Today we celebrate Haitian Independence. On January 1, 1804 enslaved Haitians rose up and liberated themselves from French colonial rule.
This bowl of soup is known as Soup Joumou. It is a squash based soup that was eaten exclusively by the slave owners and the elite. The Haitian people claimed this dish as their own once they freed themselves from slavery.
2021 was a tumultuous year for the Haitian people. It is often said that many of the issues that are at the forefront of Haiti’s existence have to do with the fact that Haiti was the first Black-led republic in the Western Hemisphere.
Today I drink this soup proud to know that my ancestors had the audacity to take action and free themselves from an unjust rule. I drink this soup knowing that God will not continue to allow Haiti to suffer. I drink this soup knowing that my ancestors have contributed to the freedom of Black people all over the world.
The diaspora owes a debt to the people of Haiti. Once this debt is paid we will see the world open up for all Black people.
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.