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“Black Feminism and Haitian Fiction” with Régine Michelle Jean-Charles

(Photo courtesy of University of Virginia Press) “Dr. Régine Michelle Jean-Charles spoke as part of the FAHSS Dean’s Speaker Series.”

Steven O’Hara
Connector Editor

Dr. Régine Michelle Jean-Charles visited the University of Massachusetts Lowell this past week, discussing her newly released book: “Looking for Other Worlds: Black Feminism and Haitian Fiction,” as well as the intricacies of Haitian Literature, Black Feminism and Activism. Dr. Jean-Charles is a Black Feminist literary scholar and Professor of African Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Northeastern University. She is a published author, having also written: “Conflict Bodies: The Politics of Rape Representation in the Francophone Imaginary” and “A Trumpet of Conscience for the 21st Century,” and contributor to media outlets such as The Boston Globe on topics of social justice movements. She has also worked on many projects exploring the intricacies of feminism, race and society.

Her most recent book, “Looking for Other Worlds: Black Feminism and Haitian Fiction” was released last November in 2022. It is an exploration of three important Haitian authors: Yanick Lahens, Kettly Mars and Evelyne Trouillot, who are each respected social activists and used their work to highlight the intricacies and ethics of Black feminism. Dr. Jean-Charles examines each author’s literary perspective from their writings and worlds they have created, while also dissecting the intricacies of Black feminism, Haitian history and literary analysis of ethics.

The first chapter of “Looking for Other Worlds: Black Feminism and Haitian Fiction” begins with a quote from Paulette Poujol-Oriol, a Haitian writer, who was one of the major trailblazers in the feminist movement in the country. The rest of the book also contains many analyses of multiple works of Haitian art, such as drawings and paintings, that show themes of Black feminism and Haitian history. When asked about the importance of studying Black feminism and related topics, she said, “Doing your work in the humanities, what tools the humanities gives us to see the world in a different way, making interventions and social justice are the most important topics to mention [when discussing social movements].”

When asked about the implementation of Black Feminism outside of literature and into the real world, Dr. Jean-Charles said, “It’s not just literature—it’s activism. If you look at organizations like “A Long Walk Home” which is an organization that uses the arts to end violence against women and girls that I have worked with for a long time, they use a Black Feminist framework. But, they’re doing ‘ending gender based violence’ [and] equipping young people to know how to advocate for themselves around issues of gender based violence…It’s way beyond academia.”

After discussing her book, Dr. Jean-Charles brought to light some real time activism. “NÈGÈS MAWON”, is a Haitian born feminist group that is fighting for equality and change in their activism and work. They are actively raising awareness and affirming work that closely parallels that of Black feminism: the need for change. This group is also sponsoring programs that aim at supporting and caring for women who are victims of violence. Donations can be made through their website to aid in the improvement of social, cultural and economic conditions for Haitian women and girls.

The University of Massachusetts Lowell is very thankful to have Dr. Régine Michelle Jean-Charles present her new book and teach how Haitian literature, Black feminisms and activism has been and will continue to be used to affect real world change.

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