André Charlier, Consummate Haitian Intellectual, is Dead

1943-2024

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Journalist André Charlier, “a man of letters from the very beginning,” died on Jun. 27 after a tragic fall.

(Français)

André Charlier, a retired teacher, prolific Marxist intellectual, political activist, and esteemed regular columnist at Haïti Liberté, died as the result of a freak accident near his home in Queens, NY on Jun. 27 at the age of 80.

He was born on Dec. 19, 1943 to a pair of towering pioneers of the Haitian Marxist tradition. Etienne Danton Charlier and Ghislaine Rey Charlier were leading figures in two of Haiti’s early Communist parties in the 1940s and 1950s – the Popular Socialist Party of Haiti (PSP) and the Party of Popular Understanding (PEP) – as well as the authors of many seminal newspaper articles, pamphlets, and books.

As a result, their son “was a man of letters from the very beginning,” niece Vladimir Cybil Charlier and daughter Yamilée McKenzie wrote in their obituary of André. “His parents, both intellectuals and political militants, instilled in him a deep love for reading. This early passion for literature and learning would shape his life’s journey.”

Charlier hailed from aristocratic families of Haiti’s south, sometimes unscientifically called by North American academics the “mulatto elite.” His paternal Charlier side came from Anse-à-Veau/Aquin and his maternal Rey/Garoute side from Jérémie, where he often spent his vacations with his brothers.

He was an excellent student, winning first prize in Haiti’s first national competition in Haitian history in 1961. A year later, he received his Baccalaureate (high school diploma) and then traveled to France to earn a BA at the Sorbonne in Political Economy in 1971.

André Charlier

After university, André moved first to Montreal, Canada and then to New York, where he worked as a teacher and journalist. He returned to Haiti in 1995 to work for the administrations of Presidents Jean Bertrand Aristide and René Préval, “because I believed they wanted to change things in my country,” he wrote in a polemical 2021 article. “But the way I went in was the way I came out: without a nickel.” He also continued his journalism and taught in various private schools in Haiti.

In July 2010, he returned to reside in the Hillside neighborhood of Queens, NY and continue teaching. He also soon began writing for the weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté in both French and Kreyòl.

He kept touch with many of his old friends, including his cousin Robert Garoute, a member of Haïti Liberté’s advisory board, who also lived in Queens. “I was having trouble paying for my apartment, so André told me he had room for me in his house,” Garoute told Haïti Liberté. “Unfortunately, it looks like that won’t happen now.”

On the evening of Jun. 24, without telling others in his household, André decided to buy a hamburger on Hillside Avenue. As he walked down the steep hill to that commercial boulevard, he tripped and fell, apparently hitting his head. In the dark, he wasn’t discovered for some time and had slipped into a coma. He was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, where unsuccessful efforts were made to revive him. He was finally taken off life support machines and pronounced dead on Jun. 27.

André was coupled three times. He met is first wife, Dominique Françoise Bruneau, in Paris in 1966, but she died in 1975. He later married Marie Monique Edouard, and in 1980, they had a son, Tristan Charlier, who tragically died at age 24 in 2005.

In 1984, André also had a daughter, Yamilée Mackenzie, with Micheline Mackenzie.

André is survived by his daughter, Yamilée Mackenzie, and his grandson, Cruz Etienne Colette; by his brother, Jean Louis Baron-Hyppolite; by step-sons Saman Dashti and Stephan Flemens; by nephews and nieces Vladimir Cybil Charlier, Raymond Manicatex Charlier, Dielika Charlier, Bernard Charlier, Chango Elysée, Vélina Elysée Charlier,  Clara Baron Hyppolite, Adrien Baron Hyppolite, Christophe Baron Hyppolite, and their children; by his sisters-in-law Marie-Cecile Corvington-Charlier and Gerarda Elysée, by many grand-nephews and nieces and relatives from the Charlier, Piverger, Garoute, Edouard, Dessables, Salnave, Roumer, and Mackenzie families.

André’s funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

It is fitting to close this obituary with a prescient observation made by André Charlier in one of his last columns in Haïti Liberté. In a French essay entitled “The Blood of the Vampire,” he reflected on the U.S. empire’s accelerating collapse.

“Just as a vampire cannot live without sucking the blood of others, the Bretton Woods system cannot survive without plundering the planet,” he wrote. “This explains the current world situation. This is why we are, at the moment, on the verge of nuclear war.”

He observed that increasingly the American people are being pushed into poverty and desperation. “The reality is that, in the final analysis, only international high finance, the power of money, benefits from Bretton Woods. It is the accumulation of capital pushed to its extreme limit, and at this limit, the American people are victims like all the others,” he concludes. “But we Haitians are the ones victimized to the greatest degree. But by our very suffering, we are also showing what the human species’ future will be if we let financial capital do as it wants.”

And, finally, this is how he described himself in the polemical article referenced earlier: “Myself, I have never been in a high position, in a big job with big money… But my two flags, the red flag of revolution and the flag which is blue as the sea… I will always hold on to them, and to take them from my hands, you’ll have to kill me.”

André died holding those flags high.

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