The Legacy of Assotto Saint: Tracing Transnational History from the Gay Haitian Diaspora

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Abstract

This essay uses Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s notion of power and the production of history as a starting point to explore the ways that Assotto Saint (1957-1994), a gay Haitian American who was once a well-known player in the Black gay and AIDS activist cultural movements in the United States, is remembered and written about in contemporary venues.1 I argue that the politics of remembrance pertaining to Saint’s cultural work and activism has significant consequences for our understanding of late twentieth century social and cultural movements in the United States as well as gay Haitian history. I explore the fact that Saint’s work has fallen out of popularity since his death in 1994, except in limited identitarian, mostly literary venues. The silences surrounding his work that I describe in this essay are peculiar considering that Saint not only had important social connections with artists who are well-known today, but also, unlike artists with less access to financial resources, he left behind a huge archive of materials housed in the Black Gay and Lesbian Collections at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture as well as a rich and prolific corpus of published work. By offering a re-reading of these archival materials and placing them in their socio-historical contexts, I also make a restorative gesture to commit Assotto Saint’s legacy to public memory. Through investigating the life, activism, and cultural work of this self-proclaimed diva of the Haitian diaspora, this essay ultimately attempts to offer a dynamic understanding of the movements Saint took part in as well as a re-reading of the dominant narratives about Haiti and gay sexuality.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-256
JournalJournal of Haitian Studies
Volume19
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013

Keywords

  • Haiti
  • Gay
  • History
  • Assotto Saint
  • HIV

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