyon NEH, nan kad Division of Preservation and Access (Divizyon Konsèvasyon ak Aksè). Tandiske premye etap pwojè a, Radio Haiti, Voices of Change (Radyo Ayiti: Vwa Chanjman) te konsantre sou konsèvasyon fizik ak deskripsyon preliminè achiv Radyo Ayiti yo, dezyèm etap la, ki rele Radio Haiti, Voices of Change II: Bringing Radio Haiti Home (Radyo Ayiti, Vwa Chanjman II: Mennen Radyo Ayiti Tounen Lakay Li) pral pemèt manm staf bibliyotèk la kontinye bay chak emisyon Radyo Ayiti deskripsyon detaye nan twa lang yo (kreyòl, franse, ak angle) epi repatriye achiv yo nan bibliyotèk, achiv, enstitisyon kiltirèl, ak radyo kominotè ann Ayiti.

Radyo Ayiti-Entè te premye radyo endepandan nan peyi d Ayiti, epi pandan trant ane li te pi koni pami tout radyo nan peyi a. Anba direksyon Jean Léopold Dominique ak Michèle Montas, Radyo Ayiti te reprezante yon vwa chanjman ak demokrasi, ki te konn denonse sistèm kraze zo ak enpinite, lite pou dwa moun, epi valorize kilti ak eritaj Ayiti a. Jou 3 avril 2000, yo te krabinen Jean Dominique nan lakou Radyo Ayiti a, epi nan mwa fevriye 2003, kòm rezilta yon dal menas jounalis Radyo Ayiti yo t ap sibi, radyo a fèmen nèt.

Laurent Dubois, pwofesè istwa ak etid lang latin yo epi direktè Forum for Scholars and Publics nan Inivèsite Duke, dekri pwojè Voices of Change II kòm yon “pwojè fondalnatal ki pral rann achiv rich disponib osi lwen ke posib, sitou ann Ayiti menm. M twouve sa gen anpil enpòtans. Pandan plizyè ane m ap aprann ki richès achiv Radyo Ayiti yo gen ladan yo, ki fè m konsidere l kòm achiv ki pi enpòtan sou politik, istwa, ak kilti Ayiti kontanporen ki egziste sou latè beni.” Nan pawòl Michèle Montas, antanke direktris sivivan radyo a: “Li kapital ke vwa sa yo, ki gen anpil enpòtans pou anpil moun, toujou rete vivan ak vif nan peyi ki te kreye yo.”

Pou swiv pwogrè pwojè Radyo Ayiti a epi pou sèvi avèk achiv yo, tcheke koleksyon Radyo Ayiti nan Duke Digital Repository ak Gid pou Papye Radyo Ayiti yo.

 

Viv Radyo Ayiti! Vive Radio Haïti! Radio Haiti Lives!

Post contributed by Laura Wagner, P.h.D., Radio Haiti Archivist

This blog post is in French and Haitian Creole as well as English. Scroll down for other languages.

Cet article de blog est écrit en français et créole haïtien en plus de l’anglais. Défilez l’écran vers le bas pour les autres langues.

Blog sa a ekri an franse ak kreyòl anplis ke angle. Desann paj la pou jwenn lòt lang yo.

 

Student assistants Krystelle Rocourt and Tanya Thomas with Laura Wagner.
Assistantes-étudiantes Krystelle Rocourt et Tanya Thomas avec Laura Wagner.
Asistan-etidyan Krystelle Rocourt ak Tanya Thomas ansanm avèk Laura Wagner.

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is thrilled to announce the successful completion of the first major stage of Radio Haiti: Voices of Change, made possible through the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Between July 2015 and spring 2018, project archivist Laura Wagner, audiovisual archivist Craig Breaden, and a committed team of student assistants have:

  • completed preliminary description of the entire Radio Haiti audio collection, including nearly 4,000 open reel and cassette audio tapes
  • managed the cleaning and high-resolution digital preservation of the tapes at Cutting Corporation in Maryland, and secured a CLIR Recordings at Risk grant to digitize — at Northeast Document Conservation Center — recordings that had suffered acute deterioration
  • created additional detailed, trilingual metadata (in Haitian Creole, French, and English) for more than half of the Radio Haiti audio, now available on the Duke Digital Repository
  • completed description of the Radio Haiti papers, now available online

Our student assistants and volunteers, past and present, both undergraduate and graduate, have been an invaluable part of this team. They have listened to and described Radio Haiti audio; blogged about the archive; used the materials in the archive in their own research; and brought expertise, excitement, and enthusiasm to this very rewarding but intense project. Mèsi anpil to Tanya Thomas, Krystelle Rocourt, Réyina Sénatus, Catherine Farmer, Eline Roillet, Sandie Blaise, Jennifer Garçon, and Marina Magloire for everything you have done and continue to do.

In addition to our in-house work on the archive, Laura has also conducted two outreach trips to Haiti to raise awareness of the project and to distribute flash drives to cultural institutions, libraries, community radio stations, and grassroots groups.

But the project isn’t over yet! We are currently seeking additional funding to continue in-depth detailed description of the audio.

Onward!

Four people sitting in a circle.
Laura showing agronomy students from the Grand’Anse department how to use the Radio Haiti archive (Cap-Rouge, June 2017).
Laura explique comment utiliser les archives de Radio Haïti à des étudiants en agronomie du département de la Grand’Anse (Cap-Rouge, juin 2017).
Laura montre kèk edityan nan agwonomi ki soti nan Grandans koman sèvi avèk achiv Radyo Ayiti yo (Kap Wouj, jen 2017).

La bibliothèque David M. Rubenstein Livres Rares & Manuscrits est fière d’annoncer le succès de la première étape du projet Radio Haiti: Voices of Change, rendu possible grâce au généreux soutien de la National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Entre juillet 2015 et mars 2018, Laura Wagner, chef de projet et Craig Breaden, archiviste audiovisuel, appuyés par une équipe d’étudiants passionnés, ont :

  • rédigé une description préliminaire de l’intégralité des archives audio de Radio Haïti, dont près de 4000 enregistrements sur bobines et cassettes
  • géré le nettoyage, la préservation et la numérisation en HD des cassettes via l’entreprise Cutting Corporation (Maryland) et digitalisé les enregistrements les plus fragiles au Northeast Document Conservation Center grâce à la bourse CLIR Recordings at Risk
  • créé des métadonnées trilingues (créole haïtien, français et anglais) détaillant plus de la moitié de la collection, maintenant disponibles sur Duke Digital Repository
  • classifié l’ensemble des archives papier de Radio Haïti, maintenant disponibles en ligne
Crowd holding signs.
Supporters of Radio Haiti greet Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas at the airport in Port-au-Prince after their return from exile in March 1986.
Les partisans de Radio Haïti accueillent Jean Dominique et Michèle Montas à l’aéroport de Port-au-Prince lorsqu’ils sont revenus en Haïti après l’exil, mars 1986.
Fanatik Radyo Ayiti vin akeyi Jean Dominique ak Michèle Montas nan ayewopò Pòtoprens aprè yo tounen lakay yo nan mwa mas 1986.

Nos étudiants et nos volontaires, passés et présents, en licence, master et doctorat ont joué un rôle inestimable au sein de l’équipe. Ils ont écouté et décrit des centaines d’émissions de Radio Haïti, rédigé des articles de blog au sujet de la collection, utilisé les documents pour leurs propres recherches et amené leur expertise, leur enthousiasme et leur motivation à ce projet intense et très gratifiant. Mèsi anpil à Tanya Thomas, Krystelle Rocourt, Réyina Sénatus, Catherine Farmer, Eline Roillet, Sandie Blaise, Jennifer Garçon et Marina Magloire pour vos précieuses contributions.

En plus du travail en interne sur la collection, Laura s’est également rendue en Haïti par deux fois afin de promouvoir le projet et de distribuer des clefs USB contenant les archives à diverses institutions culturelles, bibliothèques, stations radio locales et associations.

Mais le projet n’est pas encore terminé! Nous sommes actuellement à la recherche de financement supplémentaire pour poursuivre la description détaillée en profondeur des documents sonores.

En avant!

Archivist kneeling over a large box with the soundboard inside.
Craig Breaden fits the original Radio Haiti soundboard with protective padding.
Craig Breaden protège la table de mixage originale de Radio Haïti à l’aide de rembourrage.
Craig Breaden pwoteje pano miksaj orijinal Radyo Ayiti a pou l ka dòmi dous.

 

David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Bibliyotèk David. M. Rubenstein pou Liv ak Maniskri ki Ra) gen anpil kè kontan anonse ke premye etap pwojè Radio Haiti: Voices of Change (Radyo Ayiti: Vwa Chanjman) a abouti. Pwojè sa a te posib gras a finansman jenere National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) la.

Soti nan mwa jiyè 2015 rive nan prentan 2018, achivis prensipal la Laura Wagner, achivis odyovizyèl la Craig Breaden, ak yon ekip etidyan trè angaje gentan reyalize objektif swivan yo:

Two audio reels in boxes.
Radio Haiti reel, before and after cleaning and preservation.
Une bande magnétique de Radio Haïti, avant et après le néttoyage et la conservation.
Bann mayetik Radyo Ayiti avan ak aprè li fin netwaye epi konsève.

 

  • Yo fin fè yon premye deskripsyon sou tout dokiman sonò Radyo Ayiti yo, ki gen ladan yo prèske 4.000 bann mayetik ak kasèt
  • Yo jere netwayaj ak konsèvasyon dijital tout tep yo, ki te fèt nan Maryland avèk konpayi Cutting Corporation, epi yo jwenn yon sibvansyon CLIR “Recordings at Risk” pou dijitalize tep ki pi frajil epi pi domaje yo nan Northeast Document Conservation Center
  • Kreye deskripsyon ki pi detaye epi ki trilèng (an kreyòl, franse, ak angle) pou plis pase 50% dokiman sonò Radyo Ayiti yo, ki disponib kounye a sou Duke Digital Repository la
  • Deskripsyon tout achiv papye Radyo Ayiti yo, disponib kounye a sou entènèt

Etidyan ki travay sou pwojè sila a, kit yo asistan peye kit yo benevòl, kit yo etidyan nan lisans, metriz, oswa nan doktora, bay pwojè a yon gwo kout men. Yo tande epi dekri odyo Radyo Ayiti a, ekri blog sou achiv yo, sèvi avèk materyèl yo nan pwòp rechèch pa yo, epi yo pote anpil ekspètiz, eksitans, ak antouzyas pou pwojè sa a, ki se yon pwojè ki vo lapenn men ki difisil, tou. Mèsi anpil Tanya Thomas, Krystelle Rocourt, Réyina Sénatus, Catherine Farmer, Eline Roillet, Sandie Blaise, Jennifer Garçon ak Marina Magloire pou tout sa nou fè pou sovgade eritaj Radyo Ayiti-Entè, ak tout sa n ap kontinye fè.

Anplis ke travay n ap fè lakay nou nan Karolin di Nò, Laura gentan fè de vwayaj ann Ayiti pou sansibilize moun sou pwojè a epi pou distribye djònp bay enstitisyon kiltirèl, bibliyotèk, radyo kominotè, ak òganizasyon de baz.

Men pwojè a poko fini! Aktiyèlman n ap chèche lòt finansman siplemantè pou nou ka kontinye fè deskripsyon detaye dokiman sonò yo, an pwofondè.

Ann ale!

Selfie of two people.
Laura with Gotson Pierre of AlterPresse, Haiti’s alternative media outlet (Port-au-Prince, February 2018).
Laura avec Gotson Pierre d’AlterPresse, média haïtien indépendant (Port-au-Prince, février 2018).
Laura avèk Gotson Pierre, responsab AlterPresse, medya endepandan ann Ayiti (Pòtoprens, fevriye 2018).

 

#28daysofblack at the Rubenstein

Post contributed by Rubenstein Library staff

Materials from various collections at the Rubenstein Library that feature African Americans.
Photos from collections in the Rubenstein Library that will be featured during Black History Month.

Happy Black History Month! This year we’ll be celebrating #28daysofblack by sharing materials from the Rubenstein Library’s collections and by highlighting our work on current projects. Stay tuned to follow our rare materials catalogers and manuscript archivists as they catalog and process collections that feature black authors, activists, artists, characters, entrepreneurs, and families. You will also be hearing regularly from John Gartrell, Director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture. John will be posting about the SNCC Legacy project, among many other things. You can follow us on our various social media platforms:

Twitter: twitter.com/rubensteinlib

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rubensteinlib/

Franklin Center Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JHFResearchCen

Franklin Center twitter: twitter.com/JHFResearchCen

Look for the #28daysofblack, #bhm, #blackbooks, and #blackarchives hashtags.

Here’s a brief rundown of the projects we will be working on for #28daysofblack:

SNCC Legacy Project

In the 1960s a group of brash young organizers worked alongside local people in the Deep South to change the direction of America. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was a key catalyst for mobilizing grassroots activists to address voting and political power, economic equity, education, and civil rights. Over the last three years, the SNCC Digital Gateway project has worked to create an online platform that highlights the work of SNCC activists, mentors and allies using primary sources from our library and libraries across the country.

Contract with freedmen on Plains Plantation, 1865 June 8-August 28

Contract that binds newly-freed African Americans to the Plains Plantation in Mississippi.
Newly acquired Freedmen’s contract, 1865.

This worn and creased contract was once framed and ostensibly hung on someone’s wall. It contains language binding newly-freed African Americans and their children to the Plains Plantation in Jefferson County, Mississippi and was signed not even a month after the Civil War was over. According to the contract, the laborers committed to working every day “from sun to sun,” except Sunday, with other possible days off. They were to be paid one quarter of the net proceeds for the crop. Surnames of the freedmen include: Wilson, Thompson, Digg, Turner, Lonsway, Hatton, Clement, Willis, Payne, West, Blair, Garner, Kelley, Arran, and Johnson. The contract was written in iron gall ink, which caused corrosion of the paper. It now has a catalog record and a collection guide and is currently with Duke Libraries’ Conservation Department to receive repairs and proper housing.

Radio Haiti

Destroyed office of Radio Haiti.
Radio Haiti in 1986.

Radio Haiti is an ongoing, multi-year project to create a trilingual (Haitian Creole, French, and English) public-facing digital archive of all the audio of Radio Haiti-Inter, Haiti’s first and most prominent independent radio station. Our goal is to make the content as accessible as possible to people living in Haiti.

In February, we are going to finish up the processing of Radio Haiti’s papers, and archivist Laura Wagner will be traveling to Haiti to continue to do outreach around the project and to distribute flash drives with a large selection of Radio Haiti audio (around 500 recordings) to libraries in Haiti.

Allen Building Takeover

February 13th will mark the 49th anniversary of the Allen Building Takeover at Duke in 1969. This month we’ll be continuing work on the Vice President for Student Affairs Records, which include materials documenting the events during and after the Allen Building Takeover. Some items of note include eye-witness accounts of events written by students as well as materials documenting the administration’s planning for an African and African-American Studies Program in the wake of the Allen Building Takeover.

Continue reading #28daysofblack at the Rubenstein

For the Eyes of a Princess: Jean Dominique on the Life and Death of Richard Brisson

Post contributed by Laura Wagner, Ph.D,  Radio Haiti Archivist

Richard Brisson. Photo from the The International Center for the Documentation of Haitian,
Caribbean and African-Canadian Information (CIDIHCA)

In January 1982, Richard Brisson – poet, actor, journalist, station manager at Radio Haïti-Inter – was killed, along with Robert Mathurin and Louis Célestin, following a quixotic attempt to invade Haiti via Île-de-la-Tortue, the island off Haiti’s northern coast. He was thirty-one years old. Along with the rest of Radio Haiti’s journalists, Brisson had been in exile following the Duvalier regime’s violent crackdown on the independent press on November 28, 1980. Richard, they say, could not bear exile. The dictatorship claimed that Brisson and his comrades had been killed in combat. They were, in fact, executed.

An article from the New York-based Haitian newspaper Haïti Observateur (Jan 15-22, 1982) about the invasion in which Richard was killed. With no respect for international conventions concerning the rights of prisoners of war, the Duvalier regime summarily executed three rebels captured on Ile de la Tortue. A brief communiqué from the Minister of Information, Jean-Marie Chanoine, stated that Louis Célestin, Robert Mathurin, and Richard Brisson “had succumbed to their injuries.”

In 1987, a few months after Radio Haiti returned from exile after the fall of Duvalier, they paid tribute to Richard Brisson. The broadcast opened and closed with the Alain Barrière song “Un poète,” which begins, “A poet does not live long.” Richard’s cousins Ady Brisson and Freddy Burr-Reynaud and Radio Haiti journalists Michèle Montas, Konpè Filo, and Jean Dominique remembered Richard the journalist, the poet, the iconoclast, the dreamer.

Dominique’s words are translated below.

An excerpt from Jean Dominique’s original text commemorating Richard Brisson. These papers are currently being processed as part of the Radio Haiti records.

This would have been the title of a fine fairytale, Richard’s death, for the two eyes of a princess. I have rightly said “two eyes” [deux yeux] and not “sweet eyes” [doux yeux]. But quickly consider, good people, that this is the wicked fairy godmother[i] of whom we speak, that evil princess whose two eyes Richard wished to gouge out in a famous song about one of the poor neighborhoods of our capital — do you recall, “Panno Caye Nan Bois Chêne”?[ii] And it was due to an evil spell cast by those two eyes that our poet was killed. But his murderers were so ashamed of their crime that they then tried to disguise it as a death in combat. Yet you must have seen those photos of Richard and his two comrades shackled and perfectly alive after their arrest on Île de la Tortue…

I read in the newspaper that slumber eludes that wicked fairy who so despised Richard, now in exile in France where she and her husband were dispatched, thanks to the complacency, or the complicity, of the world’s powerful. “She cannot sleep at night!” she complained. The ghost of Richard must haunt her sleepless nights, and that is as it should be.

For the death of Richard, whose memory we are celebrating this week, paradoxically raises very current questions. Paradoxically, because Richard approached news as he approached politics, as he approached everything: as a poet. He wanted to represent Léogâne in parliament, like his grandfather Frédéric Burr Reynaud. Richard’s photo soon hung from the electrical towers along the road. When asked about his lack of political experience, he laughed uproariously and responded, brows knitted: “Politics is too important to be left to the politicians.” And when Luc Désir[iii] made it clear to him this was not his place: “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror?” demanded the Duvaliers’ chief torturer, future lackey of the wicked fairy. “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror?” Richard told me this story smiling once more, then added, “Jean Do, are we truly the Jews of this land?” And on he went, whistling, hands in his pockets, a song by Jacques Brel on his lips, a song about the bourgeois who are like… you know…[iv]

Continue reading For the Eyes of a Princess: Jean Dominique on the Life and Death of Richard Brisson

Bitter Sugar: The plight of cane-cutters on Radio Haiti

Post contributed by Tanya Thomas

Radio Haiti reels from the Radio Haiti Archives. The collection includes more than 5,000 recordings covering decades of Haitian history.

Amidst the ups and downs of life at Duke, one of my most treasured experiences was working as a student assistant for the Rubenstein Library’s Radio Haiti Archives. The collection has over 5,000 recordings covering decades of Haitian history, and listening to just a portion of them was like traveling back in time. While most of the recordings covered the various human and political rights issues of the Haitian people in the last century, they also made me think critically of how quickly the present becomes the past. It’s so easy to look back and judge the actors of the past for their mistakes. What’s harder is to draw parallels between our present and what that will look like to people listening to or reading about our exploits decades from now.

Progress is not granted by some unspoken law of nature, whether we look at U.S. history or the twentieth-century Haitian history covered in the Radio Haiti Archives. The themes in the archives that I found most sobering were the ones that are still being debated today. The first that comes to mind is the treatment of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic by the Dominican state. In 1979, Radio Haiti reporter Sonny Bastien interviewed a sugar cane worker (click on the hypertext to listen to the interviews in Duke’s Digital Repository) who described to Radio Haiti listeners the working and living conditions of a bracero (Haitian cane worker) living on the batèy (squalid camps for braceros) in the Dominican Republic. This worker, in addition to describing being shortchanged for his labor by the sugar cane speculators, describes Dominicans calling him and other Haitian migrants “pigs,” because if his country were in good shape, he wouldn’t be working in sugar cane fields in the Dominican Republic.

Radio Haiti script describing a grassroots women’s organization in Haiti, calling on the Haitian government to do more to protect the rights of Haitian braceros in the Dominican Republic, living in conditions of near-slavery (14 March 1988)

The events covered by Radio Haiti also foreshadowed Haitian political issues of today, since the issue of human rights of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent remains a salient issue for the island. Relations between the two nations have been strained from the time of Haiti’s occupation of the Dominican Republic, to the Dominican Republic’s independence from Haiti, to the 1937 genocidal massacre of Haitian and Haitian-Dominican families by the Dominican army under dictator Rafael Trujillo, to the antihaitianismo (anti-Haitian sentiment) pervasive in Dominican nationalism.  Most notably, in 2013 a Dominican court ruling known as the sentencia stripped citizenship from the descendants of undocumented immigrants to the country up to 80 years prior. The result was the statelessness of many who knew no other country than the Dominican Republic, and a massive influx of Dominicans of Haitian descent to a Haiti still reeling from the 2010 earthquake. Many of those who fled had never been to Haiti nor learned to speak Creole. This forced “repatriation” was not a new phenomenon. The Radio Haiti archive contains testimonials of deported Haitian-Dominicans adrift in Port-au-Prince as early as 1976, and extensive coverage of Dominican repatriation policy in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Radio Haiti script describing international human rights organizations, encouraging the Haitian and Dominican governments to protect the rights of Haitian braceros in the Dominican Republic (28 July 1989)

The minimal change between the present and the past is saddening, but it also serves as a mirror reminding me to judge my actions against the human rights abuses of today. Protesting against human rights violations is not a necessity of the past, but an essential component for any nation or group of people to create the change they want to see. Just as most Americans look back at the Civil Rights Movement as a tumultuous yet crucial part of the nation’s entrance to a more progressive age, future generations will look at our involvement or lack thereof with the Black Lives Matter movement. The difference between the past and the present is that there is still time to get on the right side of history. I am heartened by the efforts of activists like Sonia Pierre, a Dominican activist born to Haitian parents on a batèy who fought for the rights of migrant workers and Dominican peasants for most of her life. At age 14, Pierre led a group of cane cutters to march for better wages and living conditions. Pierre was arrested, but the demands of the marchers were met. During her life, she received recognition from her human rights work from Amnesty International and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

Radio Haiti script describing, in part, demonstrations in Léogâne against anbochay, the forced trafficking of Haitians to cut sugar cane in the Dominican Republic (28 January 1987)

In a way, listening to the archives also transported me to the future. The world is no stranger to Haiti’s troubles, be they environmental or political, yet few know how they came about, or how adamantly Haitians refused to be defined by these terms. Radio Haiti gave a platform to Haitians often overlooked by their own government and media, so they could express themselves on issues most important to them. By listening to the voices of the past, I know that the fight for a better future is not a fight I have to enter alone, and I retain the hope that I can add my voice to those that will encourage the next generation to fight on.

 

Rubenstein Events: Music and the Movement and more…

Please join us this week for three very exciting events:

The SNCC Digital Gateway Project presents “Music & the Movement,” Tuesday, September 19, 7:30-9:30 pm

Please join us for an exciting discussion with five veteran activists on Tuesday, September 19th at 7:30 p.m. at NCCU’s Alfonso Elder Student Union. Music & The Movement – During the Civil Rights Movement, mass meetings overflowed with people singing and clapping to freedom songs, demanding justice in the face of oppression and showing courage in the face of danger. Join us for a roundtable discussion with five veteran activists as they speak about the power of the music of the Movement. As song leaders, Bettie Mae Fikes, Charles Neblett, and Hollis Watkins carried the music in their own communities in the South or across the nation as part of the SNCC Freedom Singers. Meanwhile, Candie Carawan and Worth Long worked to document the music of the Movement, recording and preserving the songs that moved people to action. They experienced firsthand how music was a tool for liberation, not only bringing people together but holding them together. The conversation will be moderated by SNCC veteran Charles Cobb. Many thanks to our co-sponsors: SNCC Legacy Project, Duke University Libraries, The Center for Documentary Studies, North Carolina Central University, and SNCC Digital Gateway Project.

Event Speakers: Bettie Mae Fikes, Charles Neblett, Hollis Watkins, Candie Carawan, and Worth Long
Event Location:  NCCU’s Alfonso Elder Student Union
Event Contact: CDS Front Desk
Event Contact Phone: 660-3663

Exhibit Tour and Reception: ‘I Sing the Body Electric’: Walt Whitman and the Body, Thursday, September 21, 11:45-1:30pm

Continue reading Rubenstein Events: Music and the Movement and more…

On Radio Haiti, the Drum Never Stops Beating

Blog post contributed by Laura Wagner, PhD, Radio Haiti Project Archivist. Translation by Laura Wagner and Tanya Thomas.

It was Radio Haiti’s eighty-first birthday a few days ago.  The station was founded on 17 September 1935 by Ricardo Widmaïer, and later, under Jean Dominique’s leadership, Radio Haïti-Inter continued to commemorate that anniversary.  On 17 September 1991, they did a special broadcast celebrating fifty-six years of Radio Haiti. It is a beautiful, moving, and enchanting program.  They dove into their own archives, revisiting some of their most memorable broadcasts.  And Jean Dominique, always the interviewer of others, at last became the interviewee.  Michèle Montas asked him about Vodou, the Haitian Creole language, pale andaki (speaking in veiled or covert ways) the 1973 kidnapping of American ambassador Clinton Knox, and resistance to Duvalierism and dictatorship.  At the end of the program, Jean took back the microphone to pay surprise tribute to Michèle.  He gave credit to the fanm vayan (courageous woman) who shared the struggle, knew how to fouye zo l nan kalalou (investigate, dig deep), ran the newsroom and trained Radio Haiti’s journalists.  That less than two weeks after this broadcast, Haiti’s democratically-elected government was overthrown in a military coup makes the program all the more poignant: Radio Haiti was hurtling toward another long exile.

Today, we have translated a portion of the 17 September 1991 broadcast from Haitian Creole into English. In an earlier broadcast, he referred to the Italian adage “traduttore, traditore” – “translator, traitor” – to describe the perils and impossibility of translating Haitian Creole to French. Translating Haitian Creole to English, too, was an exciting challenge, made all the more exciting because the original words were spoken by an uncommonly gifted and playful wordsmith with an uncommonly expressive voice.

With that caveat, we present Jean Dominique:

Before I did radio – don’t forget, I’m an agronomist – I spent a lot of time in the field, since as an agronomist, as an agronomy student, I spent a lot of time in the Artibonite when I finished my studies I went to work as an agronomist in Quartier Morin, in the Plaine du Nord, in Plaine Bayeux, where I spent time face-to-face with Vodou, with peasants who served the lwa, with oungan [Vodou priests], with manbo [Vodou priestesses].

Since I also had books to read, I read them, I learned from them.  And after I finished studying agronomy I spent two years in the School of Ethnology (which later became the Institute of Ethnology, but at the time it was the School of Ethnology), where I met a whole bunch of professors who showed me the way.  I came to know the way, so I could find what I was searching for.  And when I began to work in radio, radio could let people hear Vodou songs for the spirits, to hear rasin songs, to hear the beats of the drum.  That too is an important thing. But this also presented a big problem because Duvalier used Vodou, too.  The problem was that many people who were opposed to Duvalier thought that all of Vodou was tied to Duvalier.  Likewise, anyone who spoke about Vodou was suspected of being pro-Duvalier.  So I had to be very careful.  Yet again l’oncle, Jean Price-Mars, helped me to be very careful.  And the fellow we just heard there, Maître Pierre, and another of my spiritual fathers named Aristène.  Aristène Jecrois. They both greatly helped me to understand.  And another of my fathers, a father from the Northwest… Hmm!  That’s another story. A patriarch, a patriarch from the Northwest.  He came one day to the station, and I was testing the waters for my usual little afternoon program, and from time to time I’d put on a little music.  And one day he showed up at the station to see me, and he told me, “I had a dream about you.”

And he described the dream to me, and then he said, “There are things you understand, and there are others you do not understand.  I understand what you don’t understand.  And I understand why you don’t understand it.”  Hmm!  And he told me.  And it was he who put me on the path.  It was he who told me, “Jean, under the American occupation, we spoke of everything in the peristil (Vodou temple).”  They would speak those words, and the Americans were there, within the peristil, but they didn’t understand anything at all.  And so the word spread.  It was he who told me of Charlemagne Péralte [who led an armed resistance to the US occupation] .  It was he who told me of Benoît Batraville.  It was he who told me of the Cacos.  It was he who told me of the role of Vodou in the resistance.  It was he who explained that this tradition began waaaay back, long long ago, from the time of Boukman, from the time of Biassou.  Those words, [historian Thomas] Madiou didn’t write them, [François] Dalencourt didn’t write them, but those words were passed along through song.

Likewise, I came to understand something important that dialectical philosophy could show me, but that the blan could never understand: what we call the Haitian people’s strategy of mawonaj.  The dialectic of mawonaj. The dialectic of everything having two faces, two sides. Heads and tails. Everything on the blessed earth has two sides to it.  There are two sides.  Duvalier took one side, but there is another side he didn’t take.  He couldn’t take it.

And so it was, when an oungan was taking me through his lakou, he was showing me his lakou.  And when they saw that I wasn’t an enemy, when they saw that I all I wanted was to learn – I didn’t make any trouble – they taught me.  And I learned that there were some altars that were sealed shut.

“Oh-oh!” I said, “Papa, why are these altars sealed?”

“Mm-mm. I’ll tell you another time.”

Another altar was sealed.  I said again, “Oh, papa, why are these altars sealed?”

Now remember, this was in ‘73, ‘74, we were under Jean-Claude Duvalier.  When I got home, I kept thinking about what he had said, I got in my car, I came back, and I asked again.  “Why are these altars sealed off? I know there is a spirit, some meaning behind it.”

Eventually, one day, the patriarch told me, “I’ll tell you why those altars are sealed off. In 1957, when the devils took over the country, a great many of the Ginen spirits returned to Africa. They turned their back on the country.  They left the country for the devils.”

I said, “Oh!”  I said, “Papa, those are serious words you’re telling me!”

He said, “They are serious words, my child.  That’s why the altars are shut.”

I said, “So, they’ve abandoned us!  They’ve left us helpless!”

He said, “No, my child.  The day the Ginen spirits return, that means the time has come. The time has come.”

So, since I’ve been traveling deep, deep into the countryside, I’ve come to realize that there is a force in the Haitian people. The word “no” cannot cross their lips — but that’s not what’s going on in their hearts. They bow their heads when someone says “Bow your head!” It looks like they’re bowing their heads, but in their hearts they’re not. And they’re waiting for the day to come.  They’re waiting for the moment to come, when they can say, “No!”  When they will raise their heads again. That is what I learned within the peristil. That is what I learned Vodou held.

And then came a day, then came a day (I don’t remember whether it was in ‘72 to ‘73), I said to someone who was close to me, “Oh, I’m going to take a little trip, I’m going to go up to Ville Bonheur, to the annual July pilgrimage, when they celebrate the festival of Saut d’Eau.”  So I went, like any tourist, like any citizen, like anyone else from Port-au-Prince, who goes to watch and have fun!  When I got there, that fateful July at Saut d’Eau, I started moving through the crowd:  people, people, people, people, people everywhere!  I got to the front of the church, cassette in hand, I started to record, and there I discovered a great truth.  That truth…! I realized — and I said all of this on the radio in a report that caused an uproar at the time, because it was the first time that listeners had heard such things.  And we were under Jean-Claude Duvalier, we were under [high-ranking Macoutes like] Luc Désir, Jean Valmé, Luckner Cambronne, and company!  We were under the tigers!  The people opened their arms in front of the pilgrimage site, they looked toward the church, and they described their misery.  They described their oppression, how the life was squeezed out of them [peze-souse].  They described how everything was being destroyed [kraze-brize].  They spelled it all out. They described it in a litany, for hours. For days. And when I arrived under the palm tree — you know? You go past the church, go straight down, and there’s the palm tree where they say Emperor Faustin saw the apparition.  When I arrived under the palm tree, I heard something else: “Those who do evil cannot set foot in Saut d’Eau.”  Big words!  When you got up to the water, they said the same thing.  I said, “Hmm! Listen to what the people are saying.  The people are using the spirits to reveal their enemies.” That is what I meant at that time [in that report].

I feel the same thing in the drumbeats that echo throughout the country.  Sure, Macoutes could use the drum, too. To make a show, to intimidate people. But there is another kind of drumbeat: boom.  And that beat, Haitians of courage will understand it. Haitians who are ready to fight will understand it.  That is the drumbeat that sounded at Bocozelle [where peasant farmers rose up against landowners].  That is the truth I came to see — implicitly! secretly! — but I came to see it nonetheless.  And when I saw it, I held onto it!  I held tight!  And it revitalized me. It let me understand that my people are a people of courage.  Days came and went — February 7, 1986 was about to be set in motion.  That is the quest that Vodou taught me.

I’m not saying “go practice Vodou, sprinkle water for the spirits” — no.  That’s not the question, no, that’s not it.  It’s that strength, that capacity for resistance that I found within the peristil.  And I found it again, later, in the ti legliz [Catholic churches preaching liberation theology].  The current was always there… heheh.  The current was flowing, the current knows nothing of the borders between the Vodou peristil and the church of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost — no! The current doesn’t know anything about those kinds of borders.  Wherever it finds an outlet, it gushes out!  Like hot water ready to boil!  It finds an outlet under a mapou tree, it gushes out!  It finds an outlet under layers of rock, it gushes out!  It doesn’t choose. It pushes ahead. And that is what I discovered at Saut d’Eau, Ville Bonheur.  That’s what I discovered in the Artibonite, that it what I came to understand, deep in the countryside, from Aristène Jecrois: one day, the Ginen spirits are going to come back, they’re coming to purge the country and drive the devils out, so that the brave people can rebuild their home.  That’s the message contained in the songs.  That’s the message contained each beat of the drum.  And that is why, on Radio Haiti, the drum never stops beating.

jeanmichele
Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas, 17 September 1995: Celebrating 60 years of Radio Haiti and the return from a second exile..

 

The Voices of Change project was made possible through a generous grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities.

Documenting the Duke/Durham LGBTQI Community with Oral Histories

Oral histories are often fantastic, and fascinating, resources: first-hand accounts of lives and events, communities and histories, told with immediacy and giving a direct connection to the narrator, and thus to the story. They are rich and compelling, and are powerful tools in documenting those who are under-represented by the types of documentation traditionally found in archives. For these reasons, we were very excited to work on two recent oral history collections related to the local LGBTQI community: the Duke Alumni LGBTQ Oral Histories and the Rainbow Triangle Oral History Collection (RTOHC).

Materials from the Rainbow Triangle Oral Histories Collection.
Materials from the Rainbow Triangle Oral Histories Collection.

Both collections offer first-hand accounts of the LGBTQI experience at Duke and in the Triangle area. The Duke Alumni oral histories include individual Duke community members relating experiences from the 1970s through early 2000s, while the RTOHC materials come from individuals throughout the Triangle region and relate stories from the 1960s to the 2000s. As one can imagine, the stories in both document a large variety of experiences. Since some oral history subjects overlap in terms of years and environs covered, it is possible to compare multiple accounts of isolated, annual events like Blue Jeans Day; national crises like the AIDS epidemic; and ongoing struggles such as anti-LGBTQI persecution and community-building.

Similar to archival collections made up of paper and photographic-based materials, oral history collections pose significant challenges stemming from volume and format, as well as rights and content sensitivities. Close to 80 interviews are represented across these two collections. Interviews in the Alumni LGBTQ collections were conducted in 2015 and 2016 straight to digital recorders in formats supported by modern computing environments. Interviews conducted by the Rainbow Triangle Oral History project were conducted over a span of years in the 1990s and early 2000s on a variety of physical media and will require digital reformatting for use and preservation. Additionally, oral histories may have been recorded without the narrators giving explicit permission as to who can access the recordings, or under what circumstances, or what researchers can do with the information in the recording. Many projects and interviewers prepare forms for just this purpose, but not every form makes it into the archive with the recording. Finally, describing the contents, and the narrators, in ways that are sensitive to the narrator’s wishes, and concisely but accurately convey the topics covered in the recordings, can be complicated. Oral histories are often intensely personal and revelatory, and a wide range of subjects, persons, places, and events can be covered in a short period of time. We were lucky in that the alumni included either transcripts or interview summaries to aid in their description, and many of the RTOHC interviews included transcripts and/or biographical information.

Although these collections presented some complexities during processing, we were proud to work on preserving and providing access to these materials. Both collections are now available for use in the reading room.

Post contributed by Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist, and Tracy Jackson, Technical Services Archivist for the Duke University Archives.

Bringing Radio Haiti Home, One Step at a Time

This post originally appeared on H-Net on June 29, 2016. Post contributed by Laura Wagner, Ph.D., Radio Haiti Project Archivist.

In June 2016, with the processing of the Radio Haiti archive well underway but only partially completed, we took another big step in bringing Radio Haiti home. I traveled to Haiti to present the archive project at the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) and Association of Caribbean University, Research, and Institutional Libraries (ACURIL) conferences, both of which were held in Port-au-Prince during the same week, and brought with me a thousand flash drives. Each flash drive contains a small sample of twenty-nine Radio Haiti programs, and is emblazoned with Radio Haiti’s iconic microphone-inspired vèvè logo and the permanent URL of the collection’s finding aid.

radiohaitiflashdrives
Radio Haiti flash drives at the Université d’État d’Haïti campus in Limonade. Photo courtesy of the MIT-Haiti Initiative

The contents of the flash drives span nearly thirty years, from 1973 to 2002. It includes subjects ranging from the Battle of Vertières and the Haitian Revolution, the annual vodou pilgrimage to Saut d’Eau, the brutality of the Duvalier regime, the tribulations of Haitian refugees at sea, the 1987 Jean Rabel massacre, the persecution of Haitian cane-cutters in the Dominican Republic, the aftermath of the coup years, agrarian reform in the mid-1990s, women’s rights, and the search for justice in the assassination of Jean Dominique and tributes to the slain journalist. It includes the voices of journalists, writers, human rights activists, rural farmers, artists, and intellectuals. Jean Dominique, Michèle Montas, Richard Brisson, Madeleine Paillère, J.J. Dominique, Konpè Filo, Jean-Marie Vincent, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, and Myriam Merlet, among others. Each flash drive also contains a PDF containing a full list of the contents, and links to our permanent finding aid, Soundcloud site, Facebook page, and the trilingual pilot website.

Collaborators, friends, and fellow travelers, including the Fondasyon Konesans ak Libète (FOKAL), the MIT-Haiti Initiative, AlterPresse, and Fanm Deside (among others!) are helping distribute the flash drives throughout the country. Our goal is for copies to be available in various schools, universities, community radio and alternative media outlets, community libraries, grassroots organizations, cultural organizations, and women’s organizations from Cité Soleil to Jérémie to Cap Haïtien to Jacmel to Gonaïves to La Gonâve. In 2017, when the Radio Haiti archive is completely digitized and processed, we will give digital copies of the entire archive to the Archives Nationales, the Bibliothèque Nationale, the network of community radio stations SAKS, FOKAL, and other major institutions.

twoarchivistsfromanh
Two archivists from the Archives Nationales d’Haïti, Yves-André Nau and Yves Rijkaard Gaspard, with project archivist Laura Wagner, at the ACURIL conference

Radio Haiti’s digital archive is not only for scholars writing about Haiti; it isn’t even principally for them. It is for everyone. Radio in Haiti in general, and Radio Haiti in particular, was and is fundamentally democratic. The technology is relatively inexpensive. Even if you don’t have a radio yourself, a relative, a friend, or a neighbor does. Radio doesn’t depend on traditional literacy. And Radio Haiti itself was in Haitian Creole in addition to French, so that everyone could listen, participate, and share ideas. Radio Haiti demonstrated that Creole, the language spoken by all Haitian people, could be used for serious topics and serious analysis.

Radio in Haiti began with Radio HHK, a propaganda tool of the 1915-1934 US Marine occupation. In the 1970s, churches distributed small transistor radios. These radios were locked, to prevent people from listening to things other than church stations. But the listeners managed to unlock them in order to listen to other frequencies, especially Radio Haiti Inter on 1330 am. There is a long history of resourcefulness and innovation in Haiti—a history of degaje.

The Internet still is not as democratic as radio. It is not free. Not everyone has Internet access, and not everyone can buy enough data to livestream the digital archive. Despite that, I remain certain that the Radio Haiti archive will spread. Just as people took a propaganda tool and used it for their own purposes, they’ll find a way. Just as people unlocked the church radios, they’ll find a way. We want and encourage that. We hope that people will copy the content of these flash drives and share it with others, and that those who are able to download the audio will copy it, put it on a flash drive, share it with others.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

The weekend after the conferences, I left Port-au-Prince to travel to the Artibonite to visit Charles Suffrard, one of Jean Dominique’s closest friends and collaborators, a leader of KOZEPEP, an influential peasant rights organizations in Haiti. In a posthumous tribute to Dominique, which is one of the recordings featured on the flash drives, he introduces himself as “a rice farmer, and Jean Dominique’s teacher,” referring to the journalist’s uncommon respect for the expertise and experience of Haiti’s cultivators. We eat lalo and local rice from Charles’s fields. Then he takes me to the dam where they poured Jean Dominique’s ashes, after he was struck down by an assassin in Radio Haiti’s courtyard early in the morning of April 3, 2000. “This is the most important thing for you to see,” Charles says.

bridge
The bridge from which Jean Dominique’s ashes were poured, April 2000

It feels like a pilgrimage: if I am to work on this archive, I must also know this place. The water was high and quick-moving, cloudy with sediment. “This is where all the water that irrigates the whole Artibonite Valley comes from,” Charles explained. “This is why we chose to pour Jean’s ashes here, so that he could become fertilizer for the entire Artibonite.”

ricefields
rice fields, Artibonite
 The river glides apace toward the churning dam, and I imagine Jean Dominique’s dynamism dispersed throughout the water and earth of the Artibonite Valley, and I wonder about things that, through the act of diffusion, grow stronger. Memory should not stay stagnant or contained. Like the river, like sound, memory needs motion in order to be. As for Radio Haiti, it was never really gone. It was never lost or forgotten. It was merely, for a time, at rest. The physical archive is at Duke University now, but Duke is not really its home. The Duke project is a means of setting Radio Haiti in motion again, of creating access for as many people as possible so that Radio Haiti’s home can again be everywhere that people listen, and everywhere that they remember.
community
Community radio station in L’Estère, Artibonite. On the walls: “We will never forgot Jean Dominique”

The Voices of Change project was made possible through a generous grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities.