Interview with members of Komite Pa Bliye (commemoration at Fort Dimanche, February 1991)

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Download: Jean Dominique: Entèvyou ak manm Komite Pa Bliye (komemorasyon nan Fort Dimanche, fevriye 1991) (1)

Jean Dominique: Entèvyou ak manm Komite Pa Bliye (komemorasyon nan Fort Dimanche, fevriye 1991) (2)

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Jean Dominique speaks with three members of the Komite Pa Bliye – Marie-Thérèse (Bébé) Artaud, Ralph Allen, and Guylène Bouchereau — in February 1991, on the occasion of a commemoration of the victims of the Duvalier dictatorship held at Fort Dimanche. The speakers were all intimately affected by the dictatorship and lost close relatives under Duvalier: Artaud’s two sons, Jacques and Max Armand, were part of the August 1964 Jeune Haïti attempted invasion, in which they and eleven other young men were betrayed and then slaughtered; Allen’s mother’s entire family (the Drouin family) was killed in the Jérémie Vespers massacre that Duvalier’s forces exacted in retribution for the Jeune Haiti invasion; Bouchereau’s father, Jean Bouchereau, a high-ranking member of the military under Duvalier, was disappeared and killed on April 26, 1963. The Komite Pa Bliye was originally founded in 1987 with the intention of publicly commemorating the victims of the Duvalier dictatorship via a permanent and traveling exhibition (featuring photographs, texts, and a memory garden), but because of the continued political insecurity, repression, and danger in the years following the end of the regime, they are only able to begin working on the project in earnest in 1991 because there is a new government which represents a “rupture with the past.” They also discuss the political divisions within the Komite Pa Bliye – questions of how explicitly partisan the organization should be, who should and shouldn’t be included among Duvalier’s victims – and how this has resulted in the project not moving forward. Allen states that everyone is “defending their own dead” (moun vin defann mò pa yo). Artaud says that it’s important to differentiate between “victims” and “heroes” – for her, the victims, the innocent bystanders, are the more tragic case because the heroes (her own sons included) knew the risk they were taking. There is a considerable description of Jeune Haïti, their goals, betrayal, and death, and of the Jérémie Vespers massacre that followed. Jean Dominique explains, “If a single man decided to go into battle against Duvalier, Duvalier would say, ‘if you’re in battle against me, your entire family line will disappear.’ So, in addition to the destruction that the dictatorship carried out, it established a rule of terrorism, a domino effect that would exterminate entire families, entire lines.” Jean Dominique asks about the relationship between personal, intimate loss and national grief and symbolism, and Artaud explains that this is why these deaths should not be exploited for the sake of politics. She says: “For me, as a mother, it hurts me viscerally to think of how my children died. My children, they came [as part of Jeune Haïti] – I know – it wasn’t for any particular party. They came for the country. And I don’t want them to be taken up by those on the right nor those on the left nor those in the center. It’s Haiti they were defending.”

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