King Day events commemorate Haitian revolution bicentennial

Noted scholar Alex Dupuy, professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Wesleyan College, is the keynote speaker for the 2004 Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances. Classes at the college are canceled and special programming is scheduled throughout the day with an emphasis on the theme The Haitian Revolution: The Bicentennial and Its Legacy.

Scheduled for 10:45 a.m. Monday, Jan. 19, in the Clifton Daggett Gray Athletic Building, Dupuy’s address is part of a celebration of King’s life and work that includes performances, workshops and a debate with Bates, Morehouse and Spelman college participants. All events are open to the public free of charge.

On Jan.1, 1804, former slaves of the colony of Saint Domingue defeated a French expeditionary army to become an independent nation, now called Haiti. The new black polity honored the indigenous people who preceded the European invasion of the island, says John McClendon, associate professor of African American and American cultural studies at Bates. Haiti’s struggle for freedom became a rallying point in the imagination of African Americans. Chaired by McClendon, the committee that organizes the annual observance of King’s birthday chose to recognize the Haitian revolution as this year’s theme.

MLK Day events start with social scientist Georges Fouron of the State University of New York at Stonybrook, who delivers a talk titled “The Influence of the Haitian Revolution on Revolutionary Movements in the 19th and 20th Centuries and Beyond” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15, Pettengill Hall, G52. The college also co-sponsors an annual MLK Day Read-In with Lewiston-Auburn students. Faculty, staff, students and members of the community will share a picture book with Martel School students in grades 4-6 at 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 16. Those interested in volunteering should e-mail or call 207-786-8273.

The actual observance begins on the eve of the holiday, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18, with a memorial service of worship in the Chapel. The Rev. James Foster Reese Sr. delivers the sermon, King: The Principal and The Principles, followed with musical performances by the Deansmen, an a cappella group and sophomore Subira Gordon of Port Antonio, Jamaica.

Student debaters from Bates, Morehouse and Spelman colleges kick off  King Day itself when they argue the topic, U.S. Immigration Policy: Cuban Cinderellas, Haitian Stepchild. The debaters, including Morehouse senior Oluwbusayo “Tope” Folarin, who was named one of 32 American Rhodes Scholars in November 2003, will be introduced at 9 a.m. in Chase Hall Lounge, 56 Campus Avenue.

The debate will begin at 9:30 a.m. The match has historic resonance for the schools, which share a continuing commitment to collaborative projects. Founded in 1881, Spelman is one of the nation’s most highly regarded colleges for women. The nation’s largest liberal arts college for men, Morehouse was Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater. One of its longtime presidents was a Bates graduate and accomplished debater, Benjamin Mays, of the class of 1920. Mays was a lifelong adviser to the great civil rights leader and gave the eulogy for the assassinated King in 1968.

Dupuy delivers his 10:45 a.m. keynote address, Toussaint L’Overture and the Haitian Revolution: Race and Questions in the Americas, in the Clifton Daggett Gray Athletic Building.  He will illuminate the links between the historic Haitian revolution and contemporary issues of race relations.

The United States opposed Haitian independence until 1888 when it established diplomatic relations with the island nation, finally dispatching abolitionist Frederick Douglass as its first ambassador one year later. The U.S. civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s drew on the legacy of Toussaint L’Overture, hero of the Haitian revolution and an icon of liberation for the newly independent countries of Africa.

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and a citizen of the United States, Dupuy is the author of Haiti in the New World Order: The Limits of the Democratic Revolution (HarperCollins, 1997), and Haiti in the World Economy: Class, Race and Underdevelopment Since 1700 (Latin American Perspective Series, 1989).  This widely published sociologist studies theories of development and social change in the Caribbean; migration, race and ethnicity; and the processes of identity formation and political mobilization among Third World immigrants. Dupuy often provides commentary on Haitian current events for the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and National Public Radio.

Dupuy served as a member of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts at North Dartmouth from 1979 to 1982, when he joined the faculty at Wesleyan. He received his doctorate from the State University of New York at Binghamton, his M.A. from Brandeis University and his B.A. from the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

A series of concurrent Monday afternoon workshops hosted by various academic departments begins at 1:15, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. respectively in Pettengill Hall (locations to be announced.) The workshops, featuring speakers and discussion, will focus on the Haitian revolution, its meaning and the island nation’s present situation, as well conditions for people of color from around the world.

The afternoon’s events culminate with a 4:30 p.m. panel discussion, Movement 384, where a student group explores life and race on the Bates campus in Chase Hall Lounge.

The entire King Day observance concludes with a performance at 7:30 p.m. in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall featuring Henry Butler, a New Orleans-based pianist and vocalist whose influences range from Franz Schubert to Professor Longhair, and Tabou Combo, a Haitian dance-music band from New York.

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