Monday, December 1, 2008

Jdimytai Damour - Haitian Immigrant: Death by Shopping

I learned today that the Walmart employee killed on "Black" Friday was 34 year old Haitian immigrant Jdimytai Damour. People are saying that consumerism killed Mr. Damour. I believe that greed, violence and indifferent callousness killed him. There is a distressing lack of respect for human life in general and People of Color in particular. People must realize the violence that they are exposed to in movies, in war and in everyday life affects the psyche negatively, makes them less sensitive to other's pain. He was just a temp worker who was most likely sending money to his Mom, brother and four sisters in Haiti. His father, a Queens bus driver from Fresh Meadows. Could not make any sense of it all. "I don't know what happened to him. He's gone. Only God knows what happened to him," said his father, Ogera Charles.

Jdimytai was a big man (6.5"-270 lbs.) who had worked in construction, but when the doors of the store came down on him and the crowd stampeded over him to get to the flat-screen TVs, video games and other consumer products, he was helpless. He loved poetry, but his words could not be heard above the roar of the crowd; they were oblivious to his pain.

His favorite writer was the late novelist Donald Goines, a Detroit native who was under-aged when he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He also served in the army from 1952-55 during which he became hooked on heroin.
"Goines's style is unpolished, his language is a combination of Black English and rough American Standard English. His characters are likewise unpolished - pimps, prostitutes, thieves, hit men, dope addicts. They are people whose survival struggle in ghettos the author knew best. It has been easy for his readers, who have seen drug addicts and violence on the streets, to relate and identify with this [sic] stories. Also [sic] his style has been praised - "is [sic] so clear, its like you are apart [sic] of the story", "you can almost see the characters as you read the book," have [sic] Goines's fans said."
Mr. Goines was a lifelong heroin addict. He and his wife died on the night of October 21, 1974 during "a failed drug deal". His assailants were never found. He published all his works in a period of four years. The first two while in jail. Would that someone had treated his addiction, instead of incarcerating him, maybe he would still be alive. Perhaps even the army had a responsibility for taking care of its veterans returning from war sick from addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder. Does the government bear some of the responsibility for Mr. Goines spiraling out of control and his eventual violent death?

Like Jdimytai Damour, Donald Goines died young. He was only 37 years old. So tell me, which is more violent, the streets of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince or the front lines on Black Friday at Walmart in Valley Stream? Surely, MINUSTA could easily be given a mandate to come patrol the aisles of Walmart, the streets of Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, Newark... to restore stability and security.


lagatta à montréal said...

Bonjour de Montréal,

I'm visiting this old post on your blog, as I was writing comments on a blogpost concerning (Canadian) Thanksgiving, "Columbus Day" in the US, and colonialism. About how that day has been reclaimed by Indigenous and racialised people in the Americas, but also how it has become the prime example of commodification of life (I prefer that term to "consumerism", which originally referred to a movement for consumers' rights to safe food and products) and exploitation of workers, especially racialised and other exploited workers.

I wanted to know more about this young man who died in such pain and indignity, even though he was a big, strong guy.

We know what D'Amour means in French and Haitian Creole. I'm glad to see his family and friends showing him the LOVE he was so cruelly deprived of.

We won't forget Jdimytai Damour. I'm a community activist in a tenants' and neighbourhood association in north-central Montréal, where we are blessed with the melodious presence of many Haitian people. People here opened their hearts and (often modest) bank accounts to the Haitian people after the earthquake. There was a pall over my part of the city, though the weather was gentle and mild that winter.

We must never forget this young immigrant worker, who died simply because he was trying to earn a living - and as you say, doubtless sending a large portion of his very modest paycheque back home to his family.

thezenhaitian said...

Thank you for that very thoughtful comment lagatta. "commodification of life" is a very fitting description of materialism's effects.

You may be familiar with this quote from mlk about the devaluation of life in this society:

"We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
-- Martin Luther King

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