by Ezili Danto
On Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2015, in the Dominican Republic, supposedly a paradise of European development, a Haitian man named Henry Claude Jean, known as “Tulile,” a humble shoe shine worker, was found hanging in a park in Santiago, his hands and feet bound.
According to official statistics, Haitians are the least violent people in the Caribbean. Nations such as the colonized Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, have four times more violence, larger militarized forces, more foreigners owning DR property and lots of pedophile tourists and prostitution. In fact, the U.S. colonization of the DR, effective since the failed 1963 Juan Bosch independence struggle, has rendered Dominican women to be the fourth most trafficked prostitutes in the world.
But such island nations have available more consumer goods, technological access, wage jobs and infrastructure to service the corporatocracy and make the rich white tourists comfortable than Haiti. That is what’s considered good European development.
In Haiti, the U.S.-installed Martelly dictatorship and its controlled opposition remain silent about this atrocious lynching. The activist-for-hire human rights industry, like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the big NGOs and the U.N., along with the former slave holding nations and Canada have also remained relatively silent about the treatment of Haitians in the Dominican Republic.
They ignored, last month, the entry of a Dominican naval ship into Haitian waters and the arrest of Haitian fishermen fishing in their own waters. They’ve mostly ignored and imposed no sanctions on the DR for its continued denial of civil rights to up to 220,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent, whose citizenship was summarily revoked recently retroactive to 1929. The revoking of civil and human rights of Haitians in the DR essentially emboldens such acts as the one that took Tulile’s life.
On Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2015, in the Dominican Republic, a Haitian man named Henry Claude Jean, known as “Tulile,” a humble shoe shine worker, was found hanging in a park in Santiago, his hands and feet bound.
According to a statement from activists in New York City known as We Are All Dominican, a spokesman for the police department in Santiago, the second largest city in DR, tweeted that the police “rejected racism” as a motivation for the murder and have excused the public spectacle of violence by associating it with a robbery. The strategy of criminalizing the victim provides a justification for an act of hate and reflects the historical trend of scapegoating Haitians for crimes in the Dominican Republic.
Dominican and diaspora groups instead contextualize the hanging body in Ercilia Pepin Park as part of a more widespread strategy to intimidate Dominicans of Haitian descent and the larger Dominican community into silent suffering and tolerance of their recent denationalization.
The group We Are All Dominican explains that Sentence 168-13, passed by the Constitutional Court in September 2013, stripped the citizenship of more than 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent. Law 169-14, passed to regulate the re-inscription process of those born in the country, saw the registration of only about 5,345 of the 110,000-plus people eligible.
The brief three-month re-registration period that closed on Feb. 1 was rife with tactics of diversion waged by police and civil registry staff – including multiple police stops of activists aiding community members en route to the civil registry, interview sessions riddled with invasive questioning, rerouting to non-existent interview locations, inconsistent process, and repeated demands to present more and more documents. The tactics mirrored voter disenfranchisement of African-Americans in the U.S. South resulting in the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Manuela Arciniegas, a Dominican-American student, musician, mother and organizer with We Are All Dominican, said: “The fact that the Dominican police can discount this public spectacle of violence reveals how Law 169-14 has institutionalized the mechanism of racial terror, voter disenfranchisement and social deaths to hundreds of thousands. Without formal citizenship now, these children and families have been left vulnerable to vigilantism, deportation, and economic and social demotion. They will not be able to vote in the upcoming election.”
Rocio Silverio, another organizer with We Are All Dominican, said: “We are tired of the guilty silence of Dominican elected officials based in New York City, including Rep. Ydanis Rodriguez. The Constitutional Court’s ruling and the complicit silence of our local elected officials sends a clear message that the Dominican community condones the scapegoating, murder and deportation of Dominicans.”
Miriam Neptune, a Haitian-American WAAD member, said: “Council Member Rodriguez is from Santiago, DR. He marched against police violence and the killing of Eric Garner.
“We want him to recognize that Black lives matter in the Dominican Republic as well and end his silence on anti-Haitian violence and the denationalization of Dominicans of Haitian descent. He needs to help catapult the Dominican community past a Jim Crow era where lynchings were made possible by police departments, civil registries and Supreme Court rulings working in concert to perpetuate systemic racism.”
Huffington Post reports that Wade McMullen, an attorney with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, said investigators appeared to have discounted race as a motive in Tulile’s murder too quickly.
“For the Dominican authorities to rule out racism as a factor less than 24 hours after a man of Haitian descent was hanged in a public square is not just irresponsible policing, it is an outrageous example of discrimination endemic to the Dominican Republic,” McMullen wrote to HuffPost in an email. “And frankly it is all too reminiscent of the shameful denials of Southern officials during the decades of terror lynchings perpetrated against African-Americans here at home.”
Tulile’s lynching, the latest in reported anti-Haiti violence, heads a long list of atrocities including yearly beheadings of Haitians that remain under-reported by the corporate media and emboldened by the post-World War II U.N. Security Council powers who sent the U.N. to ethnically cleanse Haiti from 2004 to the present. Haitians living in the Dominican Republic are racially stigmatized and facing a barbarism not seen since the days of outright slavery and Rafael Trujillo’s massacres.
“For the Dominican authorities to rule out racism as a factor less than 24 hours after a man of Haitian descent was hanged in a public square is not just irresponsible policing, it is an outrageous example of discrimination endemic to the Dominican Republic.”
Tulile, a humble shoe shiner, did not deserve to die, much less in this provoking manner. We wish steel courage to all Haitians and Dominicans who have to face this sort of mindless Nazism and white supremacist mindset in the Dominican Republic.
Rest now, Tulile. We ask people of conscience to boycott the DR for their systemic racism – the denationalization of nearly 220,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent. We ask Dominicans of conscience to teach their compatriots real history, how the Africans liberated the entire island from Spanish and French rule.
Many hands make light a heavy load. Two exploited peoples must find a center of truth that refuses the projection of all Dominican misery upon the defenseless Haitians, already the object of great exploitation and imperial tyranny.
The 70,000 in the Dominican army protect foreign interests, not authentic local DR development. Dominicans must take their country back, instead of scapegoating struggling Haitians for their own inability to live decent lives without having to sneak to Puerto Rico and claim they’re Puerto Ricans in order to immigrate to the U.S. as U.S. citizens and have a future.
Haiti is NOT the enemy. Tulile was shining shoes. He did not take a job coveted by anyone. Stop the projection. The DR population would do well to educate itself beyond the world oligarchs’ propaganda about the civility of whiteness before they find themselves occupied by not only the foreign-established Dominican army, but an outsourced U.S. occupation behind U.N. mercenary guns.
Condemn the racist lynch-mob in the Dominican Republic that lynched Henry “Tulile” Claude Jean. Denounce and boycott the Dominican Republic for making apartheid and racism legal.
Haitian students interview Tulile’s wife
A group of six Haiti students in Santiago, Dominican Republic, where Henry “Tulile” Claude Jean was found hanged to death this week, searched for and found Tulile’s wife, Erzuline Celuma, who is 22 years old. The Haiti group went to help the grieving family.
After listening to the traumatized wife and sister’s cries for help, the student group brought Erzuline Celuma and Tulile’s sister to a safe and private place for them to speak on a radio station to the diaspora about the victim, their family’s burning sorrow and what they know about the events surrounding Tulile’s murder through lynching.
The student leader introduced the interview by first expressing concern that the Dominican news outlets and authorities are rushing to cover up the truth and give a false story that criminalizes and further stigmatizes all Haitians. She said, in effect, the coverup story is another assault on Haitians everywhere for a horrendously public and racist lynching crime committed against a Haitian.
In the interview, the students and Tulile’s wife and sister talk about the false story the Dominican authorities and news outlets are circulating that it was two unknown Haitians who lynched Henry Claude Jean to steal his lottery winnings. His wife, Erzuline, says her husband does not play the lottery.
He did not leave the house with “friends” – the two unknown Haitian assailants the authorities are saying lynched him in Santiago’s public square. Erzuline says when Tulile left the house he was alone. She told the interviewer her husband loved to work and was a hard and diligent worker.
She said the police have told her nothing about an investigation. She said the DR authorities had already buried him and only showed her where Tulile was killed. Tulile’s sister said two of her own children were also “toufe” – suffocated/strangled this way. She says Haitians are suffering all kinds of discrimination and horrible violence in the Dominican Republic.
She says Tulile was her younger brother. He immigrated to the DR in 2000 and lived with her until he got married. She says her brother has been working at the Santiago park and hospital area for 14 years. He is well known there and used to runs errands for the hospital workers and people in the area all around.
The distraught, disorientated, in shock but soft-spoken Erzuline Celuma said she wants justice for her husband. She doesn’t want to live.
Her husband didn’t have any enemies, she says. She wants to know what happened to him. Why he was killed? She wants justice for her family.
She says she and Tulile have two daughters, ages 10 and 8. Her husband was the sole breadwinner. Erzuline took care of the children, who are in school. She doesn’t know how her girls will survive now.
Erzuline was so emotional, she couldn’t talk for long or very coherently. This is understandable considering her husband left for work one morning. Next thing she knows, he’s lynched, left to hang dead in a public square and then buried by DR authorities before the poor family can say their final goodbyes.
Erzuline Celuma told the interviewer she would fax the radio station her and her husband’s identification documents so that they could verify his age and their status. Erzuline Celuma says Henry Claude Jean has a Haitian birth certificate.
We Are All Dominican, an organization of activists, professors, students and community organizers in New York City, hosted a vigil on Feb. 12 in front of Dominican City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez’s office to protest the lynching of a Haitian man on Wednesday in a public plaza in Santiago, DR. They demand that NYC elected officials end their silence on the increasing racist violence and denationalization faced by Dominicans of Haitian descent.
The lynching of Tulile in Santiago comes at the heels of the publication of “Lynching in America,” a study published by the Equal Justice Initiative that increased the number of African American men, women and children “terror-lynched” in the U.S. between 1877 and 1950 to 3,959 people – 700 more than previously documented. Like American lynchings of the Jim Crow era, this Dominican lynching symbolizes an act of racial terror against Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent.
Ezili Dantò, award winning playwright, performance poet, dancer, actor and activist attorney born in Port au Prince, Haiti, founded and chairs the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN), supporting and working cooperatively with Haitian freedom fighters and grassroots organizations promoting the civil, human and cultural rights of Haitians at home and abroad. Visit her at www.ezilidanto.com, www.open.salon.com/blog/ezili_danto and on Facebook. Bay View staff contributed to this story.