Haiti: Dialogues With Tim Ives (1) - Activist Author and Filmmaker
By Stephen Mauldin at Sep 29, 2009
Kim Ives is a writer and editor with Haiti Liberte newspaper and a documentary filmmaker who has directed and worked on many films about Haiti (Bitter Cane, The Coup Continues, Rezistans). He also works with the Haiti Support Network (HSN) and has led numerous delegations to Haiti. He frequently speaks about Haiti before church, student, and community audiences and on Haitian and U.S. radio programs. He is also a producer and host with the program "Haiti: The Struggle Continues" on WBAI 99.5 FM in New York
I write this as an introduction to what I hope will be a continuing series on Tim Ives and his involvement and knowledge concerning the Haitian Diaspora in Brooklyn and other parts of New York City, and also on what can be learned from him about his long involvement and filmmaking as an activist addressing the Haitian crisis. I recently had an opportunity to meet Tim at the setting of what appears to be a central location for meetings and events and actions by the Haitian community and its supporters in Brooklyn South of the Prospect Park area.
The story begins as I found that the important article I have been inspired by, Peter Hallward’s , had been posted at the site ofHaitain Analysis
, and referenced to a previous posting by one Tim Ives at the websiteHaitian Liberte
, also a Kreyol /French language newspaper – which I was excited to find was physically located nearby where I am staying at this time in Brooklyn. The same location sports a bookshop, where I hoped to immediately get my hands on a copy of Hallward’s book,The Will of The People: Notes Towards a Dialectical Voluntarism
. I also thought it might even be possible to meet people there who could be instructive regarding my interests in a foray to Hispaniola to explore living conditions there for an extended stay for the purposes of learning directly about the struggles of the Haitian people, its potential for a Haitian Revolution (similar to the line of involvement I have taken in visits to Nepal with respect to the Maoist Revolution there).
Blissfully ignorant, I did not know Tim Ives was a significant activist when he answered the phone at Haiti Liberte and agreed to meet me for an informal discussion of my interests. It was good fortune or blind justice I suppose. I biked across Brooklyn to the warehouse type setting, and rang the buzzer to walk up the stairs where the first impression is that of a union hall. Some middle-aged Haitian men were meeting at a table speaking in Kreyol, the walls were adorned with ethnic art and there was a bulletin board and literature table featuring community events and the like. There were large stacks of the newspaper Haitian Liberte on the floor and against the wall. I was told Tim would be in a minute and I walked around a corner to find a small but well stocked small bookstore with lots of other available paraphernalia for sale to the wide-eyed supporters of the Haitian cause with some money in their pockets for coffee cups and a Che T-shirt, etc. I had spotted my book and an interesting series of DVD films when I was asked to go to an adjoining room to meet Tim Ives.
OK.. I was surprised to meet the guy you see in the picture above, a 53 year old fair haired white guy fluent in Kreyol, highly articulate native English speaker, in obvious good health and condition and quickly and most evidently somebody who knew what he was talking about from many years going in and out of Haiti in a long career of political filmmaking and writing on the topic central to his life purpose. I was delighted of course. Perhaps in time I will have the opportunity to elaborate and expand though further interviews what was the beginning of what is for me an important dialog.
This first meeting was rather brief and our starting point was the Hallward thesis as it was that article and the book in question that had perpetrated the meeting. Tim was also interested in the Nepal Maoist story, about which I was happy to share my small expertise.. he was struck my the many similarities, as I have been already, between many of the basic structures of the struggle in both countries , Haiti and Nepal. For example, the essential core of the struggle being between the will of the people and the “MRE” (what the author Herbert Gold termed the Morally Repugnant Elite). Then also, there is the constant underlying need for the establishment of civilian supremacy over the military, the absence of which is the foundation of MRE oppression. The kind of political and economic hegemony exercised by India over Nepal is not at all unlike the methods employed by Western governments in the Caribbean. It’s too much the same story again and again in the struggle everywhere for a democracy of the people. We find again the common theme in the strategies of neo-colonial imperialists as well articulated by Noam Chomsky, that for them “.. it is only when the threat of popular participation is overcome that democratic forms can be safely contemplated”.
I am not as yet prepared to provide a more detailed account of Tim Ives background and current projects. I would like to share this in time. There is an interesting story here beginning with his roots as the son of a woman who for many years was an activist for the Haitian cause, his upbringing as part of a commune of Haitian’s in New York State, his subsequent scholarship, his long series of documentary filmmaking trips and the interactions with the people of Haiti. It’s an interesting story that I should share I think. A bit of irony if not a bit of chagrin: here I was speaking to Tim Ives about Hallward’s book, unknowing that Hallward cites Tim Ives in that book no less than 18 times.
What can be known about his present opinions may be approached from the following articles he has recently published – I will find whatever else is available and add to my public bookmarking system at Delicious:
As for what is the immediate circumstances and struggle from the Brooklyn eye of the storm.. this also is an very compelling line of investigation. I only know that Tim Ives describes his own desire as trying to organize and bring together the efforts of the Brooklyn Diaspora. This seems to have something to do with a new development of party organization combining diverse elements in the population. It’s not clear what he means, I’d like to know. There are at work here some political struggles between factions of the Fanmi Lavalas. There are some Marxists in the mix. Tim has a background also with certain factions in the Aristide camp, but there is a constant and shifting evolution of the will of the people. Interestingly, Tim Ives makes reference to the suggestions of direction proposed by Peter Hallward in the conclusion of his book. I have had a look for this.. maybe what he means can be seen in the following exerpts:
“.. the Lavalas.. has.. begun to confront some of its own internal limitations, by becoming less dependent on Aristide’s personal charisma and influence, and by purging itself of many of the opportunists.. younger grassroots leaders are more important now than when they were in office.. have learned from Aristide’s example as well as from his mistakes.. that Lavalas also remains bitterly divisive is a consequence above all of the fact that it was the only large scale popular mobilization ever to address the massive inequalities of power.. that Lavalas has so far managed to do little to reduce these inequalities says less about the weakness of the organization than it does about the extraordinary strength, today, of the forces that preserve inequality.. Haiti’s independence from the contemporary version of slavery will.. in addition to the remobilization of Lavalas.. require the renewal of emancipatory politics within the imperial nations themselves.”
That last sentence calling for the international movement of emancipatory politics strikes a strong chord for the likes of philosophical activists, revolutionary warriors like Peter Hallward and Kim Ives.