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Celebrating Haitian Independence at a time like now

Who's ready for some soup joumou?! Where I am it's 4:54 pm right now. If you're Haitian, then you might be on your third bowl by now? It's tradition for Haitians to make this flavorful butternut squash soup to celebrate independence on the first day of every year. The year starts with liberation! How powerful is that? These days I miss Haiti, the cool breeze in the morning, the taste of lalo on my tongue, the sound of rain on a tin roof, the smell of fritay and other street food wafting in the air, seeing every star that ever was in the sky. I hold on to the memory of Haiti with a tight grip. Every day it changes a little more from what I remember. And today, as we remember this day from 1804 that marks a declaration as an independent nation and the first Black republic in the world, my heart aches for where Haiti is now at this juncture in time.


If you're not aware, here's a brief overview of what's been happening...and I mean brief, because to really do an analysis of any kind would require more than this post. But for the purposes of you understanding what I mean first you should know that in 2021, Haiti's then president, Jovenel Moise was assassinated. Since then Haiti has replaced a prime minister but no president and armed groups and gangs have terrorized the people. The more news I read, the more I realize that the Haiti I knew is where I'm holding it close, in my memory.


It doesn't weaken my pride or lessen my hope that it could all change with time but I know the sound of ache in my father's voice, in my mother's sigh. I still have the image in my mind of Haitians on the U.S./Mexican border faced with being sent back and footage of the treatment Haitians receive in the Dominican Republic. Often, when I was growing up, at family gatherings, the conversations would stir up with ideas of how to better Haiti. I'd listen to the gramoun talk about the Haiti they once knew and the Haiti they want to live to see. I feel a pinch of that right now writing this. And still no matter what the present presents, it cannot erase history. So today, we celebrate anyhow.

 

From Simone (a poetic one woman play debuted in 2019 at Capital Rep Theater & forthcoming collection)


Let's see, I need

half a cup of olive oil,

scallion, cabbage,

two potatoes, two yamn,

joumou of course,

turnips, celery, carrots,

one package of spaghetti

and gnou ti kal pesi...


and epise! Can’t forget to flavor.

Black pepper, thyme,

two je chalot, some Goya,

some maggi and garlic.


No one ever told me soup joumou's story

A bowl of rebellion simmering since 1804

All my life I celebrated the first of the year

this way, these two things:

the new year and Independence day.

Now, January 1st reminds me of the distance,

a calm from before I dream about.

I make this to remember my home

to remember what freedom tastes like.


 

D. Colin (she/her)

poet. visual artist. educator.

B.A. English, M.A. Africana Studies


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