Calling all Loas

Papa LegbaAttibon Legba

Attibon Legba
Ouvri bayi pou' moi
Ouvri bayi pou' moi

One of my most memorable trips with Félix Morisseau-Leroy, who introduced me to many aspects of Haitian life and culture, was during a car ride in 1993 when we were scheduled to read at a Black History Month celebration at the Broward County Main Library. We'd been listening to the local news, and near the end of the announcements, the reporter made a brief mention of the sinking of the Neptune off the coast of Haiti. At first, I didn't pay much attention to the report. But when I glanced over at Morisseau-Leroy, I saw that he had been visibly moved by the news and was angry at the casual tone of the reporter. Morisseau-Leroy's anger made me realize my complicity in the disregard for the loss of Haitian lives at sea. I, like the reporter, had become so inured to the daily reports of bodies washing up on South Florida beaches that the loss of over a thousand lives in a single event barley registered in my mind. For Morisseau-Leroy, the news had a different effect. Those were his people who were dying on the high seas and when we arrived at the library, he made sure that all of us knew about what had happened.

Morisseau-Leroy loved his brothers and sisters and they repaid that love in a mural in Miami where he is seated with the loas in an imaginary village in Haiti. I repeat the story here not only as a cautionary tale about how easily our sensibilities can be dulled when faced with the daily loss of life, but also how Morisseau-Leroy's love for his people, even though he was living in exile, moved him to memorialize their lives.

Imagine, then, my concern after reading in The Gleaner about the lynching of goat thieves in Westmoreland (the birthplace of my mother and father) and reading a post by the influential Caribbean blogger, Francis Wade, about accepting the actions of what I like to call "immature warriors." I was surprised even more by the tone of his post because Moving Back to Jamaica is usually filled with practical ideas and contains many insightful posts about the Jamaican character and our "warrior spirit."

Now, I am not complaining about our propensity to "chuck badness." In the past, this "warrior spirit," identified in the Yoruba cosmology as Shango, served us well in the fight against British imperialism. It was this "warrior spirit" that Marcus Garvey evoked when he urged his followers to have "backbones and not wishbones,"and through the work of the UNIA transformed "immature warriors" into "mature warriors."

But now that the colonizers have been physically removed from our shores and this "warrior spirit" has not been channeled through education into the long-term fight against illiteracy and ignorance, we have turned this energy against ourselves and the results have been disastrous.Or as Moving Back to Jamaica says "we are a people itching for a fight, but .... we can't find a good one to fight."

So, every day we read in the newspapers, the effects of ignorance in the lives of "immature warriors" who use force and violence to gain narrow personal goals. And as they grow in numbers and our education systems fail us, all we can expect is a slow descent into a state of "red in tooth and claw" and where life becomes "nasty, brutish, and short."

But do we want to change? I can't even change myself, and as one of my dear friends always tells me, "People, without any kind of intervention never change."

So, I say,go with what we are: a nation of Xangos. But educate the young warriors. Show them the difference between "immature warriors" for whom every problem is a nail and they hold the hammer, and"mature warriors" who uphold ideas of honor and justice and who resort to the use of force as a last resort when all other options have failed. In other words, expand their sense of self--a little less Xango and more Eshu--whose world is ruled by shadows and light where intelligence prevails.

And if we insist on change, then we must believe. We must believe that ideas matter and that once these ideas are registered in the consciousness, they merely wait for an opportune time to manifest themselves. Anyone who has been seduced can attest to this.

But we must also refuse to accept any idea that does not hold every human life as priceless.I refuse to accept the loss of even one life to senseless violence. Every life counts.

For just as the epiphanies of poets such as Morisseau-Leroy, begin with the feeling that they are loved/supported n every cell by their brothers and sisters, so too the education of the young begins with the feeling that they are worthy and their lives count. Every single one should be able to say, "I am gifted." Then, Marcus Garvey's words will surely come to pass: "Rise, you mighty people."



Jdid said…
so true about the warriors. we really need to teach them when and how to fight.

I think its a bit to do with lack of expression. We have these bottled up feelings and dont know how to express them properly leading to uncontrollable rage and anger
Jdid, so true. I had not even explored that side of the issue. Give thanks!
FSJL said…
I can understand the anger that leads to lynching, but it is still wrong. John Maxwell had a piece on the subject a week or two back; very wise man, John.

Oh, btw, I knew Morriseau-Leroy when he was at UWI.
I read the John Maxwell article. Yes, he is a very wise, too, was Morriseau-Leroy. I've learned a great deal form both men.
Douglas said…
Amen, every life matters!

I found your blog though Global Voices Online. I hope you will stop by my blog, Crossword Bebop, sometime.

It is my great dream to blog about crosswords in/about every English-speaking country. Where do people in Jamaica go when they want to do a crossword puzzle?
Rethabile said…
Glad to have you back on the blog.
Welcome, Douglas & give thanks for the comment.

I'll visit your site later today. To be honest, I don't know where most Jamaicans do crossword puzzles. I get most of my news online, so that's a mystery.

It's good to be back, Rethabile!

Esteban Agosto Reid said…
Excellent post!! In the final analysis,it is all about the education of the puerile and immature warriors into fully fledged and mature warriors.Also,I concur totally that life is priceless,irreplaceable, and must be totally cherished,as opposed to how it is currently valued or devalued in our society.Again,great post!!RESPECT!!
But we must also refuse to accept any idea that does not hold every human life as priceless.I refuse to accept the loss of even one life to senseless violence. Every life counts.

Hear, hear.
Dear Nicolette and Esteban,

Thank you for the comments. At first, I was hesitant to make any comment about a blogger whom I respect, but a little voice said I should and I listened.

Mad Bull said…
Actually, this was an EXCELLENT post, and I haven't even followed any of the links yet, to flesh out what you have written.

I think that once we try not to be hurtful or abusive, we can and even should write what we think about what other bloggers post. Constructive criticism is a good thing.

My question now is, how do we go about educating these immature warriors? How do we fund it, how do we get them to come out, etc.
Happy New Year, Mad Bull!

Thank you for the reassurance.

Good questions. Now, you're given me something to ponder...


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