THOUGHTS AFTER TEACHING BC (Javiela Evangelista, CUNY)

From Javiela Evangelista, Professor of African and African American Studies at Lehman College,
participant in the January 2014 workshop @ Barnard:


I had the honor of participating in the workshop and  finally taught with the film the week before last for my undergraduate Caribbean Literature class. BC is a powerful film that says what my words can not as an educator. It has had a tremendous impact on my students thus far… they have become aware of the issues in a way that is different than with the texts/lectures… they felt emotional, they wanted to be involved in change and were eager to sign petitions. Many have even been following the news and asking for updates since the viewing. After a more traditional lecture there is definitely less concern and sense of personal obligation. I used it in a literature class but I can see how it would also be a strong addition to any classroom- one may simple make connections to related issues that have most likely come up in class.

As a lit class, students read a short story “The Day It All Happened” by Ana Lydia Vega about a Haitian and Dominican family who illustrate generational feuds dating back to the early 19th c …  a cycle that Vega argues needs to end. After discussing the reading, we discussed  BC as a way of looking at current issues
During the general discussion some Dominican students asked questions that required further conversation. Given the direction of these questions I may adjust my DQ towards in the future in anticipation of these issues. For example one student asked about the “burden”  of Haitians on the Dominican economy. So we then talked about how denationalization is about Dominican citizens who are entitled to rights not those entering from another nation. Furthermore concerning migratory policies …. there is a long history of local government and US supported use of Haitian/Dominican labor that has not only enabled the Dominican economy rather than burden it but has also been abusive toward Dominicans of Haitian decent and Haitians.
TEACHING OUTLINE
  • General discussion about the human rights and the lost of essential rights: Centered Dreamers in the United States in order create common ground for students
  • Grounding the film: Brief introduction to HWHR (via website) and honoring the life work of Sonia Pierre
  • Screening of the film
  • Open Discussion guided by some questions from BC training package and the WAAD toolkit to encourage student dialogue
  • Lecture on important moments in the historical relationship between Dominican Republic and Haiti: deconstructing myths of the Haitian occupation, shedding light on the role of US hegemony etc
  • Discussion about disturbing long term consequences of denationalization…insufficient preventative health care, access to education etc..what kind of society is this creating?
  • Connections to some of the themes previously addressed in class/ larger systematic issues: the role of the state and questions of systematic exclusion…other global attempts at denationalization/ exclusion
  • Why isn’t there a lot of media coverage? : Discussing problems with the production of knowledge and BC as a powerful intervention that is filling critical gaps
  • What may we do? Discussing actions in collaboration with long term Dominican (American) and Haitian (American) activists, …..what does collaboration mean?…Discussing some of the challenges and benefits of transnational activism
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES also made available:
  • Readings to ground historical relationship between Dominican Republic and Haiti (Citations to be provided)
  • Current coverage from NYTimes, Huffington Post, Miami Herald
  • Other educational films: PBS special on denationalization, World Vision testimonials, Fordham University Law School compilation, PBS special on Black in America on Dominican Republic and Haiti
  • *** To add in the future: a resource center with IACHR documents? websites from organizations working against the sentence… etc
FUTURE POSSIBILITIES for students:
  • Larger project of involvement: community engagement or study aboard office offering opportunities for transnational activism, even if without travel- collaborating with organizations here, taking it outside of the classroom, etc
  • Assignment to for students to collect testimonies as a class or to hold a screening of film with family, friends, church etc
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