January 1, 1804 should be a date that lives in the mind of every Black person around the world. This date is important because Haiti declared its independence from the French after defeating Napoleon’s forces.
This is notable for so many reasons. The most notable reason is that an enslaved people rose up and defeated their oppressors to become the first free Black nation in the western hemisphere.
As the world is reflecting the year and planning for the next, Haitians around the world are celebrating freedom with loved ones and a bowl of soup.
Soup Joumou is a squash soup that was consumed by the French oppressors during Haiti’s time of slavery. This dish was kept away from the enslaved Haitians. The oppressors turned their noses up at these enslaved people with each spoonful of their forbidden soup.
After defeating both the French and Spanish forces Haitians embraced this once forbidden soup as their own. It now represents a symbol of freedom, strength and love.
“The same thing that you (French oppressors) thought was so uppity we took and made it better. We enhanced it and now we share and break bread with our families during this independence season to show people that not only are we resilient and fighters but we are crafty and we are able to show love and humility” said Brooklyn born Haitian-American Chef Claudy Pierre.
My mother cooks the soup in the kitchen. The sweet scent of squash and fresh vegetables float through the house and signals a new year and a reminder of where my ancestors are from.
As the ball drops in Time Square, or as you are enjoying your black eyed peas take a moment to acknowledge the strength of Black people. Haiti’s freedom is a representation of what can be accomplished and soup Joumou brings us all together in remembrance of our freedom.
L’Union Fait La Force translates to The Union makes us Strong. We are stronger together.
Rap music has been the voice of hip-hop culture. Ideas, concepts and ways of thinking have been sculpted from the litany of verses that have flooded the airwaves.
Biggie and Tupac are always at the top of the list when we discuss the culture. Both of them are the product of single parent homes. We laud their greatness and honor their contributions. When they met their demise their mothers stood for them. Afeni Shakur and Voletta Wallace kept the memory of their sons alive.“Dear Mama” is arguably one of Tupac’s most impactful songs and is an anthem for single mothers around the world..
The story seems all to familiar. Rapper grows up in a single parent home without a father and everything they do is to support the family and honor their mother. This is not a bad thing however; where are the fathers?
In 2013 The Centers for Disease Control reported that 72 percent of births were to unmarried non-hispanic Black women. This statistic lacks nuance and does not tackle the effects of mass incarceration and poverty in Black communities.This same study shows that Black men who live with their children or not living with their children are still more active participants in the lives of their children than any other race overall.
Kanye West recently released the video for his song “Follow God” from his most recent release Jesus is King. The voice of Pastor Dr. Kerwin B. Lee opens the video as we watch Kanye and his father Ray West make their way to an ATV in the snow. Pastor Lee explains how fearful his children were the first time they encountered snow and how he instructed them to walk in the footprints he made in order not to have any fear. The video closes with note from Kanye “My dad came to visit me at one of our ranches in Cody, Wyoming,” it reads. “He talked about his love for fishing, and how he would come here in the summers. It took me 42 years to realize that my dad was my best friend. He asked me, ‘how many acres is this?’ I told him 4000. He replied with these three words: ‘A black man?’”
The narrative is changing. Legendary rap group Gang Starr just released the video for their song “Bad Name” off of the latest project One of the Best Yet. In the video we watch Guru’s son Keith Casim shave off his hair in order to play the part of his father who has since passed on.
The importance of Black fathers can’t be overstated and let’s hope this trend of honoring Black Fathers continues.
Happy Birthday, Harriet Tubman. Thank you for your courage for your boldness and for your determination. You risked your life to free thousands many times over. Today we honor you and your legacy and hope that we continue to move with the wind at our backs with freedom as the destination.
Watch Joelle Lamarre as Harriet Tubman singing “I Am Moses” from Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line To Freedom an opera in two acts by Nkeiru Okoye (composer/librettist)