Thinking about what it means when someone calls a Caribbean nation a “shithole” (sorry for the profanity, but the word is presidential now).

Not long ago, I gave a series of presentations telling ornithologists and bird enthusiasts about the race, gender and nationality of the history of ornithology. One of the most profound realizations I came across was the fact that John James Audubon was born in 1785 in St. Domingue (now Haiti). His birthday (April 26th) is often part of Earth Day (April 22nd) celebrations and he is lauded as the first to illustrate and publish America’s birds.

Now, keep in mind, Haiti gained independence via a slave revolt and was declared independent in 1803. J.J. Audubon was born to a chambermaid on a plantation owned by his father Jean Audubon and he is referred to as being “majority-white” when his father moved them to France. He moved them “because of growing unrest among the slaves”.

So does that mean J.J. is not only of Haitian descent but that the changes in his life, his education and the opportunity to travel across America happened because Haitian slaves fought for their freedom? Yeah. In my opinion it does.

We are all intricately intertwined. Someone’s ancestors walked through a shithole barefoot so you could walk on the boardwalk in designer boots. Don’t forget.

This Earth Day, when you celebrate, fly a Haitian flag and let someone know.

Ancilleno Davis, PhD. Candidate
Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology- Miami University, Oxford Ohio