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 By Raygine C. DiAquoi |With thanks to NewBlackMan (in Exile)

 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013.

 

I cannot remember a time when I was unaware of the fact that I lived in a world that is defined by anti-blackness. As a very young child, I would have the same recurring dream. Often, I would find myself hiding in a market place that sat at the edge of the water. Many crates filled with melons were arranged in neat rows. Sometimes, tall green stalks of freshly cut sugar cane, bound together in tight bundles, stood up against the crates as if they were bodyguards for the melons. It was warm in the market place, so warm that I would often wake up sweating.

In the market I was always crouching behind one of the crates and watching the people, who were all family members and friends, mill about hurriedly. Suddenly, brown and black men in neatly pressed olive green military uniforms, olive green caps and unusually shiny black boots, would march into the market. They brandished large rusty machetes and machine guns, slashing and shooting so quickly that the whole thing would always end before I could really see what was happening.

When the dust cleared I would emerge from behind a crate to see a macabre scene: bodies and melons, with their red insides spilling out onto the brown dust.

My own screaming and crying would wake me up. I would run downstairs to ask my grandmother to make phone calls to confirm that the people who had died in the dream were still alive in the waking world. Though my grandmother tried to soothe me by reminding me that it was only a dream, the heaviness in her face suggested otherwise. We both knew that while it wasn’t my present reality, it was a reality. I would hear her discussing the dream in hushed tones with my mother. The scene haunted me throughout my childhood and early adolescence. I couldn’t make sense of it. I didn’t know where or when it was coming from. I would walk around for many days after, silently mourning the deaths of those people in the market place.

When I was in college, I recognized the marketplace that I had been dreaming about for years in reading about the massacre that occurred in 1937 in the market town of Dajabón, which lies on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. 

 In what would be the beginning of a series of acts fueling Dominican anti-Haitianism and anti-blackness, Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, ordered soldiers to kill between 15,000 and 30,000 ethnic Haitians, who had been born and had lived in the Dominican Republic for generations, while they attempted to cross what is now known as the Massacre River (Turits, 1998). In the dream, I am never among those who are running. I am always watching, seeing the hate in the eyes of the soldiers who are bent on annihilating blackness, theirs and that of the people in the marketplace. I think that my inability to act despite my knowledge of how the attack would end was what really made me scream and cry after each dream.

My grandmother was 8 at the time of the massacre, about the same age that I was when I started having these dreams, and living in Haiti. While neither she nor my parents ever discussed this part of Haitian and Dominican history with me, I lived it every night for several years throughout my early childhood and into my teen-age years.

 I have since learned that while this history was not taught explicitly within schools, many Haitians were aware of it at the time, had many conversations about the massacre in their homes and communities and continue to, both consciously and unconsciously, pass the story down to future generations. Though my parents had never discussed the massacre with me, in second grade, I found myself linked to the trauma and unconscious of an entire people even though I lived many miles and years away (Freud as cited in Eng, p.167, 2001). I could not explain it then but I knew that these histories were a part of me, a living and complex part of me and that I was a part of these histories. I now understand my ability to re-memory the past, a concept brought to us by Toni Morrison, to be a part of my unique ontology as an American African, a way of being that belongs to all of us.

From this recurring dream, my re-memory of past injustices, I know that our red insides will continue spilling onto the brown dust if we continue to crouch silently behind our individual crates, passively watching and then actively forgetting this American nightmare. We’ve disremembered our past and forgotten that we are at Massacre River. We’ve forgotten that we live in a world that is defined by anti-blackness, missing the implications of the message of the current moment for the future and failing to recognize, in this present moment, lessons learned from a very recent past.

The late critical race theorist, Derrick Bell, reminds us that, “Black people will never gain full equality in this country. Even those herculean efforts we hail as successful will produce no more than temporary "peaks of progress, " short-lived victories that slide into irrelevance as racial patterns adapt in ways that maintain white dominance. This is a hard-to-accept fact that all history verifies. We must acknowledge it, not as a sign of submission, but as an act of ultimate defiance.” 

  

***

Raygine C. DiAquoi is a doctoral student in Culture, Communities, and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research interests include antiracist education, Afrocentric education, the applicability of anti-colonial theory in schools, racial socialization and the unique educational experiences of African American students. Her work on students of color at an elite boarding school has been published in the book Educating elites: Class privilege and educational advantage (2010). She is also co-editor of the book Education for a multicultural society (2011). Using critical race theory, she has also explored Du Bois' concept of a double consciousness through counterstorytelling in 'Excursion and Recursions Through Power, Privilege and Praxis' (2012). She is currently working on her dissertation. You can follow her on Twitter: @Counternarrativ

 

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