Reparations: Voodoo and the Haitian revolution

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Did you know that voodoo helped the first slaves that waged war against their colonial masters to gain their independence? The Haitian slaves were the first to wage a revolution on oppression from French rule in the 18th century and to come out victorious.

Under the supervision of one voodoo priestess, all the Haitian slaves came together for the first time to discuss their oppression and wage a revolution against the iron fist rule imposed on them by their colonial masters.

Unarmed Militarily but armed spiritually

                                                                        Picture by Makandal Jan,2 May 2012

After the Haitian slaves attained victory in the battle for their freedom, the colonial masters saw them as a threat and a bad example for other slaves around the world who might consider rebelling against oppressive rule as well. The Haitian slaves were determined to safeguard their newly earned liberty at all costs.

The slaves in their determination to maintain their liberty built tall castles on the highest landscapes in their country to give them a clear view and enough time to prepare for any potential invaders. The colonial masters knowing they would lose another battle with the Haitians, waged an economic war on the freed slaves by way of placing an embargo on Haiti.

As a result, most countries could not trade with the Haitians and this drastically affected the Haitian economy. Not only was an embargo placed on the newly independent and poor slaves but they were also forced to pay for loss and damages of property to their former colonial masters which in other words meant paying back their former masters for the loss of their slaves.

The total sum of money was 150 million which France demanded Haiti to pay within a period of 30 years. Also, between 1957 and 1986 Haiti was mainly under the control of the corrupt and oppressive Duvalier family. Loans incurred by the family during their time of rule in Haiti were estimated to account for 40% of Haiti’s debt in 2000.

Why was the image of Voodoo tarnished?

                                                                               Picture by 30 October 2013

Why is the general perception of voodoo just black magic and sorcery practiced by sticking needles in a doll to harm someone physically? The victory attained by the Haitian slaves was an abnormal one. Never in the history of slavery have slaves ever dared to fight back their colonial masters for a couple of reasons.

Colonial masters had more economic and military power. But the only strength the Haitian slaves had was their voodoo or traditional religion which at the time had so much in common with other religions such as Christianity. The voodoo followers believed in lesser gods, meeting in a holy place to offer worship to these gods, the sacrifice of animals and a few other practices that have a lot in common with other religions.

Despite rigid prohibitions by colonial oppression, voodoo was indeed one of the few areas of totally autonomous activity for the African slaves. As a religion and a vital spiritual force, it was a source of psychological liberation in that it enabled them to express and reaffirm that self-existence they objectively recognized through their own labour . . .

Voodoo further enabled the slaves to break away psychologically form the very real and concrete chains of slavery and to see themselves as independent beings; in short it gave them a sense of human dignity and enabled them to survive.”

So in the course of the revolution Voodoo brought together desperate forces in the colony, uniting various rebel factions to fight side by side. But after the victory of the Haitian slaves the world did play a part in criminalising the only religion and strength of the freed slaves.

Hollywood portrayed the religion as primitive and savage, ignoring its rich history and complexity. The United States president at the time also helped in portraying the newly freed slaves to the world as cannibals who had been possessed by the devil and discouraged other countries from trading or coming to Haiti’s aid.

At least respect it if we don’t like it

                                                               Picture by Mawuna Remarque Koutonin 31, May 2013

The issue of voodoo being portrayed as an evil religion is crucial to me because it is just an example of all the misconceptions, treachery and wrong teachings that came along with the colonialization period which many people from colonised states continue to suffer from to date.

Knowing our history as black people is the first step to being a true patriot and effectively repairing our continent. How can we finish the good works started by our forefathers when we are so quick to denounce our African beliefs and take on any form of belief introduced by the Western world?

How can we denounce the traditions of our fathers when we know nothing about them? Knowing our history gives us choices to respect or denounce them without being IGNORANT.

The time to reclaim the BLACK PRIDE and develop OUR NATIONS as REAL AFRICANS is NOW

Post by

Mohammed Nuru deen Shardow

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