Telling their story matters

Categories History

This has been the focus of my past two days. Transcribing pages of barely-legible handwriting that often requires writing, rereading, rewriting, research, context clues — just to read what it says. I have a headache and my eyes are tired.

But it’s still a cool project. Because what this is is the court testimony of witnesses to the 1831-1832 Great Jamaican Slave Revolt. They have been rarely studied and have never been transcribed. We’re doing it as a class effort to provide a basis for individual original research.

Sitting there working word-by-word, you lose sight of the bigger context. It’s not until you read it all together that you’re reminded of its importance. It’s the record of the desperate fight by slaves for their right to freedom. While they lost the immediate battle, and paid with their lives, they ultimately won the long war.

That they lived matters. Why they died matters. Helping to tell their story matters.

“I would rather die upon yonder gallows than live in slavery.”Slave rebel leader Samuel Sharpe, prior to his execution by hanging in May 1832.

The Poet-President of Brazil

Categories Politics

With the August 31st vote of the Brazilian Senate to convict President Dilma Rousseff on corruption charges, interim President Michel Temer assumed office for the remainder of Rousseff’s term, which was scheduled to end in January 2019. Temper assumed the responsibilities of the presidency back in May, when Rousseff was suspended pending trial, and immediately replaced the cabinet while reducing the number of cabinet ministries. Temper has indicated he will continue to push for a series of reforms.

Prior to his political career, Temer — the son of Lebanese immigrants — was a state prosecutor and constitutional law professor. Of particular interest, however, is his “career” as a poet. A sample of his work, courtesy of the New York Times:

Of red
Fiery flames of fire.
Brilliant eyes
Which smile with scarlet lips.
They take hold of me.
Of my mind
My soul.
All mine
In heat.
My body
On fire
Ashes are left
That I spread on the bed
To sleep.

The poetic aspect of his biography has drawn ridicule from opponents and praise from supporters. Temer naturally concedes the negative reaction, even outright ridicule, is the accepted product of living in a free society. It’ll certainly be interesting to see if he continues to put verse to paper in the months and years ahead, as he struggles with his administration’s scandals and those of his, now two, immediate predecessors.

“It wasn’t until the wheels on the EgyptAir jet were up and he was settling into his seat over the Atlantic Ocean, bound for one of the most isolated and repressive nations on Earth, that he was able to relax.” – Once a Bucknell Professor, Now the Commander of an Ethiopian Rebel Army (NYT)

Categories Interesting Reads