The Power of Judges and the Roles that they Play… An Interview w/ Austin Lawyer Ann del LLano

We sat down with Austin lawyer/activist and Southern Shift partner Ann Del Llano and spoke to her about last month’s Supreme Court decision to allow corporations unlimited contributions in elections. She started off by noting that the American public were big losers. She said the average citizen just lost a seat at the table in our Democracy because corporations will immediately have a louder voice and better access to lawmakers.

Ann also laid out some of the possible impacts this decision could have on many Texans. For starters, she noted that Private Prisons could suddenly start weighing in on elections and using undue influence and vast resources to push for harsher and longer sentences that would help increase their bottom line.  She noted that we already have powerful police unions who’ve held considerable sway over politicians, who have found themselves under pressure to be tough on crime in the form of choosing  jail sentencing over alternatives. This trend would increase if private prison corporations who stand to make huge profits from warehousing bodies step into the mix..They would be the ones controlling the candidates and literally writing the laws. 

Ann also spoke on the issue of media corporations and how people’s voices would be drowned out when moves are made to allow them to control the internet and get rid of Net Neutrality.  Here’s pt1 of our podcast…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBKWZ2I15dc

The Power of the Judges and the Roles that they Play

In pt2 of our podcast we take a sobering look at the enormous power judges have in and outside the courtroom, the roles they play and how the recent Supreme court ruling could corporatize the type of judges elected onto the bench… We talked about the types of corporate influence that hs seaped into the Supreme Court in Texas where citizens going up against corporation rarely win.  Ann expressed her fear that things would get exponentially worse.

We looked at a litany of criminal justice cases where the people accused of heinous crimes were let off by judges. They ranged  from the acquittal of the officers who shot Sean Bell 50 times in NY all the way up to the recent dismissal of a case against infamous Texas judge Sharon ‘Killer’ Kellar .  We talked about how George W Bush being ‘selected’ into office  in the landmark ruling they made in 2000, was the result of his father George H Bush putting conservative justices on the supreme court who would rule in his son’s favor 10-15 years later.  Ann pointed out the recent Supreme Court ruling was the result of Bush jr putting Roberts and Alioto on the court.

We talk about the importance of paying attention to elections and asking hard questions about the judges seeking office, especially in the areas of criminal sentencing. Ann lays out a startegy that voters can follow to start monitoring judges so they can be better informed come election time..

We also talked about how voters in Harris County in 2008 swept out all but 4 judges from office and replaced them with judges who were taking a different approach toward punishment.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef7ckvPu6UA

Former Harris County Judge Now Holds it Down in the Jails

We recently caught up with former Harris county judge Caprice Cosper and talk to her about her new appointment which has been described as a czar-ship for jails. She says that’s an inaccurate description and talked to us exactly what she does in overseeing the jail system. Her main goals is to deal with prison over crowding which has resulted in more than thousand prisoners being shipped out-of-state. She is also a liason  between her former fellow Harris County Judges and the Harris County Jail. Described as ameticulous hard-working, stern yet fair judge, we at The Southern Shift sat down and talked with Cosper about the types of thresholds she was hoping to reach in order to determine success.

In pt2 we continue our interview w/ former Harris County judge Caprice Cosper. Here she tackles the issue of recitivism and the push to be tough on crime. She talks about how Harris County is in a unique point in history where various stake holder in the justice system recognize there is great need for change. She lays out the steps she and others are now taking to be fair and yet responsible for keeping society’s most dangerous people off the streets.

As we come into pt3 of our interview w/ former judge Caprice Cosper, she talks about the need to rehabillitate non-violent, substance abuse and low level offenders who will one day get out of prison and return to society. 

We conclude our interview w/ former Harris county judge Caprice Cosper. Here we talk about the influence of gang reality shows on TV and how that may actually be an encouragement for wayward youth looking for 15 minutes of fame…We also talk about how women are the largest growing segment in Harris County’s jail population and steps being taken to turn that around. Lastly we talk about about how 1 out 10 Texans is or has been in jail.

Return to the Southern Shift

Scholar Cornel West Goes In on President Obama-Expresses Disappoitment

 

Scholar, author Dr Cornel West, Professor at Princeton, University has gone in on President Obama. Shortly after last week’s state of the union he released a video where he questions Obama’s commitment to poor people. He points out that the improved economy the President touts still has an un-employment rate of 10% and that 10% is made up of real people who are in dire straits. West also noted that President Obama brought many people into the fold during his campaign, but now seems to have abandoned them to become a technocratic deal cutter.

In the video West warns that if Obama does not take the steps to be more of a leader in the vain of iconic figures like Martin Luther King who has often been compared to, then he will be nothing more than a mediocre President…

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Did President Obama’s Speech Go Far Enough? Not if You Were Working class or Poor

Last night’s State of the Union address by President Obama came a bit too little too late… Yes, it was perceived as a good speech in many circles but only because he finally focused on the one thing nagging at the heels of at least 1 out of every 10 Americans… We’re talking about JOBS. It had been along time coming and when you compare that with what has thus far been a disastrous Health Bill which caved into the wanton greed and desires of clowns like Senators Joe Lieberman and Bill Nelson, his speech was a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, what was missing, was a discussion of how to help out those who have already been severely damaged by the fleecing of this economy. What was missing was a discussion of how to help those who saw their 401Ks tanked, saw their credit lines cut, saw their credit rating ruined often through no fault of their own. We didn’t hear discussion on how to help those who worked 10, 15 and even 20 years at a job only to find themselves out of work because of downsizing-the result of greedy banks making record profits, giving out billion dollars to top level employees and not helping small businesses get a line of credit to purchase goods and supplies or make payroll. We DID NOT hear conversation on how to help out those people who are part of the working poor and the poor.

I heard President Obama say things like ‘Tax credits‘, and small business loans.. and don’t get me wrong, that’s great if you’re in a position to take advantage of them. But if you spent your last savings on rent and other basic necessities after being laid off and unable to find work or a decent paying job over the past few months, none of these tax breaks do you any good. I was looking for the President to say something like..

1-Renters get a voucher.. landlords get a tax break or some other economic incentive to give tenets a couple of months to save money..

2-Folks who lost their jobs will get paid for job training so they could re-enter a changing job market that requires new technological skill sets. I heard all this talk about Green jobs.. Great, but what exactly is a green job?Installing solar panels? My elderly mom is gonna start installing panels?? Really? If you been working in the office for the past 10 years shuffling papers, you need to get a new skill set.. and that new skill set needs to come not after you get hired, but while you’re looking… Give people some incentive. Help boost their confidence. make them feel useful. Without that, guess, what? You’re gonna have a bunch of out of work, ‘unskilled’ workers who are still in the economic dog-house… All of that compounded by watching uber rich bankers get billion dollar bonuses.

3-There’s been a disproportionate amount of hidden taxes and hidden costs applied to the poor. We saw no break or relief from that. What do I mean? Well, take a city like Oakland where there is high unemployment in many neighborhoods. Last fall the city council seeing the city was strapped for cash, decided to have the police and parking enforcement step up and crack down on any and all vehicle violations. They were encourage to pull up all sorts of antiquated and obscure laws and go after folks to raise money. So all all sorts of folks, especially those in poor neighborhoods found themselves being hit and hit hard. If you were parked in your driveway wrong or on the street at some odd angle or not ‘too far’ from the curb, you saw a hefty ticket being slapped on you. Police officers were zealously handing out tickets for everything ranging from expired tags to not having enough screws on your license plate. Parking officers were combing the streets early in the morning with books and little known rules in hand looking for violators. This of course led to people not coming to shopping centers in oakland where this sort of madness was taking place. Everyone got hurt. If that wasn’t enough the city added to this by raising parking meter rates to a whopping two dollars an hour and expanded the enforcement to 8pm at night. This was a hidden tax that saddled the working poor and poor. We wont even talk about the high bridge tools to go into San Francisco. 4 dollars a pop plus 3 dollar gas is alot when you don’t have.

The final straw was when the city went out and got a machine that reads license plates and checked to see if you had more than 5 tickets, which isn’t hard to have happen in the Bay Area. I got three after the increased enforcement. 5 tickets meant you got your car towed or booted immediately. Lots of poor folks who were choosing between paying for basic necessities and superfluous parking tickets wound up taking what little money they tucked away in December and paying parking fees. Not a good look at all. Very few people could afford to be without a car.

4-We didn’t see the lowering of costs for food or gas prices. In poor neighborhoods prices went up not down, with managers talking about poor people were stealing food so they had to pay for extra security. All of us got hit.

Banking and credit card fees which actually increased especially with outlets that got bailouts. For many who aren’t living on the brink, such things weren’t thought about. It didn’t hit the radar. I had one friend say what’s a few extra dollars to pay during a troubled economy? A whole hell of a lot when you have no money. Last night I needed 20 bucks here in DC and all the withdrawal fees were 3 bucks and none of the stores in the poor neighborhood I’m staying took credit cards.. Thats that hidden tax that poor folks get hit with everyday

5-There was no discussion about the crazy costs of payday loans. Lots of folks in the hood know about this. They need a loan to pay for rent or the electric bill or cable and internet bill (all of which have gone up over the past year) and they wind up paying loan shark type fees in order to get that loan.. Thats another hidden cost.I ran into NAACP ben jealous last night and he said it was an issue that needs to be discussed, cause a lot of poor folks are getting clobbered with this..

6-many of the working poor are saddled with taking care of two or three kids and aging parents. President Obama did not talk about that last year. We didn’t hear any discussion about how the new ‘millienium baby boomers who are facing this new challenge will get relief.. Many in this generation have parents who divorced, didn’t have a home to get equity and very little retirement and savings. They’re too old to work, and not really able to make it. Their kids are looking out after their parents as well as kids. I can tell you first hand, that’s daunting. For example, my sister has spent thousands flying back and forth to Miami, looking in my pops who is not able to work other than odd jobs here and there and has failing health. The cost of putting him in an old age home which he absolutely under no circumstances would ever agree to go to was minimum 3500 bucks a month. Completely unaffordable for two siblings and thats just one parent at the same time he needed to be looked after especially when he got sick. Someone had to do it-That someone was his kids who had to save up money fly to another state and take on an unexpected, new challenge that has no blue print to follow.

I can go on and on about these hidden costs that impact poor and working class people all day. People reading this know what I’m talking about. They also know how political posturing and political pimping has resulted in a nasty stigma being attached to those who can barely make it.. For years we allowed high prices news pundits come on TV and essentially blame folks who are not making ends meet. Sadly many of us have adapted that line of thinking and have gone on to blame themselves for not doing so well, until they hit a brick wall and realized that it’s almost impossible to make it under lots of circumstances.

Yes, President Obama gave a good speech if you were middle class- but coming into 2010 there aren’t a whole lot of folks who are in that category anymore. Sure, many may think they are, but in reality unless you have 3-4 months rent in the bank you can fall back on, a healthy 401K that wasn’t decimated during the bank bailout era and you have health insurance, you are NOT middle class. You’re part of the working poor and at any given moment you can slip away and become part of the permanent ‘poor’ underclass.

Lastly I’ll say this… what I’m afraid is by not addressing poor & working poor..a big part of the economy is served-Prison Industrial complex but thats for another article

That’s Something to ponder

Davey D

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State of the Union: Why Is Obama Still Clinging Bipartisanship?

Obama restated 2008 campaign promises that were not kept during his first year as president. It’s unclear how he can make good on them in 2010 working with Republicans.

January 27, 2010 |By John Nichols

http://www.alternet.org/story/145463/state_of_the_union%3A_why_is_obama_still_clinging_bipartisanship

But don’t accuse the president of veering from the course he charted at a point when his term was new, his popularity ratings were high and Americans took seriously all that talk of “hope” and “change.”

Despite the battering he has taken during his first year in the White House, despite suffering a serious drop in his personal approval ratings, despite the frustration and disenchantment that gave the Senate seat from the deep blue state of Massachusetts to the opposition Republicans, Obama used his initial State of the Union address to renew the call for the health care reform initiative that was the primary focus of his difficult first year in office.

“Don’t walk away from reform — not now, not when we are so close,” the president pleaded with the Congress.

“By the time I’m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Co-pays will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether,” he declared, in the signature line of his speech. “I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither should the people in this chamber.”

The president admitted that he bumbled the push for health reform, even drawing warm laughter when he said: “I did not choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn’t take on health care because it was good politics. But remember this– I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone.”

He also acknowledged that his first year in office was a tough one: “I campaigned on the promise of change — change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change — or at least, that I can deliver it.”

Yet, Obama still did not seem to “get” the politics of the moment.

Speaking at a point when the year-long effort to enact fundamental health-care reforms has stumbled badly — in the face of united Republican opposition, wrangling between House and Senate Democrats and unfocused messaging from the president — Obama made a renewed effort to find the common ground that has eluded almost everyone in Washington.

Remarkably, the president clung to the hope for bipartisanship that was dashed at every turn in 2009 — either with outright rejection by the “party of ‘no'” or, worse yet, via compromises that handed ultimate authority over policy-making to Republican senators who diverted stimulus funding from job creation to tax cuts for the rich and Democrat-In-Name-Only Ben Nelson and Republican-In-Everything-But-Name Joe Lieberman, who forced the Senate to scrap the public option that was needed to challenge the grip of health insurance companies.

“We face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people hope what they deserve — is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics,” said the president, whose repeated references to bipartisanship made clear that he is not ready to adopt the fighting stance that might rally the Democratic base for a serious fight to use the party’s majorities in the House and Senate to initiate meaningful reforms.

This was not a rally-the-base speech.

It was a speech that, at many turns, sounded as if it was written a year ago — before Obama saw his domestic agenda blocked at so many turns.

It was this tone-deaf quality that made Obama’s speech a less-than-inspired statement.

Even when Obama outlined what sounded like an activist agenda, he generally restated 2008 campaign promises that were not kept during his first year as president.

In particular:

* To suggest a commitment to job creation, he dusted off one of his presidential campaign’s less-impressive position papers on using tax cuts to get small businesses hiring. In particular, the president called for eliminating capital-gains taxes on investments in small businesses and for giving small employers a tax credit for new hires.

* He repeated old promises to create clean-energy jobs and to end aid to businesses that are off-shoring jobs and facilities.

* Even as said “we all hated the bank bailout” (“it’s about as popular as a root canal”), Obama defended the giveaway to big banks as a necessary, even courageous, move. And he only offered up a little of the populism that should have defined the speech, with a proposal to recover bailout bucks by placing a fee on the biggest banks. “I know Wall Street isn’t keen on this idea,” he declared, “but if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.”

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Young Violinist who Performed for Michelle Obama, Brutally Beaten by Pittsburgh Police Who Thought His Soda Can was a Gun

Sadly 2010 is off to a shakey start with the story of this horrific police beating of an young violinist Jordan Miles who just several months ago played for First Lady Michelle Obama… This comes on the heels of recent stats showing that in 2009 close to 70 people were shot and killed by police in Houston/Harris County in Texas. 20-30 were killed in LA County in California.. An Oakland police officer accused of killing two unarmed men and shooting a third who was in a wheel chair had his case dismissed by a judge..An Austin officer who shot a man Nathaniel Sanders while he slept in the back of his car will not be having criminal charges pressed on him, even after it was discovered he turned off his car camera.. Very disturbing and in many of our minds calls for major investigations and overhauls by the Department of Justice..

-Davey D-

Police brutality charge by teen disturb mayor

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10023/1030533-53.stm

Jordan Miles is a 18 year old violinist who played for First Lady Michele Obama

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he is “very troubled” by claims that a Homewood high school student was beaten by undercover police.

Jordan Miles, 18, was treated at a hospital twice after an arrest last week by three plainclothes Pittsburgh police officers. Police suspected he had a concealed gun and — after a chase and a struggle with the Creative and Performing Arts High School senior — concluded he was holding a bottle of Mountain Dew instead. He was charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest, but when officers did not show for a court hearing Thursday, the matter was postponed.

Mr. Miles took several blows to the head and face, was Tasered and had a chunk of hair ripped from his head, his lawyer said. He was walking between homes owned by his mother and grandmother when police stopped him.

Police claimed that they identified themselves to Mr. Miles and repeatedly tried to subdue the 18 year old after he fled.

Read more:http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10023/1030533-53.stm#ixzz0dYPhW1c5

Mother alleges son brutalized by police

By Jeremy Boren and Adam Brandolph
TRIBUNE-REVIEW

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/pittsburgh/s_663712.html?sms_ss=twitter

Jordan Miles before the police beating

The mother of a high school senior who performed for first lady Michelle Obama while she was in Pittsburgh in September says her son did not deserve to be “brutally attacked” by police officers outside his home earlier this month.

“Jordan is an excellent kid. He’s very quiet and takes school seriously,” said his mother, Terez Miles, 38. “He knows nothing about drugs, drug dealing or anything like that. He didn’t deserve this.”

Jordan Miles, 18, a senior at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, Downtown, alleges that three Pittsburgh police officers beat him during an arrest outside his house on Tioga Street in Homewood about 11 p.m. on Jan. 12.

The city Office of Municipal Investigations is looking into a complaint filed by Miles, whom officers said kicked and elbowed them when they tried to arrest him.

The officers involved in the incident were Richard Ewing, David Sisak and Michael Saldutte, according to court records. Each officer was hired in September 2005 and is paid a base salary of $56,150 a year, the rate for fourth-year officers.

Jordan Miles in hospital after police beating

Police Chief Nate Harper said all three officers were reassigned from their plainclothes unit to uniformed duties. Harper said no further action will be taken until the investigation is complete.

Miles’ mother is “angry” and “frustrated” that the officers have not been more seriously reprimanded.

“I feel like they should be fired,” she said. “There’s no way they can justify what they did.”

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl yesterday called the allegations “very troubling.”

“It seems as if there was a tremendous amount of force used,” Ravenstahl said a day after news broke about the incident. “The question now needs to be answered: Was it appropriate use of force?”

Ravenstahl said the complaint is being taken “very seriously.” If the amount of force the police used wasn’t appropriate, “they will be held accountable,” he said.

Through his attorney, J. Kerrington Lewis, Miles said he fought to defend himself from what he thought was an attack because the officers did not identify themselves as police officers and they were not wearing uniforms.

“We’ve lived in Homewood all our lives,” Terez Miles said. “I’ve told him to be wary of people that might want to do him harm, but I never imagined it would be police officers that would attack and brutally beat him up.”

In a criminal complaint, the officers contend they identified themselves and that Saldutte held up a police badge attached to a necklace.

Miles suffered a swollen face, hair ripped from his scalp and a twig jabbed through his gum during the incident, his mother said. Miles has not returned to CAPA, where he is an honors student and plays the viola, his mother said.

Jordan Miles recovering

Miles played his instrument for the first lady and the spouses of the delegates of the Group of 20 economic summit when they visited CAPA.

Miles was treated at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield. Sisak was treated at UPMC Mercy, Uptown, for unspecified injuries, according to the complaint. In a report, Ewing said the officers knocked Miles to the ground and struck him with their knees and fists after an attempt to incapacitate him with a Taser failed.

Police first tried to question Miles because he was outside in a poorly lit area at 11 p.m. and appeared to have a weapon in the right pocket of his heavy coat. The item turned out to be a bottle of Mountain Dew. Police said Miles ran away from them, refused to comply with commands and struggled when they tried to handcuff him. Miles was on his way from his mother’s house to his grandmother’s, where he often sleeps, his mother said.

Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board, said the officers should be reprimanded, offering an alternative assignment to the warrant office or desk duty where they wouldn’t have interaction with the public.

“They should just be taken off the street until this is resolved,” she said.

Miles has been accepted to Pennsylvania State University, where he wants to study to be a crime scene investigator, a dream that may be in jeopardy because of the pending criminal charges, his mother said.

“I hope the charges against my son will be dropped. He’s completely innocent,” she said. “I’m just glad they didn’t kill him.”

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Immortal Technique: (Reflections on the Haitian Revolution & Present Condition)

(Reflections on the Haitian Revolution & Present Condition)
By Immortal Technique

http://www.everydropchi.com/

Since the recent tragedy that has befallen the proud and persevering nation of Haiti, there has been an outpouring of support followed by a few disturbing falsities being spread about the history of the island and its people. I wrote the following to shed some light on events during and around the Haitian Revolution. Please remember memorizing and reiterating should never pass for learning. Deciphering the significance of individuals and events is what truly teaches us not just about history, but also about ourselves.

There is a wide spectrum of beliefs behind what has caused Haiti to suffer ceaselessly over the years. Some see the problem as being mostly political, bad governance, modern day colonialism, and the perceived necessity to make an example to the world of what a successful slave revolution will get you. There are even those on the fringe who cling to an ancient superstition that the island was freed by a mythological pact with Satan (video) In order to shed light on the issue I am forced to go back in time. Obviously not to the beginning of occupational history, but far enough to give others a realistic perspective on Haiti and it’s struggle.

We join a story centuries in the making. It is the year 1794 and the scent of musket powder blows over all of Europe. The French Revolution may have changed the face of the world, but its unintended consequences that influenced its colonies would come to overshadow France’s own glory. It was during this year, on the 4th of February, that France’s First Republic Convention (under pressure from massive slave revolts) decided it had to transcend the stumbling efforts of the ‘enlightened monarchs’ of Europe and abolish slavery. Yet in the customary fashion of our own Declaration of Independence’s “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal,” the gesture, much like these words, became a glaring example of self-righteous insincerity. Equality, the fraternal twin brother of Independence, was aborted at the fetal stage of development and the Revolution came to betray itself.

Francois-Dominique Toussaint

Known then as “Saint Domingue” (French for Santo Domingo,) the colony that we now call Haiti, yielded great fortune to those who possessed her. It was rich with sugar, cotton, tobacco, cocoa and other valued resources. So much so that the European Superpowers of that day fought bitterly against each other to control the island and her inhabitants. After all, the African slaves living on Saint Domingue were the proverbial engines that ran the machine. From among them appeared a man who was born a slave but who would become free and lead all his countrymen toward that same destiny. He was a glitch in the matrix, an act of nature, and a mistake to be corrected in the eyes of the islands autocratic semi-feudal society. His name was Francois-Dominique Toussaint soon to be heralded, “L’Overture.”

As a former servant and carriage driver, he had abstained from participating directly in previous uprisings stemming from the refusal of slave masters to honor “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.” He had waited patiently and then allied himself with other rebel leaders who had risen to the task of overthrowing colonial rule. His ideas were innovative and his guerrilla tactics highly disciplined. No wonder then that he rose through the ranks of the rebellious forces so quickly.

Before fighting alongside the French against other colonial powers, Toussaint had been in league with the Spanish, who along with Great Britain were at war with France. The Spanish were used as a support system for his designs when white colonials refused to endorse the full rights of citizenship to free blacks given by the French edict of 1792. In other words, for Toussaint they were there to serve his vision rather than him serving theirs. Having so many different nations vying for a piece of the pie proved a difficult task to navigate. To his credit, Toussaint had managed to out-maneuver them all, cleverly using their own tactics of pitting one against another. But when Spain and England did not follow through with their promises to free slaves, he discarded his allegiance to them.

After grueling and hard-fought campaigns against the Spanish and British, he took control of the French Colony. Toussaint promoted reconciliation among the races, which wasn’t any easier then than it would be now. He also engaged and renegotiated better terms of trade with Britain and the new American Republic alike. Catholicism was adopted as the national religion and slavery was abolished. The news traveled around the world like lightning- the African Slaves were undergoing the course of reversing 300 years of domination.

As news of the Independence of Haiti was circulating, the reaction was mixed. Toussaint’s actions openly received the approval of Alexander Hamilton, who saw Europe’s weakening in the West as an opening for America’s bid for commercial supremacy. He even aided in the drafting of the precursor to the island’s first constitution in 1801. However, when Thomas Jefferson came to power, American support was reined in. Jefferson openly own slaves and had even fathered children with the now famous girl he owned, Sally Hemmings. But much more than his personal stake in legitimized servitude, it was the perceived international threat that most likely shaped his opinion. The surrounding colonies and his new Republic being destabilized by the idea of a successful slave revolt obviously frightened him. His assertion being that their freedom would suddenly cripple the economy built around them. He is quoted as saying that it was necessary at all costs to “confine the plague to the island.” I guess “My emancipation / don’t fit your equation.”

Napoleon Bonaparte

By 1801, Toussaint was in full control of Saint Domingue. In a moment of perhaps self-preserving foresight and/or genuine altruism, he advanced onto the Spanish side of the island. His army defeated the remaining white colonial powers and freed all the slaves, showing the people of color the first glimpses of freedom they’d known practically since the time of Columbus. He rejected the ancient custom that dated back to the Middle Ages, of sending his children as hostages to his ‘Suzerain’ as a symbol of fidelity. He further declared his intentions in a famous letter addressing Napoleon himself. It was titled: “From the First of Blacks to the First of the Whites.” In it he pledged his loyalty to France. He stated firmly that slavery would be utterly annihilated; that he (Toussaint) would remain governor indefinitely (a suggestion from Hamilton and then Sec. of State Pickering). Furthermore Saint Domingue would be a free and independent state. The correspondence must have come as a shock to then Consul Napoleon. It was probably the sheer audacity of a former slave proposing terms of independence, albeit in the most polite and articulate manner, that struck him. This man was obviously more dangerous than he could have ever imagined. Toussaint and his people represented something that had to be proved false no matter the cost.

See the very existence of their independence showed the entire human race a side of history that we are only now truly rediscovering. European society had relied mainly on creating divisions and the spread of epidemics, not simply superior military prowess to overcome the indigenous populations of Africa and the Americas. The Haitian Revolution exposed the façade of European invincibility, and it tore away at their justification for invasion on the grounds of Christianization. The mythology of racial superiority began to take the shape of an ancient death mask from classical antiquity.

Napoleon would hear no more and dispatched his brother in law Gen. Charles LeClerc to the island with a huge force of infantry troops and warships. His stated intention was to secure the new state. At first confrontation ensued, but they arrived at a truce once Toussaint promised that the French would not attempt to reinstate slavery. However, the moment he let his guard down he was almost immediately betrayed. Toussaint and his entire family were arrested. Restoring the island to France’s control, LeClerc had Toussaint sent to prison in France. But this was just the beginning. He quietly moved to begin the process of re-enslavement. “Since terror is the sole resource left me, I employ it…destroy all the mountain negroes, men and women, sparing only children under twelve years of age,” read his report to Napoleon.

The Mulatto

The French now shifted their focus on using the former so called “Mulatto” people who Toussaint had defeated in previous military campaigns to maintain control of the island. They, the “Mulatto’s” had been at odds with elements of the Revolution earlier although they had suffered almost equally from the torments of slavery. The very concept of the “Mulatto”, that still to this day plagues the African, Latin American, Caribbean, and so Called West Indian world, merits an explanation all to itself.

The Latin ‘mulus,’ became the Old Spanish or Old Castillian ‘mula,’ finally evolving into the Spanish and Portuguese “Mulatto,” that symbolized the reverse anthropomorphic semblance of a human being. A mule is the physical combination of a horse and a donkey. This part is simple enough. But the symbolic nature of this has a racial connotations that tear apart our society even today. The horse symbolizes the White European, elegant, regal and highly valued. And the donkey embodies what they thought the purpose of an African/Indigenous slave should be; a beast of burden to be worked until the day that ‘it’ dies.

The combination of a horse and a donkey create a species that rarely if ever is capable of reproducing. The male is always born sterile, and the female is exceptionally similar in this way. Hence the idea that nothing good can come from them. This concept then became permeated in the portrayal of the “tragic mulatto” in 19th century American literature, leading into classic Hollywood cinema. It is a theme symbolized by the downfall of a “Mulatto” or “Quadroon/Octoroon” attempting to pass for white. It also focused on the conflict of those trapped between two races. Those who despised and pitied their darker half and their own skin color, while needing the approval of whites to validate themselves. In most of the stories peace is only found for the said main character in death. The very definition of its existence solidified the role of White and Black in the American caste system, whose remnants we all still presently reside in. It also laid out the role of Blacks to themselves, without many of them even to this day understanding the loaded straw man argument about race posed within the terminology.

It was the Haitian Revolution that challenged the very idea of slavery and the existence of a lesser man. It put the “enlightenment” of Europeans on trial, and forced America to confront what she was becoming as opposed to what she was supposed to be. The usage of concepts like the “Mulatto” were necessary for late 18th century white society to put institutionalized racism on life support for another 150 years, and create a violent split in the psychology of Mother Earth’s first children.

They had used a traditional stratagem inherited from the Romans/Byzantines of understanding an empire’s limited capacity for multi-dimensional warfare on a global scale, and employed the service of a smaller state to outflank its opponents in conflict. Only this time it was not using the Visigoths to fight the Huns (Battle of Chalon, 451 A.D.) or the Cumans to fight the Pechenegs (Levonium, 1091 A.D.). Napoleon and those that served his court were innovators of the worst kind. They perfected what other colonial powers beforehand had only begun. They created virtual new age “foederati” for their designs by ripping a subsection out of the very people they sought to subjugate. In return for cooperation, the French promised the desperate “Mulattos” more rights and more privileges in what they painted as a new Saint Domingue. Effectively this action created a safe haven for racism that is even now nestled like a neonate Viper storing the poison of generation after generation. The idea built itself within the conscious and subconscious mind of an enslaved people, to keep them in bondage psychologically even if they found themselves physically free. This is evident not only in the continued degeneration of Black and “Mulatto” relations well into the mid 1800’s under Jean Pierre Boyer, but in present Black & Latino society’s obsession with skin color.

In other words, the French colonization efforts efficiently solidified adding dimensions to racism and the notion of racial superiority by creating a different “race” in our own minds. It was wicked and brilliant in its service to the cause of reducing man to property as it was to being duplicitous to the so-called ‘Mulatto’ himself. For in the end he was closer to his Master in his eyes only. To the French he was still little more than an animal, subject to an active and de-facto ‘Code Noir’.

(The cruel logic of the seemingly schizophrenic reflections in King Louis XIV’s Code Noir of 1641, is regarded as a predecessor to the U.S.’s Black Codes, which shaped the legal standing of former African slaves in the post civil war Era. It covers everything from the immediate persecution and expulsion of Jews, to laws concerning a slave’s position, methods of torture and capital punishment that could be implemented.)

Click to read the Code Noir http://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/d/335/

Jean Jaques Dessalines and Black (Slave) Rage

Tricknowledge, is a late 20th century Harlem terminology for an old cosmopolitan strategy. It is used to describe an imperial power not having the physical force to conquer a people, and therefore resorting to the art of deception to achieve victory. Calculating lies are used to manipulate the target into compromising positions before it is attacked. Yet even with all of her elegantly worded deception, sweet-accented mandates, and counter-mandates, France would only hold the beautiful island prisoner for a few more fleeting moments of history. Once the Revolution was set into motion there was no opposing inertia capable of stopping it. Toussaint may have been taken under arms to France where he lived incarcerated, in a frozen fortress near Bensancon (eventually succumbing to pneumonia although some suspected poison), but the Revolution rolled on. In fact, right before Toussaint’s death, a perhaps karmic parting gift of yellow fever swept Saint Domingue weakening the French garrison and even claiming the life of Charles LeClerc.

Jean Jaques Dessalines

Napoleon’s Saint Domingue police state barely lasted a year, until it became blatantly evident that slavery was to be reinstated just as it had been on Guadeloupe. In the end, after watching the brutal conflict and horrific mistreatment of his own people, it was one of Toussaint’s young General’s, Jean Jaques Dessalines (who had ironically allied himself with LeClerc when Toussaint was captured), who decided to emerge as the leader that would avenge his people. Truthfully though, and perhaps more important to his own soulful vanity, he really sought to avenge himself. To hear him described by the contemporary European authors of his time, he sounds like the very manifestation of chaotic violence. But every scar has a story, and Dessalines had many scars. In fact a large percentage of his body was covered in painful grooves, partially healed lacerations and whip marks that made some of his skin look like it had melted over itself. He had received some of these in very visible places, and even the most sensitive areas of a man, for his perceived ‘insolence’ as a slave.

It is said General Dessalines would look upon his scars in the mirror and cry out in rage before battles. Then crashing into his enemies he fought with the valiant nature of a man seeking freedom, and persistent fury of a heart that would only be quenched by vengeance. His aim became to ensure the small Revolution’s continued success at any military cost. He was determined to maintain it by implementing the same campaigns of terror that the slave owners had recently utilized on him and his people. And this is what terrified white Europeans to the core of their being. Provoking most landowners and slave masters to flee. Some of them though, daring to look, must have surely seen a piece of themselves in him and been rattled. This is thought to be what initially led to the invention of stories about his pact with the devil and deals with voodoo spirits, as these then served the impertinent need to differentiate his actions from theirs.

To better understand how the slaves were treated and what exactly he sought to repay to his former masters for, I chose this famous quote from Henri Christophe‘s personal secretary. He, who was once a slave, describes in sick details the daily torture inflicted on the enslaved Africans of Saint-Domingue by the French.

“Have they not hung up men with heads downward, drowned them in sacks, crucified them on planks, buried them alive, crushed them in mortars? Have they not forced them to eat shit? And, having flayed them with the lash, have they not cast them alive to be devoured by worms, or onto anthills, or lashed them to stakes in the swamp to be devoured by mosquitoes? Have they not thrown them into boiling cauldrons of cane syrup? Have they not put men and women inside barrels studded with spikes and rolled them down mountainsides into the abyss? Have they not consigned these miserable blacks to man eating-dogs until the latter, sated by human flesh, left the mangled victims to be finished off with bayonet and poniard?”

His preferred mechanism for punishing European colonials, many of whom were former slave masters, was indeed ruthless. He implemented “Black Rage” as both his foreign and domestic policy, which meant the absolute destruction of the white colonists, soldiers, and civilians. Before him others had angrily suggested this sort of retribution but none had the gall to carry it out. After all, ideologues may design a Revolution and dismantle an empire verbally, but ideas are powerless without the hand that wields them mercilessly. In the end a combination of this, and allowing remaining whites to live without owning any property and having little say in government, was the result.

I make no attempt here to justify the actions of Jean-Jaques Dessalines, but a person cannot be made a slave unless they are terrorized and de-humanized. Unless they are mentally, spiritually and in many cases physically castrated, unless their women are raped before them and children are sold and tore from the womb in front of their eyes. He did in essence what he was taught to do by those that shaped his world.

His collective punishment & scorched earth policy frightened the remaining white colonials to such a degree that most migrated en masse to the other side of the island or to the mainland. General Dessalines fought many battles and eventually claimed the independence of Haiti on January 1st, 1804. During this time period he had ravaged the Eastern side of the island and having swept away all opposition, made himself Emperor in 1804. His absolute rule inspired anger and resentment, and only 2 years after his coronation he was assassinated. The country divided itself between North and South until power was consolidated again. The legend of Dessalines came to life upon his death. Stories grew out of the resentment of the white exiles that had once owned his people and now happily welcomed his demise. Even the “Mulatto” section of Haiti that never received his trusting and felt shunned by him. His immediate demonization followed in these circles, without a thought or a backtracking moment in history to consider what were the circumstances caused him to be. No context that showed the nature of the slow functional genocide of his people.

Just silence. And that silence without context continues even today while people suffer one of the worst natural catastrophes that has ever be known to mankind.

Extortion of Haiti

Not a word from proud France who defied the American War machine over Iraq, but has kept silent over these two centuries when concerning the 150 million gold francs it extorted from Haiti in 1838. The number was later lowered to 90 million gold francs but the factual story behind the extortion goes as such. Under the guise of a cessation of hostilities (a promise to curb re-invasion), repaying indemnities and for the loss of “property” (slaves) during the Revolution, France demanded payment. And of course since Haiti had no such sum in their treasury at the time, French bankers eagerly paid the first 30 million gold francs at exorbitant almost mafia-inspired interest rates. So high that it was not until 1947 that Haiti was actually able to repay THAT particular “loan”. By the mid to late twentieth century the IMF’s policy of changing it’s agricultural focus and conditional foreign aid had since indebted the island nation beyond ruin. In the wake of this current tragedy, I believe France should immediately repay the blood money it stole years ago no matter its legal apprehensions of reparations. This isn’t about reparations for slavery it’s about the over 20 billion dollars in the modern equivalent paid to a reinstated tyrannical king. It is not the pinnacle of restoring Haiti, but the beginning of repair.

Jean Betrand Aristide

I would be remiss to not pause here and point out that this was written as a moderately detailed historical account of events in and around the Haitian Revolution. It is not the entire history of the island and does not go in depth into the modern self-defeating racial and political schism between Haiti and the Dominican Republican during the mid 20th century. I purposely steered clear of recent events concerning Jean Bertrand Aristide because it deserves an article on it’s own. I also cannot and will not lay the blame solely on Europeans for the condition of Haiti. The French themselves cannot be demonized anymore than the Spanish, English, Portuguese or Belgians, etc. for their role in colonization. Although to rule out foreign intervention for Haiti’s condition would be ignoring a huge amount of independent variables that affect the equation. While military backed World Bank policy has always kept the island as an economic vassal, the mismanagement of resources and corrupt leaders also bled the nation dry.

At some point we have to accept the personal responsibility for repairing the framework of society ourselves, and not relying on the people that ruined our indigenous civilizations to fix them all the time. Brutally repressive dictators, such as Duvalier, who were allowed to exist by the U.S. because of their stance against Communism, must be put into their proper context as well. They are not simply a Western invention, but rather the natural order of bequeathing absolute power to an agent of “stability,” an experiment that could easily be repeated in our own Republic. And so we as a nation cannot claim ignorance in our understanding of this political formula anymore, whether at home or abroad. The sad truth is that we as a public entity or a people may understand this relationship and dissect it now, but our own government has recognized it since the founding of the nation.

We may sometimes point to these historical figures and attribute superstitious characteristics to them in order to either justify or vilify their position. My main problem is when it starts becoming obvious that our own government uses complete and utter falsities to promote a military objective. The following is an account written by a Soldier who participated in the ousting of then President Aristide, it sheds light on the deliberate dissemination of such information:

http://www.ibiblio.org/prism/May96/haiti.html

If he (Dessalines) really made a pact to deliver his nation to absolute evil then why only the leader of the one successful slave revolt on the hemisphere? Why just him and not every other military commander throughout history that faced insurmountable odds? And when is that sort of such vindictive and violent force ever justified? See, that my friends- is at the very core of what Haiti and it’s historic Revolution truly represent. That undiluted tactic of delivering oneself from slavery and oppression through physical force. The French Revolution beheaded their King they did not pay his family restitution. The American Revolution gave Britain no reparations and in fact collected the land of it’s Indigenous allies after England ceded it without so much as a word to the Native American’s still living there. Yet only in modern history have enslaved people of color been trained to think suffering through the worst of what an oppressor can punish them with is the only way to gain legitimacy or victory.

Are we tragically “Mulatto?”

Are we as Black and Indigenous people only noble and righteous in an emasculated form of confrontations against such a fate? Are we only correct in our undertaking of a non-violent approach to confronting Imperialism or Fascism? More of white America praises Martin Luther King Jr. as peacefully resistant and the preferable alternative to Malcolm X’s truth without modesty. More would rather hear the scholarly Fredrick Douglas than experiencing the fear-invoking Dessalines. I do not seek to discredit the legacy of either Douglas or King. We are all indebted to the vital parts of the struggle for freedom that they played historically. But why are Europe and American spared the same constant criticism by present day historians. Would we turn the other cheek to Hitler? What would a non-violent march and a hunger strike against the Confederate South have accomplished? Without colonial militias, Native American Warriors, and the French & Spanish Armadas, wouldn’t the (U.S.) Constitution have ended up as British toilet paper? As a matter of fact, if Ghandi’s tactics had been used in the American Revolution, wouldn’t he have been lying in a ditch in Virginia some 234 years ago? Without the purchased attention of a global media outlet is shaming the world even possible? And even if we managed to procure one, how could a profit margin be replaced by a soul, when that’s the one thing that a multi-national news corporation will never have?

I believe a balance is always necessary, and that might never makes right. It just makes right now. Having the power to take land, force payment or enslave others doesn’t make your cause justified. In fact I would argue that an oppressor who lies to his slaves about their ten thousand year old history, and presents them as a fraction of a human being to all, is in truth more savage than that which he has reduced his fellow man to. Strength and power are the tools that can reinforce a document, a government, a people and a nation. Without them there is only the word, and unfortunately we are not as evolved as we would like to believe because we do not respect words, not even the words of God when we write them in our own image. We are taught to only respect fear and violence.

I am not arrogant enough to claim to have all the answers, but I come rather humbly myself to pose these questions so that you may discover the answer. May we repay the slave master by acting like the slave master? Or have we already gone this route before? Perhaps in our forgotten history we have already employed these strategies amongst ourselves. Can it be that we treated each other this way when Rome was yet to be conceived and Greek civilization was still an adolescent student of Egypt? Why is violent Revolution coupled with diplomatic conflict settlement only the recourse of the Super powers alone? Why is it presented to us as fruit from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden? Perhaps it was our oppressor’s pact with the devil that made it so. These are question that are easy to answer only if a personal bias already exists within us, they are harder to answer when they speak to all of humanity, and what it reflects about the future of our species.

The earthquake itself did not discriminate by skin color when deciding who would die in the collapsing buildings. It cared nothing for their religion, family connections, or politics. Corrupt diplomats have perished within the same epicenter as innocent hardworking families and dedicated public servants. The old and the young perish together subtracted from both sides of the equation. Our evolution is the rediscovery of the past not an invention of a mythical future. Will we always be a petty small people as a complete and single human race that we do not look beyond what is obvious in our faces as opposed to what is obvious in the actions that our hearts strive us towards?

As I look at the proud, resilient and suffering nation of Haiti. I have heard every sort of theory for this tragedy, an act of God, HAARP, and even superstition backed by the hands of social senility wielding faith. In the end I am left to ponder what role did the world’s super powers play in burying Haiti before the Earthquake, and what sort of role will we now play in digging her and our own collective human soul out of the rubble?

Beyond this though I think we should begin to seriously change the way that we look at each other around the world. We are a global community, a single race of people who might one day all become Haitians.

To all my brothers & sisters, those that have lost family and are suffering.

My Condolences along with Revolutionary Love & Respect,

Immortal Technique

Felipe Coronel

Check out the website...Every Drop Counts is a grassroots organization assembled in response to the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti….A group of young artists and activists in Chicago came together with the goal to raise funds in order to send filtration equipment that will provide sustainable, clean bathing and drinking water (Thus, the name Every Drop Counts.)

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In these Troubled Times We Need to Remember Martin Luther King, Now More Than Ever: Here are 2 Rare Speeches

Click HERE to listen to Speech

This weekend we celebrate what would’ve been Martin Luther King‘s 81st birthday. In doing this we take time out to reflect on his life and the words he delivered on the issues of peace and social justice.

This year I wanted to put forth one of my favorite speeches by Dr King called ‘Entrance into the Civil Rights Movement.. It’s an important speech in the sense that it highlights what was at the core of King’s essence-his relationship to God and his ability to call upon the Holy Spirit. It’s a very moving speech where he outlines the challenges he was facing as a leader and how he to look deep inside himself in order to move forward…

you can peep the speech here:

http://bit.ly/5t17Ns

As we celebrate, I am also including a YouTube video I put together called MLK vs the Radio.. This is contains portions of speech that King gave in August 1967 to a group of Black radio broadcasters. It’s an incredible piece where he talks about the responsibility and important role Black radio played in furthering the Civil Rights Movement. I wanted to reintroduce this speech because many of us are still reeling from the verbal assaults that have been occuring on radio shows like the one hosted by blowhards like Rush Limbaugh who recently made disparaging remarks about 50 thousand Haitans who dies in this weeks earthquake.. I want people to peep this video and ask yourself if media is doing right by you.. This piece also includes the voices of activist Rosa Clemente, Minister Farrakhan, H Rap Brown and Chuck D of Public Enemy…

-Davey D-

Below is a quick bio from Wikipedia…

Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement. His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States, and he has become a human rights icon: King is recognized as a martyr by two Christian churches.[1] A Baptist minister,[2] King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. King’s efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. There, he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history.

Haiti’s Tragic History Is Entwined with the Story of America

Haiti’s Tragic History Is Entwined with the Story of America

By Robert Parry, Consortium News.

http://www.alternet.org/world/145142/haiti%27s_tragic_history_is_entwined_with_the_story_of_america?page=entire

In announcing the U.S. response to Haiti’s devastating earthquake, President Obama noted the two countries’ historic ties. But few Americans know that sad story.

Announcing emergency help for Haiti after a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake, President Barack Obama noted America’s historic ties to the impoverished Caribbean nation, but few Americans understand how important Haiti’s contribution to U.S. history was.

In modern times, when Haiti does intrude on U.S. consciousness, it’s usually because of some natural disaster or a violent political upheaval, and the U.S. response is often paternalistic, if not tinged with a racist disdain for the country’s predominantly black population and its seemingly endless failure to escape cycles of crushing poverty.

However, more than two centuries ago, Haiti represented one of the most important neighbors of the new American Republic and played a central role in enabling the United States to expand westward. If not for Haiti, the course of U.S. history could have been very different, with the United States possibly never expanding much beyond the Appalachian Mountains.

In the 1700s, then-called St. Domingue and covering the western third of the island of Hispaniola, Haiti was a French colony that rivaled the American colonies as the most valuable European possession in the Western Hemisphere. Relying on a ruthless exploitation of African slaves, French plantations there produced nearly one-half the world’s coffee and sugar.

Many of the great cities of France owe their grandeur to the wealth that was extracted from Haiti and its slaves. But the human price was unspeakably high. The French had devised a fiendishly cruel slave system that imported enslaved Africans for work in the fields with accounting procedures for their amortization. They were literally worked to death.

The American colonists may have rebelled against Great Britain over issues such as representation in Parliament and arbitrary actions by King George III. But black Haitians confronted a brutal system of slavery. An infamous French method of executing a troublesome slave was to insert a gunpowder charge into his rectum and then detonate the explosive.

So, as the American colonies fought for their freedom in the 1770s and as that inspiration against tyranny spread to France in the 1780s, the repercussions would eventually reach Haiti, where the Jacobins’ cry of “liberty, equality and fraternity” resonated with special force. Slaves demanded that the concepts of freedom be applied universally.

When the brutal French plantation system continued, violent slave uprisings followed. Hundreds of white plantation owners were slain as the rebels overran the colony. A self-educated slave named Toussaint L’Ouverture emerged as the revolution’s leader, demonstrating skills on the battlefield and in the complexities of politics.

Despite the atrocities committed by both sides of the conflict, the rebels – known as the “Black Jacobins” – gained the sympathy of the American Federalist Party and particularly Alexander Hamilton, a native of the Caribbean himself. Hamilton, the first U.S. Treasury Secretary, helped L’Ouverture draft a constitution for the new nation.

Conspiracies

But events in Paris and Washington soon conspired to undo the promise of Haiti’s new freedom.

Despite Hamilton’s sympathies, some Founders, including Thomas Jefferson who owned 180 slaves and owed his political strength to agrarian interests, looked nervously at the slave rebellion in St. Domingue. “If something is not done, and soon done,” Jefferson wrote in 1797, “we shall be the murderers of our own children.”

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the chaos and excesses of the French Revolution led to the ascendance of Napoleon Bonaparte, a brilliant and vain military commander possessed of legendary ambition. As he expanded his power across Europe, Napoleon also dreamed of rebuilding a French empire in the Americas.

In 1801, Jefferson became the third President of the United States – and his interests at least temporarily aligned with those of Napoleon. The French dictator was determined to restore French control of St. Domingue and Jefferson was eager to see the slave rebellion crushed.

Through secret diplomatic channels, Napoleon asked Jefferson if the United States would help a French army traveling by sea to St. Domingue. Jefferson replied that “nothing will be easier than to furnish your army and fleet with everything and reduce Toussaint [L’Ouverture] to starvation.”

But Napoleon had a secret second phase of his plan that he didn’t share with Jefferson. Once the French army had subdued L’Ouverture and his rebel force, Napoleon intended to advance to the North American mainland, basing a new French empire in New Orleans and settling the vast territory west of the Mississippi River.

In May 1801, Jefferson picked up the first inklings of Napoleon’s other agenda. Alarmed at the prospect of a major European power controlling New Orleans and thus the mouth of the strategic Mississippi River, Jefferson backpedaled on his commitment to Napoleon, retreating to a posture of neutrality.

Still – terrified at the prospect of a successful republic organized by freed African slaves – Jefferson took no action to block Napoleon’s thrust into the New World.

In 1802, a French expeditionary force achieved initial success against the slave army, driving L’Ouverture’s forces back into the mountains. But, as they retreated, the ex-slaves torched the cities and the plantations, destroying the colony’s once-thriving economic infrastructure.

L’Ouverture, hoping to bring the war to an end, accepted Napoleon’s promise of a negotiated settlement that would ban future slavery in the country. As part of the agreement, L’Ouverture turned himself in.

Napoleon, however, broke his word. Jealous of L’Ouverture, who was regarded by some admirers as a general with skills rivaling Napoleon’s, the French dictator had L’Ouverture shipped in chains back to Europe where he was mistreated and died in prison.

Foiled Plans

Infuriated by the betrayal, L’Ouverture’s young generals resumed the war with a vengeance. In the months that followed, the French army – already decimated by disease – was overwhelmed by a fierce enemy fighting in familiar terrain and determined not to be put back into slavery.

Napoleon sent a second French army, but it too was destroyed. Though the famed general had conquered much of Europe, he lost 24,000 men, including some of his best troops, in St. Domingue before abandoning his campaign.

The death toll among the ex-slaves was much higher, but they had prevailed, albeit over a devastated land.

By 1803, a frustrated Napoleon – denied his foothold in the New World – agreed to sell New Orleans and the Louisiana territories to Jefferson. Ironically, the Louisiana Purchase, which opened the heart of the present United States to American settlement, had been made possible despite Jefferson’s misguided collaboration with Napoleon.

“By their long and bitter struggle for independence, St. Domingue’s blacks were instrumental in allowing the United States to more than double the size of its territory,” wrote Stanford University professor John Chester Miller in his book, The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery.

But, Miller observed, “the decisive contribution made by the black freedom fighters … went almost unnoticed by the Jeffersonian administration.”

The loss of L’Ouverture’s leadership dealt a severe blow to Haiti’s prospects, according to Jefferson scholar Paul Finkelman of Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

“Had Toussaint lived, it’s very likely that he would have remained in power long enough to put the nation on a firm footing, to establish an order of succession,” Finkelman told me in an interview. “The entire subsequent history of Haiti might have been different.”

Instead, the island nation continued a downward spiral.

In 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the radical slave leader who had replaced L’Ouverture, formally declared the nation’s independence and returned it to its original Indian name, Haiti. A year later, apparently fearing a return of the French and a counterrevolution, Dessalines ordered the massacre of the remaining French whites on the island.

Though the Haitian resistance had blunted Napoleon’s planned penetration of the North American mainland, Jefferson reacted to the shocking bloodshed in Haiti by imposing a stiff economic embargo on the island nation. In 1806, Dessalines himself was brutally assassinated, touching off a cycle of political violence that would haunt Haiti for the next two centuries.

Jefferson’s Blemish

For some scholars, Jefferson’s vengeful policy toward Haiti – like his personal ownership of slaves – represented an ugly blemish on his legacy as a historic advocate of freedom. Even in his final years, Jefferson remained obsessed with Haiti and its link to the issue of American slavery.

In the 1820s, the former President proposed a scheme for taking away the children born to black slaves in the United States and shipping them to Haiti. In that way, Jefferson posited that both slavery and America’s black population could be phased out. Eventually, in Jefferson’s view, Haiti would be all black and the United States white.

Jefferson’s deportation scheme never was taken very seriously and American slavery would continue for another four decades until it was ended by the Civil War. The official hostility of the United States toward Haiti extended almost as long, ending in 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln finally granted diplomatic recognition.

By then, however, Haiti’s destructive patterns of political violence and economic chaos had been long established – continuing up to the present time. Personal and political connections between Haiti’s light-skinned elite and power centers of Washington also have lasted through today.

Recent Republican administrations have been particularly hostile to the popular will of the impoverished Haitian masses. When leftist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide was twice elected by overwhelming margins, he was ousted both times – first during the presidency of George H.W. Bush and again under President George W. Bush.

Washington’s conventional wisdom on Haiti holds that the country is a hopeless basket case that would best be governed by business-oriented technocrats who would take their marching orders from the United States.

However, the Haitian people have a different perspective. Unlike most Americans who have no idea about their historic debt to Haiti, many Haitians know this history quite well. The bitter memories of Jefferson and Napoleon still feed the distrust that Haitians of all classes feel toward the outside world.

“In Haiti, we became the first black independent country,” Aristide once told me in an interview. “We understand, as we still understand, it wasn’t easy for them – American, French and others – to accept our independence.”

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Gentrification in East Austin-16 year Old Young Scholar Gabriel Padilla Does a 3 pt Documentary

A couple of months ago Detroit rap artist and activist Invincible touched down in Austin and San Antonio to share her musical talents and weigh in on an issue many in the community had been grappling with-Gentrification. Invincible noted that poor people being displaced from their neighborhood by a more affluent residents was huge deal in Detroit, so much show that she and her partner Finale did a song about it and accompanied it with a mini-documentary called Locust. The video garnered lots of critical acclaim and has been a powerful teaching tool that Invincible often uses when speaking with young people while touring the country.

Gabriel Padilla

Locust was a big hit when she swung through East Austin and talked with local youth over at PODER headquarters. The organization has long been dealing with gentrification, but Invincible being a popular Hip Hop artist with a video help crystalize the issue even more for the young people she met during her widely attended writing and political workshops. She encouraged people to hone in on their artistic skills and use them to bring attention to issues and concerns impacting their lives and the community.  The workshops were incredible as many of the people stepped up and spoke truth to power. One of the people who was inspired was 16 year old Gabriel Padilla who has a keen interest in politics and pretty handy with editing and working the camera. 

Padilla who has been a part of PODER’s Young Scholars for Justice Program  wanted to get this issue wider exposure so he got together with PODER co-director Erika Gonzalez and counselor Peter Mendoza to do an ambitious full length documentary on gentrification in East Austin. In the weeks that followed, Padilla would come by the PODER office, meet with Gonzalez and Mendoza, help draw out a storyline, get feedback and advice and basically grind away to craft what many are now seeing an important piece of work. His film which has been broken down into three parts was shown last month at Space 12. We are now showing it here on The Southern Shift.

We’ve gotten to know young Gabriel over the past few months as we would often see him and other young scholars speaking out at school board meetings and city council hearings.  Padilla reminds us all that the future generation is on point  and can move mountains if given the chance. We salute him for a job well done… Enjoy the documentary.

Gentrification in East Austin pt1

Gentrification in East Austin pt2

Gentrification in East Austin pt3

Return to the Southern Shift

Former PODER co-Founder Calls for Day of Action in Arizona for Immigration Rights

A couple of months ago we featured an interview with Sylvia Herrera who is co-founder of Austin based PODER  People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources. She talked to us about what was going in Arizona and the fight being waged against an out of control sheriff named Joe Arpaio. She explained that Arpaio had embraced a new controversial program called 287 G which essentially grants local law enforcement the power to act as Immigration agents. Many felt that Arpaio was abusing this agreement as disturbing report after disturbing report has come out about people being unfairly profiled, detained and man handled both on the streets and in jails by Arpaio’s deputies. Things got so out of hand that Arpaio’s agreement to do 287G on the streets were terminated, but he was and is still allowed to work utilize it in jail.

In this clip Sylvia Herrera explains what the 287 G program, How Joe Arpaio has been abusive and the role the Obama administration has been playing in all this along with their immigration policies.

http://www.swift.fm/SouthernShift/song/13746/

In this next clip we ask Sylvia Herrera how is it in a city like Phoenix which has a large minority population that a guy as reactionary as Sheriff Joe Arpaio is able to operate in such a tyrannical fashion. She explains to us at Southern Shift the political landscape, whether or not voting works, the success stories they’ve had  and other tactics being used to deal with Arpaio.

http://www.swift.fm/SouthernShift/song/13748/

In pt3 of our interview, Sylvia Herrera talks about the upcoming day of action that is scheduled to take place in Phoenix on January 16th 2010. people from all over the country are expected to come including large delegations from Texas.  Herrera talks about the significance of rthis day of action and what to expect. Thus far icons like Zach De La Roca and Doleras Huerta are expected to be on hand.

http://www.swift.fm/SouthernShift/song/13750/

In pt4 of our interview, Sylia Herrera talks about how immigration is more than just Brown faces coming in from Mxico. We talk about the plight of Haitians and South East Asians and how all forces are networking and building on common ground around the immigration reform.

http://www.swift.fm/SouthernShift/song/13756/

 Below is a call to action that comes courtesy of our friends over at La Nueva Raza

ARIZONA: Urgent Call to Action! January 16th 2009 in Phoenix Arizona 

Dear Friends,

The time has come to once again take the streets and stand up against hate! Twice in the past year we have stood up with resounding response and results. After our two previous five thousand plus people actions: First, investigations from the US Justice Department and FBI were started. Second, congressional hearings were hosted and the entire nation now knows of Joe Arpaio and his constant abuse of human rights. We have all succeeded in bringing to the forefront the atrocities that the 287g and ICE Access programs bring to our communities, now we must unite to stop their abuse.

At this time we are making an urgent national call for all peoples concerned and engaged in changing the course of hate in this country to join us January 16th 2010 in Phoenix Arizona. It is time, just like Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement took the streets of Montgomery Alabama that at that time was the epicenter of hate; we must do the same in Phoenix. This date is significant because it marks one year of the Obama administration that has resulted in the continuation and expansion of the anti-immigrant Bush policies. It is also the weekend we celebrate Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement struggles of the 60’s. Once again we are at a crossroads when people from our communities are being used and treated unequally.

Unfortunately fear and injustice remain prevalent in Maricopa County, not much has changed as Joe Arpaio and his Sheriff Deputies continue to terrorize the streets of Maricopa County and continues his physical abuse in the jails with the 287(g) agreement. Racial profiling by city, county and state law enforcement is rampant. The state of Arizona continues to racially profile under the guise of implementing anti-migratory worker and smuggling laws.

Knowing justice is on our side we must unite and face terror with valiant actions toward eliminating inequalities and hate from our midst.
Zach de La Rocha, Linda Ronstadt and Dolores Hureta have conformed to join us and march with us. All we are missing is YOU!!!

For more information call (602) 314-5870 or email carlos

If you need housing please fill out the housing request form and return it to sandramania53. Please forward to any organizations or groups that you think would like to join us.

From MLK’s own words-

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He, who accepts evil without protesting against it, is really cooperating with it.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

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