Marching and Meeting in Martinique
David L. Horne, Ph.D
Friday, May 30, 2008
For a full week, every May 14-21, in the unlikely location of the contemporary French colony of Martinique, there occurs the world's most challenging physical demonstration of comitment to the cause of reparations. It is called the Reparations Convoy, and it is organized and coordinated by a beehive of volunteers and local officials in this island nation of 70 square miles. Centered in Sainte Anne's Township in the south of the island, and the capital at Fort de France, the annual project is the brainchild of Sainte Anne's Mayor Garcin Malsa, and a tight group of intellectuals and activists, several of whom have been working with him for over 20 years.
May, 2008 marks the eighth year of the Reparations Convoy. What happens is that every evening of that week, beginning around 7 p.m., bus loads of marchers and reparationists meet in a designated city---a different one every night---and after a few inspirational remarks and the mayoral protocols, between 400 and 1,500 participants collectively start walking through city streets, the freeways, dark highways and footpaths. With flags, torches, smokepots, chants, and songs, accompanied most frequently by the thundering rhythms of local expert drummers, the marchers both excite and infuriate drivers trying to just get on their way.
The dynamism of the moment---the marchers swarming over a hill, through a high-rise section of town or through the taverns and shanties of much less affluent areas---is compelling and electric. There are, of course, many other examples world-wide of citizens parading and marching for a cause. The massive Jena 6 demonstration of 2007 in the USA, and the Nation of Islam's Million More Movement march and rally of 2005, come immediately to mind. However, those and other similar occurrences were more rally than march, and more protest demonstration than affirming activity for a cause.
And make no mistake about it, the annual Reparations Convoy of Martinique is a march of affirmation, a collective movement for justice, dignity and redemption. It is a 7-day gathering of more than 3 generations of spirited, enthusiastic participants- --from infants being carried and 4 year olds walking to 75-year old grandmothers and fathers keeping pace with working adults and the teenagers--- committed to achieving reparations from France.
The marches most simlar to the Reparations Convoy were the Civil Rights gatherings often led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in the 1950s and 1960s. The marches in Montgomery, Alabama, Macon, Georgia and Greenwood, Mississippi, for example, had the same kind of inspirational tone, the moral righteousness of the cause, and the courageousness of the participants.
And both courage and stamina you must have to be in the Reparations Convoy. Besides its affirmative stance, what makes the Martinique project so distinctive and distinguished is the sheer distance and height of the walks. The faint-hearted have to stay either on the sidelines or on the bus. The nightly walks are coordinated to be movements from 8 to 12 kilometers each (10-15 miles), up and down hills and the sides of mountains. Many of the participants say they train for the Convoy, since the fast-paced hikes up 45-degree inclines of 1500 to 200 yards are no joke.
I proudly participated in 4 nights of walks, but my first one was so excruciating that I was ready to call for the medics. I'm a relatively robust quintogenarian. I'm an irregular weekend warrior on the tennis courts of Los Angeles, California, and I can normally be counted on to hold my own for a good 2 hours of sprinting and chasing an elusive green ball, and winning my share of points. However, shortly after my arrival in Fort de France on Friday, May 16th, I was encouraged to show my mettle by participating in the walk that very evening. "Okay," I thought. "How difficult can it be?"
Starting within the first 50 yards was a hill with seemingly no end. I huffed and puffed and thought seriously about quitting until I saw a mother carrying her baby past me, and a hardy elder with a cane smiling at me as she strode on by. 'I can't quit now,' I heard myself say, so I hung in there, figuring the hill (I nicknamed it Unreal Hill) had to crest soon. Well, it didn't, but I struggled through it anyway. When I looked back down the curving darkness of over 1900 feet that we had just walked, I felt a little faint, but the marchers pushed me along headed into a deep valley that really gave me just as much trouble since I couldn't control my feet going downward that fast. There was a brief period of flat terrain, then another hill that felt like it had been freshly transported directly from San Francisco without the streetcar. It looked and operated like it was straight up into the stratosphere and my leg muscles screamed for relief. Again, it was only the collective that kept me going. None of the inspirational talk of the previous hour mattered one bit, and none of my enormous remembrance of prior meetings, speeches, libations to the ancestors or any of that helped at all. In fact, I was ready to abandon reparations and all hope as this Convoy was literally kicking my butt. Somehow, I still hung in there. By the middle point, when we stopped for bottles of cool water, cantaloupe slices and rest, I both heard that it was almost over and told myself the same. It had to be, but it wasn't. There was a rendezvous coming with what I call Monster Kill Hill, and two more besides that one still to manage. Frankly, I don't know where I found the will to continue, let along to finish, that walk that night. Somehow though, weak-kneed, panting and feeling like the bus had just run over me, I found myself at the rally point in the town center swaying to the insistent rhythms of the second band of drummers which had joined us a few kilometers from the end.
To say that I was impressed with the 300 or so marchers who were still there, is a tremendous understatement. They had taken over the night and demonstrated their undeniable commitment to a cause and a movement and they could not be ignored. As for me, I had survived what seemed to be a reparations movement rite of pasage. I had found some reserve of strength I didn't know I had, and I had been lifted, pulled and carried forward inexorably by the spirit of our ancestors and the collective will of my fellow travelers.
After laying off one day/night to recuperate, I marched thrice more, ending with the triumphant 10-kilometer drum and songfest that turned into a huge 2000-strong celebration in the Northern Martinique city of Le Precheur, where we raised the red-black-green flag on the site of the public proclamation of the abolition of slavery in Martinique. It was just past midnight, and the beginning of Martinique's Emancipation Day holiday, May 22nd. The Reparations Convoy was over for this year.
I implore my fellow reparations activists the world over to try and match the Martinique Reparations Convoy by holding such a project in your own area from May 14-21 next year, and for years thereafter until we have achieved the reparatons victories we seek. I also invite all of you warriors in the reparations struggle to 'man up' and come participate in Martinique's Reparations Convoy at least once. It is life-changing.
Martinique's Reparations Convoy and the MIR (International Movement for Reparations) , the latter centered in Martinique and Paris, are role models and world leaders in the world-wide reparations struggle. Salute them. Follow them. Emulate them. Unite with them.
David L. Horne, Ph.D
Tenured Full Professor of Pan African Studies and Critical Thinking, California State University
Lifetime Member, N'COBRA (Natonal Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America)
Secretariat, Sixth Region Diasporan Caucus Organization Founder, Reparations United Front, Southern California
The BlackList Reparations
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
1. It is important for everyone to remember there are good and bad people in every race and ethnicity.
2. It is important for everyone to know there are three models of black reparations. (1) To improve integration (2) To advance repatriation and (3) To create sovereignty.
3. Reparations should materialize in a manner where there will be an abundance of resources to maximize the potential in each of the three models of reparations.
4. Everyone should understand there are two forms of reparations for blacks, which are collective and individual compensation. First we would use resources to have collective compensation materialize where we focus on improving equal access to institutions and services for blacks in integration. Then we focus on obtaining land to build an infrastructure for blacks in repatriation and sovereignty. This would include an economic foundation to build the institutions that are necessary to provide the necessities of life and social and recreational activities for blacks in repatriation and sovereignty.
5. The individual compensation is based on the grounds where the Japanese received a stipulation for payment for being wrongfully interned for three years during WW II. Since they were awarded $20,000 a piece for that lesser infraction; Congress should award a negotiated amount to African-Americans in terms of age range for greater crimes of slavery. It should read a stipulated amount for blacks 55 and above to receive $300,000, and those between the ages of 35-54 to receive $150,000, and for those between the ages of 18-34 to receive $75,000. This could be incorporated into a system of equity restorative justice to build repatriated and sovereign settlements, which would satisfy most blacks and save America trillions of dollars in full reparations.
6. Since we know reparations means to repair the damage done to a people. We know a big part of the damage done to African-Americans was the assault on the Black Family. As reparations materializes in this manner it will provide an incentive for blacks to find love where they should, which is among their own race. It should be against the law for any wealthy black person to marry outside of their race and it should be against the law for blacks to get reparations and marry outside of their race.
7. This individual compensation policy can put blacks in a position to take their reparations and rebuild the Black Family in an all out effort for spiritual, cultural, social and economic revival. African-Americans should join together in life and love to use their new found monetary independence, to rebuild the Black Family. The Five Phase Plan works to iron out these situations and more serious concerns, in an intelligent fashion, by utilizing various commissions found on the Reparations Proclamation. Nothing is written in stone and everything is up for negotiation between the races, as it should be.