The conversation between Cornell University Africana Studies professor Carole Boyce Davies, and radical Black activist Angela Davis went something like this:
“I am headed to Haiti,” said Boyce Davies, a former Florida International University professor who divides her time between New York and South Florida.
“Haiti?” asked Davis, a fellow author and distinguished professor emerita of history of consciousness at University of California Santa Cruz. “I’ve never been.”
And so began the narrative between two scholars that led Davis, 72, to make her first visit to Haiti this week as the headliner of the biggest gathering of writers and scholars on the Caribbean ever to take place in the country.
“This is a historic meeting,” Boyce Davies said about the Caribbean Studies Association’s 41st annual conference that started Monday and runs through Saturday in Port-au-Prince at the Marriott hotel. “First, CSA has been everywhere in the Caribbean for 40 years and it’s never done Haiti. Given that it’s the first Black Republic, there has been a real gap in our ability to say that we’re covering the entire Caribbean.”
Coincidentally, the Association of Caribbean University Research and Institution Librarians began its four-day conference Sunday with 150 participants in Petionville. This is only the second time in that organization’s 46-year history that it is meeting in Haiti, said Elizabeth Pierre-Louis Augustin, who is Haitian and this year’s president.
Both events are happening as Haiti remains deep in a political crisis over its disputed elections, and the election body prepares to announce Monday whether it will accept the recommendations of a verification commission to rerun the first round of the Oct. 25 presidential vote.
“It’s going to be an experience for a lot of people who are used to things that work, and no major political unrests or demonstrations,” said Alex Dupuy, a Haiti-born retired sociology professor from Wesleyan University in Connecticut who is also presenting. “I hope that the week will be relatively peaceful.”
Boyce Davies said that despite concerns about the political situation, “the amount of people who responded have exceeded every other conference.”
Like Davis, many of the 650 scholars who are presenting at the conference have never been to Haiti, Boyce Davies said. So in addition to talking about Haiti’s history, she wants scholars this year to see and experience the country.
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