Castro Desroches – the author that deftly combines political humor and poetic storytelling – shares Tales from the Island of Papa Doc, at the Mount Vernon Public Library, Saturday, December 11th as part of The Decypher, a lecture series by R.I.S.E.U.P. (Research Initiatives for the Strategic Empowerment of the Urban Populace Knowledge for Civic Empowerment) that aims to entertain and enlighten.
Born in Haiti during the regime of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, Desroches is uniquely qualified to discuss the interest of the people of Haiti and how those interests impact our lives in the United States. With the picture being portrayed about Haiti today so bad that people are saying things were better under Papa Doc. But Desroches refuses to allow people to rewrite history and shares what’s really going on in Haiti with the younger generation.
Castro has six books in English and French and has been recognized in the Haitian community and beyond, using political humor and poetic storytelling to expose the roots of Haiti’s long-standing challenges.
Listening to Castro talk about Haiti and how difficult it is to convince people with simply political arguments and facts, I could definitely relate as the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester covering the Black community in Westchester County and surrounding areas, especially the City of Mount Vernon and how the United States is also suffering from a white washing of history, nationally today. He decided to add humor to his documenting the history of Haiti and its political climate. Turning key figures into caricatures, since as he put it, “we aren’t dealing with people, we are dealing with characters.”
He shared with those in attendance how Haiti before Papa Doc was a typical Caribbean resort area but how it changed in 1957 under Papa Doc with his death squads and boogeymen. How you could not gather in small groups without permission, or you would be perceived as trying to overthrow the government. Duvalier’s iron hand and secret police force, the Tontons Macoutes, executed anyone who dared oppose him and delivered on none of the promises to help the poor.
From Papa Doc to Baby Doc – The Sun of a Tiger is also a Tiger.
Then he chose his son Jean-Claude better known as Baby Doc to succeed his as president for life. President Jimmy Carter selected Andrew Young to speak with Baby Doc, to stop the bloodshed and find a path to democracy. Named president for life at age 19 following the death of his father in 1971, Duvalier has lived in France since February 1986, when a popular uprising forced him into exile.
Haiti’s governance challenges pre-date the 2010 earthquake, that catastrophe further highlighted the need for an increased focus on governance and government accountability.
Haiti has experienced a series of political setbacks in recent history that continue to detract from efforts to improve governance institutions and enforceable legal norms. Although the country has the formal structures of a democracy, many of these have yet to become fully functional, as evidenced by recurring periods of political and institutional instability. Haiti’s state institutions are under-resourced and provide limited services to only a small percentage of the population. Despite these challenges, some progress has been made in recent years to advance the functioning of national and local government, civic engagement, voter education, access to justice services, and protection of human rights.
The challenges Haiti faces has some people saying things were better under the dictatorship of Papa Doc, which was the inspiration for Castro to write his books to properly document the truth.
After Castro Desroches’ presentation there was a brief Q&A and then a book signing where those in attendance were given an opportunity to purchase his books. This is the second installment of R.I.S.E.U.P.’S Decypher series at the public library, the first installment was author Dr. Jeffrey Perry. This next will be Saturday, January 15, 2022, where they will be a screening of the award-winning film The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain followed by a panel discussion with Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., and others.