"Boat People" by Felix Morisseau-Leroy

Felix Morisseau-LeroyI learned many things from Felix Morisseau-Leroy and one of the most important was his commitment to the Haitian Creole language.
A person’s or a people's language is breath and to denigrate a language is to deny life. Devalue and then decimate has always been the practice of conquerors. Morisseau-Leroy sought to reverse centuries of devaluation and upheld the dignity of Haitians even when they were peppered with epithets such as “boat people.”


Boat People


We are all in a drowning boat
Happened before at St. Domingue
We are the ones called boat people
We all died long ago
What else can frighten us
Let them call us boat people
We fight a long time with poverty
On our islands, the sea, everywhere
We never say we are not boat people
In Africa they chase us with dogs
Chained our feet, embark us
Who then called us boat people?
Half the cargo perished
The rest sold at Bossal Market
It’s them who call us boat people
We stamp our feet down, the earth shakes
Up to Louisiana, down to Venezuela
Who would come and call us boat people?
A bad season in our country
The hungry dog eats thorns
They didn’t call us boat people yet
We looked for jobs and freedom
And they piled us on again: Cargo—Direct to Miami
They start to call us boat people
We run from the rain at Fort Dimanche
But land in the river at Krome
It’s them who call us boat people
Miami heat eats away our hearts
Chicago cold explodes our stomach
Boat people boat people boat people
Except for the Indians—
All Americans are immigrants
But it’s us they call boat people
We don’t bring drugs in our bags
But courage and strength to work
Boat people—Yes, that’s all right, boat people
We don’t come to make trouble
We come with all respect
It’s them who call us boat people
We have no need to yell or scream
But all boat people are equal, the same
All boat people are boat people
One day we’ll stand up, put down our feet
As we did at St. Domingue
They’ll know who are boat people
That day, be it Christopher Columbus
Or Henry Kissinger—They will know
Whom we ourselves call people

***


Felix Morisseau-Leroy"Boat People" from Haitiad & Oddities by Félix Morisseau-Leroy. Copyright © 1991 by Félix Morisseau-Leroy.

Felix Morisseau-Leroy was born in Grand-Gosier, Haiti and had degrees from the University of Haiti, Columbia, New York City College, and the New School of Social Research. He was exiled in 1959 and lived in Africa and the United States.

In Ghana, he served as national organizer of drama and literature at the Arts Council and in Senegal, as Technical Adviser of the Senegalese Federation of People’s Theater.
He wrote numerous books of poetry, novels, and plays including “Ravinodyab,” “Plenitudes,” “Recolte,” “Diacoute,” and “Antigone in Creole” which was performed at the Theater of the Nations in Paris. His works have been translated into French, English, Spanish, German, Russian, Fanti, Twi, and Wolof, and his plays have been performed around the world.

Although he was multilingual, Felix Morisseau-Leroy preferred to write in Creole, because he wished “to express the deepest feelings, emotions, and aspirations of the people for whom he claimed to be a mere “scribe.”

***

Comments

Rethabile said…
The strength of a thought is well-served by simple words, as Mr Morisseau-Leroy shows us, yet again.
FSJL said…
He also lived in Jamaica, Geoff.

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