Aimé Césaire: Activist poet (1913-2008)

Discourse on Colonialism is one of the most powerful collection of words/thoughts on page. It was written by Aimé Césaire, the great writer/intellectual from Martinique. He broke the idea of poets being caught up in pretty words and lofty literatures and being divorced from the world. He challenged the status quo of colonial thinking in the dominance of globalized nation-states. He gives space to nature and the rage of the body that we all, in some way live with and to some degree accept. He challenged the notion of academics being divorced from relevant realities. He refused the largely un-recognized project of forgetting in the students he taught and the readers that read his works. Forgetting, brings willing servitude. At that moment of forgetting, the process of enslavement becomes unrecognizable. Aime used his poetry-craft to challenge our internalized mind-sets of being colonized mentally and emotionally.

The world coined his term: ‘negritude,’ a black-consciousness foretold as a term for resistance against the universalizing of nation-state majority language. That dominant majority language refuses different histories and interprets it in their image and therefore, interprets history for us. What does that mean when that happens? We are empty and without history, of course. Our own memories and traditions become erased. They’re ‘wrong’ or ‘not logical’ or ‘doesn’t make rational sense’ or ‘is poetic but not real’ or ‘plain wrong’ or ‘who taught you that?” This resistance to that dominance that Aime speaks through, carries the legacy of Franz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth’ and other works empowering the disempowered in the modern global system (which is pretty much the majority of us if you think about it). The project of blackness in Franz Fanon’s work and Aime’s, begins with the idea of black, as non-dominant; needing to remember how it has come to become unequal and how this is maintained. Aime challenged the notion of blackness being in servitude to white. This made him dangerous, yet in his life, as academic and literary person, the dominant also respected him.

He is one of my most favorite ‘ancestors’ of thought and action, transformative in its connection to memory, the body, and anti-oppression. It speaks to my own heritages and the present condition.

Here is a short excerpt from a biography.