ONÈ RESPÈ, HONOR AND RESPECT, MARIE MARCELLE BUTEAU RACINE
by Beverly Bell
Marie magnificently lived out the verse by the prophet Micah: "Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with thy God." She was kind, generous, selfless, committed, integrity-filled, impassioned, indefatigable, humble, and spiritually evolved.
It has been my honor and joy to have known Marie since 1984, when we met at a demonstration in Washington against the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier. On global levels, I knew her as champion of human rights, women's rights, democracy, and economic equity. In her own town, I knew her as co-founder of the University of the District of Columbia, which opened in 1977. Marie dedicated herself to co-creating and co-leading the only public institution of higher learning in the capital so that African Americans could have equal access to education. I knew her as director of the linguistics department, professor, and dean of students at UDC; summertime teacher to peasant children in Haiti; assistant to President Aristide during the coup d'état of his first, hopeful term; board member and volunteer with so many non-profits; and co-author of the lovely and important book Like the Dew that Waters the Grass: Words of Haitian Women.
I knew Marie as someone deeply troubled by the injustices of the world. Among other things, this caused her and her beloved husband to flee into exile with their family in 1966, because they couldn't bear to raise their two young children under the moral depravity of the François Duvalier regime. It also caused her to work endlessly on behalf of a rights-guaranteed and humane homeland and world. I knew Marie as the mother and heroine of DC's Attorney General, Karl Racine, who – guided by her moral compass - is shaking up Trumpland. I knew her as "pa ka pa la," cannot not be there, someone who always showed up to help and support, or simply to lend the strength and solidarity of her presence.
I knew Marie as lover of peoples and cultures, connoisseur and collector of Haitian and other African diaspora art, exquisite orator and singer, divine dancer whose body moved with the fluidity of water.
We shared deep friendship, love, and respect; passion for a transmuted world; travels all around the US as well as to Haiti, Mexico, and Cuba; joint board participation of Washington Office on Haiti, Lambi Fund, FONKOZE, and Center for Economic Justice; collaboration in President Aristide’s office (again, during the first term); elation, rage, and devastation as Haiti, its people, and dreams for its transformation rose and fell; adoration of Rev. Antoine Adrien, liberation theology leader and spiritual rock of the popular movement, who was also her uncle and my greatest mentor; and so much more. What a privilege to have been united with Marie in existence and experiences. I learned much from her, was endlessly inspired by her, and am grateful for her life which brightened this shadowed planet.
It is my hope that Marie flew her beautiful self away to a place where exist the principles, the love, and the justice that she worked so hard for on this planet.
Chapo ba, Marie cheri, fanm vanyan, sè m. A low bow, dear Marie, warrior woman, my sister.