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1) Much like here 5) Vodun Woman 9) Rolling on
2) Bwa Kayiman 6) Unifying ourselves 10) Beyond 2004
3) Maroon lineage 7) Journeys of S&M 11) In the distance
4) Scattered seeds 8) Breaking Chains 12) Self-Defense
13) Chèn Sa Pakapab Janm Kase  

   


PAPA’S MAROON LINEAGE

It was pre-ordained, this tussle I was having with these disembodied rays, these old customs, these migrated but ever-present traditional forces. It had to come down to this because Klebert, my father, my spiritual key, was from a Haitian maroon lineage, born and raised in poverty and illiteracy. Fighting was a reflex for my papa. He was the son of a Vodun priest called Jeantiville Jeanty; this six-foot-six man, dark as midnight, with a gigantic black stallion so in tune with him, his friends, they said my granpapa was a centaur. I’m told well-mounted Granpapa Jeantiville Jeanty, was always soused, stamping around the Southern villages of Haiti with his machete drawn out and his dueling roosters in tow. He made his own legendary ruckus in the small hamlet of Jamais Vu located just a few miles outside Fond Des Blancs. His son, my father Klebert was no joke and back in childhood days when Papa said my name, that was a MASSIVE event. The Richter scale of my being would tip over and slide to the ground in one fell swoop. He wouldn't say "Marguerite" in any calm way. No. He would holler "MA-GA-RETH" e nunciating each syllable in his deep peremptory, precise and commanding bass tone. I knew I was in trouble and that was always. Strict is too docile a word to associate with my father. Papa worked very hard. Played even harder. Drank his Budweiser, smoked his Marlboro cigarettes, spent nights away womanizing, rolling his hat around to the song "Papa was a Rolling Stone" like any ol' good time hustler. Papa took no mess and was a slave only to his hot temper.

Mother? Well, she was beautiful, tragic, dramatic, Catholic and apostolic; the quintessential kitchen, church and children woman who liberated herself 'cause being immigrant and Black in America meant one must work and to work as domestic for white ladies and be successful at it, meant one could NOT afford the luxury of competing with them in the needy, reliant and pliant department.

Mama's station and work worked her. And when my mama's emotional muscles grew, she then became unrecognizable to papa who needed to boss her for the same patriarchal reasons white ladies needed to be needy and pliant to be validated by their men.

When papa and mama's ties snapped, mama would matriculate, joining the assembly line of African-American women, carbon-copied pious-but-disappointed Black women, forever pregnant with no-outlets-for-love, most with PH.D.zzzz in work, church, kitchen and children.

Starting out life with mama and papa was trip enough. I was the two, except for one thing: they couldn't look authority in the face and live long. "Police" and "government" had an eerie sound to it for them, coming out of Duvalier's Haiti and all. Granmoun-yo didn't want that destiny for me. I became a lawyer so never to feel powerless like that.

Today papa, like the old Patriarch white boy, is old and hasn't scared me like he used to in a long time. Now I always learn from conversations with them. Papa is proud of his kids, a transformed mellow chief, and, of course, he's very cool. I was 11 the last time I stood still for any beating from him, verbal or mental. If I wouldn't be bowed by family, y'all think some strange U.S. Ambassador or his Messrs Let's-Hoard-It-All Western Culture is gonna push me around? Shush me up for long? Yeah right! These old timers still carrying the Bartholemew De La Casas mindset around don't know my papa Klebert who taught me how to fight, long ago.

Besides, the bright-eyed, full-of-jump powerful girl in me wouldn't let the wounded woman shrink to the size of a mouse just to please people "developing" my Haiti. To avoid conflict? Puhleeeeze.

*

Well, anyhow, what's self-evident Americanness anyway? If it's about being free and struggling to stay free, then all Haitians are Americans MORE than geographically. Yet, didn't a class of the status-quo minded miss this identification entirely, finding it scurrilous that Black-like-me, from the country that officially first put "liberty for all" to application in the Western Hemisphere, with a Haitian Constitution that didn't, even after 300 years of savage European enslavement, define Caucasians as 3/5th human; with a heart big enough, even after 300 years of white inflicted misery, to let action, not skin color define character, allowing my granpapa's Fond Des Blancs, a "white valley", to exist within its black borders, having equal rights and full Haitian citizenship 'cause the Polish men there chose to flee Napoleon's army to fight on the side of "justice and liberty for all."

Yes, these people, with a spirit that freed five Latin American countries and sparked countless freedom movements down the annals of history; with a language and culture based on the actual and symbolic psycho-spiritual unification of the rainbow of captured African tribes and New World peoples; these people known for the Vodun drums and dance which gave birth to New Orleans Jazz, modern dance, part of the Katherine Dunham method and the liberated beats that called forth U.S. Rock 'n Roll; yes I’m gloating, yeah that country, their people couldn't possibly represent any part of what's truly American......


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The Red, Black & Moonlight Monologues, excerpted from KENBE LA!: Crossings of a Vodun-Roots Woman. (c) 1998 and 2000 by Èzili Dantò/formerly, colonially named Marguerite Laurent (unpublished). All rights reserved.

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