Voyaje - Experience A Taste of Haiti

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They say being Haitian is not just relegated to being an ethnicity or a nationality, but that being Haitian is an experience! I would have to agree! The eleven million of us who are part of the Haitian diaspora come from a unique blend of history and culture unlike any other people in the world. We are literally living, walking, and breathing examples of freedom, strength and perseverance! And outside of January 1st when we celebrate Haiti’s independence from France, during the month of May we celebrate Haitian Heritage month. The month is chock full of opportunities to celebrate the culture, the history and the accomplishments of Haitian people. It is simultaneously a time where we focus on and continue to shed light on the work we still have to do.

One such event was the Christian Haitian Entrepreneurial Society’s (CHES) Voyaje: Experience a Taste of Haiti which took place at the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal building in Roxbury’s Dudley Square. Set atop the 6th floor with the Boston skyline as a back drop, the Voyaje event took attendees through a culinary journey of Haiti’s gastronomy. Award winning Chef Stephan Berrouet Durand brought the flavors of Haiti, and crafted some of Haiti’s comfort foods into beautifully presented, mouthwatering fanfare. Some of Chef Stephan’s creations included Poulet Neg Maron avec Kaloulou (chicken in DjonDjon sauce with okra), Tchaka (stew made with beans, cut corn and meat) served with marinated pork loin prepared griot style and served with pickliz, Mais Moulue (Haitian style cornmeal) served with sugar cane skewered shrimp with a habanero and sugar cane glaze, as well as Sweet Plantain Bread Pudding with a corrosol (soursoup) cremas sauce. It was so good! I even had the opportunity to talk with an attendee who had never had Haitian food, (and no surprise there) by the end of the night he was remarking how much he really enjoyed it. I jokingly said, "Well you better eat up! All the flavors tonight were all Haitian but do not be fooled. If you walked into any Haitian restaurant and asked for a plate of Poulet Neg Maron, they'll have no idea what you're talking about!" LOL! Aside from the food, there was also a great turn out of people - young, old, Haitian and non-Haitian alike were present. Whether over a bottle of Haitian Prestige or a glass of the Haitian rum punch that was served up, the crowd mingled, ate, shopped and danced the night away! Counsel Minister for the General Consulate of Haiti in Boston, Marjorie Alexander Brunache, graced us with her presence and special guest, Massachusetts Senator Linda Dorcena Forry received an award for all of her hard work and support of CHES efforts!

However, the star of the evening was truly the founder and leader of the Christian Heritage Entrepreneurial Society (CHES), Rebecca Roseme Obounou! Rebecca founded CHES in 2008, which is a nonprofit organization that educates, consults and funds entrepreneurs in rural parts of Haiti. So in addition to celebrating Haitian culture, the true focus of the evening was Voyaje’s mission to “help sustain and expand the work that they are doing with entrepreneurs in rural Haiti.” An example of some of the work CHES does is this summer’s focus on women poultry farmers in the Laborde Cayes community in the south of Haiti who lost their livelihood in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. CHES will provide entrepreneurship and business management training to help these farmers not only restart their lives but sustain themselves moving forward. There is an old saying that says if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day but if you teach a man HOW to fish you'll feed him for a lifetime. And that aspect of CHES is truly what makes it unique - Haitians teaching other Haitians how to fish, so to speak; they essentially empower the people to empower themselves! Anywho, in case you haven't gotten the memo yet, last Friday's Voyaje event was a great time! See below for highlights of the event, and if you’re interested in learning more about CHES and/or getting involved click HERE for more information!

*I want to extend a humble and sincere thank you to Ms. Rebecca Obounou for allowing me into her space – I so appreciate you for your generosity! You are truly an inspiration! And of course, the biggest SHOUTOUT to Ms. Wanna for the plug – you are so dope for that! Love you boo!*

Genevieve Bienaime