Letter of Appreciation by Leonard Harris
Recipient of the 2014 Frantz Fanon Life Time Achievement Award
I am deeply appreciative of the Caribbean Philosophical Association's (CPA) Frantz Fanon Lifetime Achievement Award in ways that it is impossible to express using language. I will use language, despite its limitations, to give witness to the impossible. No mountain of good works by an altruist and no mountain of good virtues such as courage, prudence, humility, or kindness possessed by a citizen assure the altruist or otherwise virtuous honors. The children of the aristocracy, wealthy, and ruling classes are often accorded honors as a matter of inherited status, but to be according an honor by virtue of an evaluation is far more meritorious. To be honored by the CPA is thus to be placed in a social world of worthy persons as a function of the CPA's considered evaluation: the CPA has taken the time and effort to look into my world in a way that I never expected.
It was not possible for the CPA to know about the warm nights where I ate cold blood pudding and talked about black power by dim candlelight in Dominica with Maurice Bishop in 1971. In Ibadan, Nigeria in 1972, just after to Biafra/Nigerian civil war I met J.O. Sodipo and P.O. Bodunrin, having traveled past emaciate bodies and destroyed homes on the road from Lagos to Ibadan—a trip I dread recalling and the CPA could not have known I took. Nor was it possible for the CPA to know that between writing a master's thesis justifying revolutionary violence at Miami University, Miami, Ohio, once the home for training pro-slavery confederate officers, and critiquing Marx's philosophic anthropology for its failure to see race as an independent variable at Cornel University in 1974 in my doctoral dissertation (the Trinidadian Bernard Boxill, the 2010 award winner, by my demand was a member of my dissertation committee), that it was the desperate lives of underpaid agricultural estate workers living in rat infested shelters at Castle Bruce Estate in Dominica where I intermittently labored those years that made madness my bedfellow.
I witnessed over 2,500 dead bodies in 1994 at Kikonkogra, Rwanda, now the Kikonkogra Holocaust Memorial, next to a metal shelter the size of a small box-cart with the bodies of women and their babies bludgeoned to death by the “genociders”—male and female agents of death. The next day I met philosophers in Kigali and sat in on talks about the role of language as a marker used by Hutu’s and Tutsi’s to distinguish themselves as races. Rwanda added another unspeakable sadness and scare on an already tattered soul.
It was not possible for the CPA to know that doing philosophy in this world, laced with terror, trauma, erudition, and struggles to overcome, for me, made doing philosophy at conferences in posh hotels possible. Whatever the good judges of CPA saw in my known works, whatever they saw in the Philosophy Born of Struggle Association (PBOS.com) and the Alain Locke Society (AlainLocke.com), and whatever the CPA learned of my character, the CPA could not have known any of the above.
It is arguable that the unspeakable and the unknown congealed in the known to help make an award possible.
Although my appreciation is gratitude impossible to express sufficiently, it is possible to continue my quest, sitting in sessions and meeting great minds, in and from, far-far-off places. In the twilight of my years, never expecting this quest to go on for so long, it is possible to live in ways that continue to exhibit the kinds of traits the CPA considers worthy and be forever grateful for this most cherished award.
A luta continua