Happy Birthday, Felix Morisseau-Leroy (2008)
In one of my favorite poems by "Moriso" or "Lewa," the poet shows his allegiance, and we are all better off for it.
I still remember the defiance and the fire when he used to read this poem, and especially when he said, "I don't want any priest/ To speak Latin over my head."
There was no room for genuflection to the metropolitan cities in Lewa's world, and it is sometimes sad to see the young Haitian men and women in Miami walking around with their heads bowed down because they lack the knowledge/memory that a great poet like Lewa came from among them and was the champion of their language for most of his life.
Give thanks, Lewa and Happy Birthday!
I wrote my will
I said I don't want any priest
To speak Latin over my head
I don't have that problem today
Because priests don't speak latin anymore
Had to learn Creole
Like any other white man
To do business with us
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, France, Jamaica, 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.”