Propagandhi: progressive thrash, Haiti and activism on tour
February 26, 2009
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2_26_9Propagandhi: progressive thrash, Haiti and activism on tour

Haiti — Taking some time out from the Australian leg of their 2009 tour, drummer and co-founder of the progressive thrash band Propagandhi — Jord Samolesky — too some time to write us, recounting their entry into Haiti activism shortly after Canadian members of the UN occupation force began schooling the Haitian National Police (PNH) in increasingly more brutal and repressive tactics in a marked departure from the practice during the years under Lavalas.

Propagandhi will be touring the East Coast of the USA starting with Florida on March 6, 2009. Haitian activists from Miami region spirited Veye Yo will be hosting an information table at several of the stops. Propagandhi would prefer to have the activists at every concert.

[ As can be expected certain English conventions aren't a high priority in the writing style of the group members, so the "alternative" structures are largely maintained in the quotes. Without apology. ]

JORD: "the 'activist' level of our band has slowly evolved from doing numerous fundraising events and having radical/progressive books and info available at our shows to becoming more engaged in local activism while spending much of our 'downtime' in winnipeg.

"personally, after leaving a record label, chris and i along with another friend founded our own production company in 1997 (the G7 Welcoming Committee) in 2002 or so, my intention was to use my new found 'extra time' to allow myself to pursue involvement in a network of local projects under the banner  of "No One Is Illegal".

"as the legal situation in canada unfolded in the so-called 'post 9-11' world, combined with the deportation of a family friend to el salvador, i decided to get involved. we had some limited success, and i'm convinced that because of coordinated actions across canada, that we were able to put enough pressure on the authorities to stay some deportations, including a few that involved seperating mothers from children they'd given birth to in canada ... the cdn govt was about to knowingly violate international conventions until a minor amount of publicity was achieved to counter this.

01"i had been listening to 'Democracy Now' (i try to keep this in my daily schedule as i have for years now ... huge amy goodman fan!) and was aware of the destabilization efforts against the democratically elected Arisitide administration. at this time i had read enough books, 'Killing Hope" by William Blum, Noam Chomsky and others, that had referenced the USA's efforts in the 20th century to prevent true independence and enforce poverty for the majority. one had to know, the shit that was hitting the fan was being authored and backed by white people in business suits sitting somewhere in washington.

"then, on march 1st, i heard the news about the coup d'etat. over the next few months, i tried to keep my ear open for developments, and as canada's involvement in the atrocities started to become clearer, the angrier i became. i think it was around april or may, that a local person in winnipeg had organized a demonstration at the local headquarters of a company called 'SNC Lavalin'. hearing of them being likened to a 'Halliburton of the North", and knowing of their economic interests in Haiti, i attended the demo purely out of contempt for the cdn political and economic designs for the '3rd world.'

"we converged onto their office space — before being given the boot — we managed to have some impact by passing flyers and a letter of our concerns to the receptionists and one lower level management type guy. a small act, but it was a pivotal moment of our Haiti activism. about 10 of us attended, most of us agreed to begin meeting more often to continue trying to expose what cdn interests in Haiti actually were ... participating in a coup d'etat with the bush administration seemed outrageous enough. also, being aware of the canadian governments' history of genocide — against the indigenous nations of canada— and the established mythology that effectively denies this history, i had many reasons to be sceptical towards current policy created by the 'Liberal' administration.

"i began to read and learn more about haiti's multi-century struggle for independence, and the multi-century struggle by old and new colonial powers to keep Haiti under their boot. i read 'the black jacobins' by clr james sitting at a picnic table beside a lake over one weekend … then came 'Canada in Haiti' by Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton. Propagandhi helped bring them to Winnipeg to do a book launch, and show a preliminary version of Kevin Pina's "We Must Kill the Bandits". this drew 30-40 locals, which left a number of them literally in tears.

"earlier in the day, i had picked up the authors at the greyhound bus station (they had arrived from an overnight trip from saskatoon) with an itinerary for Michaelle Jean's visit to Winnipeg that same day. she — a Haitian-Canadian — had recently been appointed, somewhat curiously, as the governer-general of Canada. Canada-Haiti activists were concerned that this appointment was done to smoothe the image of canada internationally and at home, as being a 'friend' of Haiti.

"the interim coup
government was reducing the minimum wage gains achieved by Aristide and Lavalas. we drove to hear her take selected and pre-approved questions from students at an aboriginal high school in the city's north end, heard her responses amidst the white politicians in business suits accompanying her onstage, and then got booted out, once again, for passing handbills announcing the book launch/film showing later that night.

"outside, yves was being threatened with a $10,000 fine for trespassing if he were to step on the school grounds!!

"we waited around for an hour or so, and as the governor general and her husband we're stepping into their limo, one of us managed to get the attention of the security to allow another of us to hand the governer-general a copy of 'Canada in Haiti', after that turn of events, all of us began trying to compel her to actually read the book. another small effort. after we left the event we were pulled over and questioned by local cops just 10 minutes later."

02Since then the fledgeling group of activists formed the Canada-Haiti Action Network (CHAN) and started broadening their efforts throughout Canada and the Internet.

"while we're on the road with the band, and i'm unable to help participate with winnipeg based efforts, i'm trying to expose and raise awareness about the Haitian struggle while on tour in the USA, in Canada, and hopefully in France, perhaps in other nations that are participating in MINUSTAH … by having books available at our tshirt/cd stand, and by inviting local haiti solidarity groups to come out and represent themselves at our shows, to distribute literature, and to allow local people to get involved at a variety of levels.

"i assume that activists in other cities have similar concerns and issues regarding local membership, and in a 'trying to be humble' way, encourage young people with a distaste for the emptiness that mass media culture creates, to challenge themselves to become passionate about raising awareness, working in solidarity with, and hopefully, mobilizing to such an extent that we can effect change to the level of bringing justice, and peace to the Haitian poor, who's ongoing struggle should be enough to inspire the willful ignorance priviledged fun-loving white middle class music and entertainment consumers, and the cynical, jaded types who have 'no hope' for the future.

"also, trying to assist in creating awareness about the existence of local Haiti solidarity groups i believe is important to get people, youth or older folks, who are looking to get involved, and have growing convictions about working in opposition to the established order, and the injustice and poverty they create and re-create.

03/05/2009 - St. Petersburg, FL @ The State Theatre
03/06/2009 - Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ The Culture Room
03/07/2009 - Elkton, FL @ St. John's County Fairgrounds - HARVEST OF HOPE
03/08/2009 - Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
03/10/2009 - Virginia Beach, VA @ Peabodys (w. New Hampshire State Motto)
03/11/2009 - Baltimore, MD @ The Ottobar (w. Ruiner)
03/12/2009 - New York, NY @ Highline Ballroom               SOLD OUT
03/13/2009 - Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall Of Williamsburg (w. Bridge and Tunnel)  SOLD OUT
03/14/2009 - Philadelphia, PA @ Trocadero Theatre (w. Witch Hunt)
03/15/2009 - Cambridge, MA @ Middle East Club


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