An Independence Manifesto

Black people should not be held not responsible for the social limits and ideologies undergirding legal structures.

Gina Ulysse, Sao Paulo, Brazil 2013.

The space I need for my rage was taken from me long ago. I have spent the better part of my adult life recognizing both its social and personal absence with fierce determination to carve it out as I attempt to re-learn my entitlement to it and experiment with ways to express and relish in it especially on the stage.

Years of talk therapy have taught me the extent to which my conditioning influenced how I behave and negotiate this world in which I live. In this white world, as a black (Haitian) woman, I have had to negotiate my blackness within African-American communities where my additional otherness is invisible. We do not always see each other or align collectively around shared struggles. I am past the age and or the phase where this tore me up as a young immigrant in this country. I made peace with the reality that in the expanded scope of racial hierarchies, my race/color precedes my national identity. I became a U.S citizen a decade ago. I am simply black in the face of the white power that I sometimes dread for the ways that it categorizes and seeks to destroy blackness as some misappropriate it as the writer and activist CG argued on MS Magazine’s site, while others keep that blackness in an unhealthy state of awareness that denies us a social luxury of being, precisely because, as June Jordan puts it, “I am the wrong skin.”

The first thing I did the morning after the massacre in Charleston — I went for a run. These times have been trying. I watched events surrounding the capture of Dylann Roof developing in the news while upholding an all too predictable narrative and quickly became conscious that my heart was beating too fast, faster than usual. The urge to run while standing still is a feeling I have come to associate with another anxiety that I have had in those moments when fear is setting in and there is no place to run for cover. I had an appointment but simply did not want to go outside. (Indeed, it dawned on me that I first fully absorbed this feeling in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.) I did not want to leave the comfort of my home space and risk an encounter with anyone in denial about the targeting of black bodies and the state of racism in this hemisphere, and in the world.

As the families of the 9 victims forgave the killer of their loved ones, I retreated in a combination of awe, respect and self-protection. I had neither the religious conviction nor faith to take this high road anymore than I could so clearly express its opposition as Roxanne Gay so poignantly did. I was preoccupied with the fact that this was taking an all to familiar physical and emotional toll, which has become conversation on my FB and Twitter feeds of late. Advice and notes about ways to be vigilant about self-care in these times. Ways to circumnavigate the psychic violence from a terror so close and so random that it will re-trigger and re-traumatize us as we live, knowing as Hari Ziyad asserted: blackness cannot be saved. But we can try to take care of ourselves to assure its collective survival. Anti-blackness knows no geographical boundaries. For Harriet wrote “If #BlackLivesMatter, we need to talk about the Dominican Republic” as she urged us to “Breathe. Heal. Organize. Because Ferguson is New York, is Baltimore, is Santo Domingo, is Port-au-Prince.” Stateless citizens are self-deporting. Living in limbo. The current situation in the DR is a time bomb that’s getting ready to blow as Jonathan Katz recently wrote in the NYT. And churches are being burned again and again keeping all of us on alert.  There is a target on our back. (please don’t shoot) calls on us to: “make some noise around a situation that has gone from unacceptable to unbearable. More overwhelmed every day by the unrelenting and unapologetic brutality against people of color, we have had enough.”

If there is one thing that I have learned from my years of therapy, healing is a process that takes its time. It cannot be rushed and it certainly cannot begin when wounds are still open. Still bleeding. Indeed, unprocessed trauma will become archived in bodies unless it is recognized, faced, confronted and worked through. Not everyone has the luxury of time and resources to commit to our certain types of self-care and protection, which is paramount to weather living with this ongoing terror. Audre Lorde said it best “caring for myself is not self- indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” 

Full expression of our humanity, rage included, remains a site (too often) of (deadly) contention. We should be held not responsible for the social limits and ideologies that undergird legal structures, which reduce us to mere caricatures and stereotypes. It took me a long time to learn that I have as much a right to individuation as anyone. For me to live, the space I need for my rage has become non-negotiable. I no longer have any desire whatsoever to debate anyone about it. My aliveness and spirit depend on it so I can keep trying to do to this life thing, despite the fuckery, with some meaning, and a lil swag, albeit on my terms.

Further Reading

Cinematic universality

Fatou Cissé’s directorial debut meditates on the uncertain fate and importance of Malian cinema amidst the growing dismissiveness towards the humanities across the world.

The meanings of Heath Streak

Zimbabwean cricketing legend Heath Streak’s career mirrors many of the unresolved tensions of race and class in Zimbabwe. Yet few white Zimbabwean sporting figures are able to stir interest and conversation across the nation’s many divides.


After winning Italy’s Serie A with Napoli, Victor Osimhen has cemented his claim to being Africa’s biggest footballing icon. But is the trend of individual stardom good for sports and politics?

Breaking the chains of indifference

The significance of ending the ongoing war in Sudan cannot be overstated, and represents more than just an end to violence. It provides a critical moment for the international community to follow the lead of the Sudanese people.

The magic man

Chris Blackwell’s long-awaited autobiography shows him as a romantic rogue; a risk taker whose life compass has been an open mind and gift to hear and see slightly into the future.

How to think about colonialism

Contemporary approaches to the legacy of colonialism tend to narrowly emphasize political agency as the solution to Africa’s problems. But agency is configured through historically particular relations of which we are not sole authors.

More than just a flag

South Africa’s apartheid flag has been declared hate speech by a top court. But while courts are important and their judgments matter, racism is a long and internationally entrenched social phenomenon that cannot be undone via judicial processes.

Resistance is a continuous endeavor

For more than 75 years, Palestinians have organized for a liberated future. Today, as resistance against Israeli apartheid intensifies, unity and revolutionary optimism has become the main infrastructure of struggle.

Paradise forgotten

While there is much to mourn about the passing of legendary American singer and actor Harry Belafonte, we should hold a place for his bold statement-album against apartheid South Africa.

The two Africas

In the latest controversies about race and ancient Egypt, both the warring ‘North Africans as white’ and ‘black Africans as Afrocentrists’ camps find refuge in the empty-yet-powerful discourse of precolonial excellence.

A vote of no confidence

Although calling for the cancellation of Nigeria’s February elections is counterintuitive, the truth is that they were marred by fraud, voter suppression, technical glitches and vote-buying.