Maniya Jules Miller

Antioch College

Jules Oral History Project: Maniya Jules Miller from Digital Kenyon on Vimeo.

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00:00:36 - Early Life

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Partial Transcript: "I don't remember what my life was like in Haiti"; "I did not have the American experience even though I was in America"; "I grew up watchin service in action"

Segment Synopsis: Maniya discusses her early childhood in Mt. Rainer, MD near a nature center and then moving to a Victorian home in Kettering-Largo, MD. She speaks about her parents involvement in the Haitian Assistance Club- a community organization that facilitated transition for other new Haitian immigrants.

00:03:42 - Her Mother(s) loves

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Partial Transcript: "I was extremely close to grandgran"; "It's really hard to explain to people what it's like to have unconditional love and spirit but I grew up literally having people praying over me and rubbing over my back and praying their intentions over me my entire life"

Segment Synopsis: Maniya talks about having to adjust to calling her own mother "mommy" when she was very young because she initially thought/felt like her grandmother who was taking care of her in Haiti was her mom. She also talks about the strong presence of love expressed through touch and prayer in her family.

00:05:22 - What does family mean to you

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Partial Transcript: "It's my world. I struggle so much and I try so much to overcompensate when I have students or actually even staff members who don't understand the love and support of family"; "Our goal is to each and every day is to do the right thing"

Segment Synopsis: Maniya talks about family and the lesson of perfectly imperfect humanity that she learned from her father. She talks about about how a sort of non-politicized Christianity informs her choices to do right by others, especially those with less privilege. She mentions her father as key in these sorts of lessons.

00:08:16 - Her Father; Grandpa

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Partial Transcript: "Our relationship was very pure, and I appreciated it"; He would just always find ways to explain to me the experiences [of] young black man and he would always find ways to explain to me how proud and he happy he was with you guys and how America was so hard"

Segment Synopsis: Through tears, Maniya explains her relationship with her father, my grandfather-who passed away in 2017. She talks about the ways she sees elements of her father in my brother and myself. She also talks about the ways in which her father showed her different interpretations of the experiences she was having with us as young black men.

00:11:24 - Haitian Family

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Partial Transcript: "So in our family, I never really understood where "Bloodlines" work"; "I never questioned the fact that I had 3 Grandmothers"; I just had these people in my life who just loved me and just cherished me and nourished me."

Segment Synopsis: Maniya talks about the opacity of distinct bloodlines in her understanding of family relationships. That is, the technical terms of "aunt" were less relevant to the title that a given family member has. She talks about coming to realize that this was different when her American friends asked her about it.

00:14:47 - The Elders

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Partial Transcript: "Mu Ni Na, technically was Man Ali's sister in law because Man Ali's brother died early. I didn't know that, they don't tell kids that"; "Literally up until they could not come anymore these ladies used to come and stay at our home"

Segment Synopsis: Maniya lists several elders who travelled to come help her after her pregnancies and makes sure to remind me that I was spoiled by them when they came to visit.

00:17:05 - What does being a Haitian Woman to you?

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Partial Transcript: "You have a responsibility to the next generation"; You're only here because of the gifts that have been given to you by the elders and that gift isn't because you're special that gift is because you have a responsibility that god has ordained you to be responsible for the next generation.

00:17:44 - What does it mean to be a Haitian man?

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Partial Transcript: "My father was very privileged and sexism is no joke and the macho/machismo piece is just so big"; The reason why I love my brothers so much now is because I think about the challenges that they've gone through and trying to make it.; "He made a conscious decision to change a narrative for the future and that was totally on his own"; "it's hard to explain but when you're a man of privilege your able to have a lot of women and you're able to...have that as a weakness" ; My dad used to say to them .. do not have children if you're not willing to sacrifice everything for them because in this country...it takes so much to raise well rounded kids" ; My mom never wanted my brother..to forget who he was and his status"; "He had to deal with everything financially, I had to deal with everything emotionally"

Segment Synopsis: Maniya talks about sexism and machismo in Haitian culture and the challenges that she has seen her brothers face and overcome in different ways and ways that reflect her father's advice to them. She talks about her emotional responsibilities to the family and he how brother bears financial responsibility for the family as a first born son.

00:25:53 - Haitianness and Blackness

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Partial Transcript: "Nationalism as far as being Haitian, and our struggles as a Haitian people and our struggles against oppression has been the biggest issue."; "We have an extremely diverse family and I did not understand that that was unusual for Haitian people until I got older"; "I didn't understand the impact of skin color until I went to college"

Segment Synopsis: Maniya talks about Haitian Nationalism and an orientation against oppression and the wide global geographic distribution of family members. She talks about how her lighter skinned Grandmother was the most militant and bought my mother black dolls and stressed Diasporic heritage. She talks about feeling surprised when she went to an college encountering skin color as topic of authenticity in struggle and also being surprised at the idea that you can or can't date anyone.

00:33:21 - Inter-Racial, Intra-Racial and Class Tensions

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Partial Transcript: "I grew up with racial tensions from African-Americans and White Americans but within my culture- within my Haitian circle."; "I was like daddy we have to do so much more...and my dad was like...I work so hard for you to have a better life that you really do not know what the real world is like"; "I needed to understand how hard he worked for me to even exist in the bubble"; "After that, he took me to Haiti"

Segment Synopsis: Maniya talks about having issues at Bowie State and coming to an understanding her own class privilege and then this awakening to her privilege more in Teach for America in 1992 in NC. She shares a story of coming home after being at Teach for America and sharing her shock at the white people living in trailer homes in Appalachia and then her father apologizing for sheltering her and then taking her 30 minutes from her house to the same kind of poverty.

00:39:18 - The Clinton Years: Working/Visiting Haiti

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Partial Transcript: "It was still a life of privilege... but it was helpful because it was the first time I went to the poor part of Haiti"; "He made me promise that when I had my children that they would travel internationally and not just on vacation"

Segment Synopsis: Maniya talks about how visiting Haiti expanded her perspective and the explicit conversation to ensure that her children traveled internationally to get a better understanding of how the majority of the world lives.

00:41:40 - What does being Haitian mean to you?

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Partial Transcript: "Understanding that you know what? We fought back and we have a spirit of achievement and no matter what happens...I don't want my kids to think of themselves like "Oh we were a continent of people enslaved"; "I do feel like there is a pride and sense of fight that our family has shared"; The spirit of being a Haitian, the spirit of Haitian blood is understanding, no we will overcome, we have overcome and we didn't ask anybody's permission for freedom. We fought and we got it."; "We will write our story"; "I'm very sure that first child coming out of my body his name will be Jules"

Segment Synopsis: She talks about how being Haitian is wrapped up in an understanding of yourself as part of a people who fought and won and write their own story. She talks about media like Black Panther are useful in helping people understanding the impacts of colonialism in general and in Hait.

00:45:48 - The Family Investment

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Partial Transcript: "I believe that as the African Diaspora, we should continue to identify as a unit, as a family"; "The nuclear family concept...The English or white American concept of competitiveness and looking out for yourself...I reject that"; "You're representing your family, you're representing you're country"; "It's the spirit of being a Haitian warrior"; "Our belief system is that of inclusion but we are not submissive"

Segment Synopsis: Maniya talks about how her parents made use of their available cultural capital to move their whole family forward. She talks about feeling pain for her students who don't have anyone to turn to within their nuclear families and the contrast with her experience as being ; able to be dependent on family when necessary.

00:50:41 - Keeping Up with Haiti

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Partial Transcript: "That's always debatable";

Segment Synopsis: Maniya talks about keeping up with Haitian politics in terms of family positions. She talks about a great uncle's role as being appointed to the equivalent of the Surgeon General in Haiti during one or both of the Duvalier regimes. She is purposefully careful about what she says regarding living family members.

00:56:16 - American Involvement in Haiti

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Partial Transcript: "That's always debatable"; "The Foreign involvement in Haiti has been quite challenging"; "Our family has been in both sides of these things...that's one of the rules you can't discuss"; "We understand first hand and the emotional and life loss that happens if you have loose lips"

Segment Synopsis: Maniya talks about the decisions made by family members to forgo certain things as far as autonomy for the sake of humanitarian aid.

01:00:39 - Has being Haitian changed over time for you?

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Partial Transcript: "The entire time I was in elementary school, the teachers and the kids would make fun of us and say, "Oh you're boat people";

Segment Synopsis: Maniya talks about her early educational experiences where her parents always encouraged her to claim her Haitianness but at school people would bully her and her brother and essentialize them as boat people. She says that her older brother, my Uncle Rudy disengaged from school but still kept up reading.

01:03:34 - "The reason you guys are in private school"

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Partial Transcript: "It's the reason you guys are in private school"'; "He got penalized for being a black male in a predominantly white school system"; "You get what you pay for so because I paid tuition, I knew that I produced some...superstars. So you get what you pay for. I can have some say"; "I knew that you were targeted, I knew that they were unfairly treating you and I was the assistant principal"

Segment Synopsis: Maniya talks about how the discrimination her brother faced made him disengage with his own education and how seeing this resonated with her so much that she made sure to send me and my brother to private schools. She acknowledges the lack of diversity at these schools but knew that she could leverage the demonstrated potential of her children for a tuition based say in how they were treated.

01:09:28 - How has being Haitian changed over time Pt. 2

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Partial Transcript: "It's exciting for me. It exciting for me to make sure that my kids understood that-That they are Haitian"; "And then Wyclef Jean came around ...that was like, "Oh you're making fun us for some of us being refugees?" so we're going to have a big group ... and were going to be the fugees."; "now with the event of social media now my brothers send me...clips that are hilarious that make fun of things that are totally Haitian.

Segment Synopsis: Maniya returns to the idea of Haitian blood as driving force for achievement. She says growing up it was harder to be proud of her heritage (even though she still was). She says Wyclef Jean and the Fugees were really impactful for her and how social media has made it easier to share Haitian culture with family and the next generation.

01:15:16 - Haitianess and Spirtuality

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Partial Transcript: "I know I am loved"; "You're part of a collective and... we stem from the African Diaspora";

Segment Synopsis: Maniya speaks about her father's departure from Catholicism as enabling him to travel and her mother's side being very Catholic. She talks about her experience in education as illuminating her spirituality.

01:21:08 - Voudoo

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Partial Transcript: "Oh yeah, Voudou is real"; "My father's radio name was Pierre Legba"

Segment Synopsis: My mom talks about the movie Serpent and the Rainbow as the pathway to how she asked her father about it and explained Santeria and overall syncretism that is part of it.

01:25:03 - Haitianness and Sexuality

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Partial Transcript: "You're grandmother is probably the least homophobic older person"; "The truth is we had tons of gay people that she could cite and that they just kept them hidden"

Segment Synopsis: Maniya tells a story of her mother calling out the other elders for making a big deal about cousin Becky getting married to women by highlighting a history of LGBT family who no one talked about historically.

01:29:25 - Elements of Haitian Culture

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Partial Transcript: "They don't know, I keep a Haitian house? They don't know that you grew up with Haitian food your whole life?";

Segment Synopsis: She talks about Haitian food as one of the cornerstones of a Haitian community network and how there was a responsibility to do community service through art, dance and activism. She also mentions that her father, my grandfather was instrumental in the recognition of Haitian Kreyol as an official language.

01:33:36 - The language the culture, the art, It's all intertwined

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Partial Transcript: "they thought that my father spending money to make sure that we went to concerts and attended plays... a lot of people criticized him... but my parents were like "we need to invest in the people and the experiences"

Segment Synopsis: Maniya speaks about how her parents understanding of culture and the value of experience influenced her decisions to invest resources my own ability to travel and understand the world.

01:36:18 - Implicit Bias

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Partial Transcript: "One of the things that was the most painful for me was...when you went to public school. They didn't know you"

Segment Synopsis: My mother talks about experiencing the pain of me beginning to be perceived as more threatening, intimidating and aggressive. In a sense, the experiences she has and sees inspire her to help people uncover and eliminate their implicit biases.

01:40:21 - Final Thoughts

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Partial Transcript: "I love you and I'm proud of you"; "It's the Haitian dream"; "There's generations and generations of people who prayed over me in America, in Haiti and who've lost their lives coming from the continent to Haiti.