Haitian Artists and the Dread movement

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Empress Verite

Haitian Artists and the Dread movement

Post by Empress Verite » Tue Nov 02, 2004 5:57 pm

One and Respe!

I have wanted to write about the issue of the number of Haitian musicians or singers who are dreads. I am so proud to see that and I applaud their effort to pronounce that BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL and that TET GREN is nice. I have worn dreads now for almost 2 decades and I must say that Haitians have been the most reticent about the issue. They have for the most part chosen to ignore me and my hair. My first interactions in Brooklyn, New York back in the 1980s with dreads were with Haitians who had dreads. One lived in my house on the 2nd floor and he wore them and I never thought that they were strange or ugly. There are prominent figures (women) in Miami who wear dreads and have worn them at one point or another. However, they too have had to trim in order to get by in babywrong. The fact that Haitian artists from Lolo and Jafte and the guys from Phantoms and so many others including Wyclef have chosen to DREAD is revolutionary. The Dreads are associated with Neg Maron who lived in the hills all over the archipelego of the Caribbean sea and said no to slavery. There is documentation of maroons who ran off since the boat shipwrecked on Hispanional or Turtle island back in the late 15th century.

In the hills I doubt that the black Africans and their mix and native American counterparts had combs to blow out the natural dreads that their hair formed. This argument can be made and any good sensical historical analysis would favor this view. Still, the association of the Dread with Neg Maron and the anti white and anti establishment marijuana smoking renegade needs to be addressed in light of Haitian ethnicity at home and in the diaspora.

Wyclef has come to South Florida a lot. In fact he has a home on the beach somewhere and at his concert in 2001 he claimed that he burned weed! I was surprised indeed since this was an acknowledgement of doing something illegal in front of thousands of people. In addition, the establishment does not recognize dreads as a business or formal type of hair style. However, Clef was named one of the best dressed men in Style magazine a couple of years ago. His wife of course has a lot to do with it I am sure since she is a well known designer, Marie Claudenette Pierre Jean.

I hope that Haitians in Haiti take this hairstyle as a positive look. I am also glad that the Alexandre/Latortue administration has included 2 women of different hues who wear natural hair styles. The minister of culture wears braids and extensions and the minister of health Josette Bijoux wears a short bush or natural crop. (However, I have seen and heard Haitian artists complain about mistreatment of dreads by the bureacracy in Ayiti and this is on video in music. I feel for them adn I hope that we can help them to overcome this form of discrimination.) Unfortunately, we seem to have lost Mamzelle of Boukman Eksperyans who cut her dreads and now wears a natural curl style. But the fight continues or La Luta Continua with new Haitian female artists portrayed in the recent video pou Ayiti with Zin a dark skin woman singer with dreads!

I am proud because I know that there are many Marie Janns out there and we continue to fight along our Neg Marons for truths and rights. I remain optimistic that my brothers and sisters will not feel that they have to straighten their nappy hair or so-called kinky curls into a more silky white style. I feel that these physical trends are very important and crucial to our maintenance of our cultural pride and ethnic consciousness.

I do not mean to proselytize here but perming has been associated with cancer and with other ills. The great writer, theorist and feminist Audre Lorde found that when she cut off the perm and dreaded her hair she was able to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Many who have dreaded also adopt a more healthier eating and living style and this will only help us to grow and become stronger.

In addition, there is an economic incentive. It costs so much money to perm and maintain the style that those funds could be saved and used for other purposes. However, I am a dread because I believe in the memory of my ancestors the BOSSALS who did not have mix race and were not given time to comb and straighten and therefore had to maitain the styles that they came on the boats with. During that voyage, I imagine that access to combs and straightening materials was probably nonexistance still slaves are routinely portrayed with straight hair sans dreads! And erasure of history or a negative untrue revision that is detrimental.

Haitian artists like Esther of Jafe and men dreads who continue to carry on the legacy of the Neg Maron and Marie Jann make me proud and I will support them by listening to their music and by buying their cds.

I especially appreciate the fact that Wyclef has chosen to do this recent cd in creole and from the picture where he is portrayed as Toussaint is on the cover of CLR James' black Jacobins I guess he maintains his stance as a revolutionary. He would make a great Toussaint in the movies even though he is probably taller and a different shade of black.

I look forward to the movie about the Haitian revolution and I hope that we first have the documentary (I am available for research work) proceeded by the movie. I feel that Raoul Peck did a marvelous job with both the prequel and sequel of the film about Lumumba and he would make a great movie about the Haitian revolution. I hope that he portrays strong women with dreads and natural hairstyles.

I will write more about this issue which is close to my heart in the future.

Blessed peace.

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