By Sam Bojarski
At least seven Haitian restaurants in the New York City metropolitan area will serve free soup joumou on Jan. 1.
The gastronomic gift is the result of a partnership between a Haitian-led home health aide placement agency and New York District 43 Assembly Member Diana Richardson, who represents portions of the Crown Heights, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Wingate and Flatbush neighborhoods.
Jensen Desrosiers, a community activist and entrepreneur who also works as a liaison for Citi Health Home Care Services, said the complimentary offering is designed to educate and build cross-cultural connections.
Haitian Independence Day isn’t limited to Haitians only to celebrate, he said.
“As far as we’re concerned, it should include everyone else of color,” Desrosiers said. “Through [our] culture, we would like to bridge the gap.”
Since the Republic of Haiti’s founding in 1804, Haitians have consumed soup joumou ‒ a hearty pumpkin soup typically made with its namesake vegetable, other ground provisions, potato and beef. Prior to 1804, soup joumou had been reserved as a delicacy for the white enslavers to enjoy. It became customary to serve soup joumou as part of the civic activities to commemorate Haiti’s independence from French rule and becoming the first Black republic in the modern world.
Each year, Haitians in Haiti and across the diaspora prepare a pot of soup on Jan. 1 as families, friends and neighbors visit each other’s homes to partake in each other’s version of the rich stew and present their good wishes for a happy, prosperous new year.
Richardson, a descendant of Aruban immigrants, acknowledged the soup’s significance in marking the triumph over slavery during an event Tuesday in Brooklyn announcing the initiative. In a year defined by a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 24,000 New York City residents, the soup will also be offered as a token of good luck, Richardson said.
“We’re going to be giving out that token of warmth and love,” Richardson said. “Any time that we can really celebrate culture and heritage, but be intentional about it, is a moment for us all to come together.”
Partners in the soup joumou giveaway have found participating Haitian restaurants in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island to prepare the soup and serve it on New Year’s Day 2021. So far, funders have committed $10,000 to cover the costs for restaurants to prepare the dish, organizers said, but this amount could change if more restaurants decide to participate.
“Zanmi simply means friend, and we consider the community to be our friends,” Spencer said. “We know that times are hard for everybody right now, so we’re just doing something to uplift and bring the community closer together.”
Participating restaurants will have the soup available during their regular operating hours. The free soup will be offered to any patron who requests it, Desrosiers said.
Below is the current list of restaurants that will be providing free soup joumou on Jan. 1. For more information, contact Citi Health at 718-856-6800.
Fritaille Five Star Restaurant, 1347 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11210 ‒ 718-975-0916
Golden Blue Bar & Restaurant, 1135 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11226 ‒ 347-406-5414
Kache Restaurant, 2192 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11234 ‒ 347-705-8181
Venus Restaurant, 637 Rogers Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11226 ‒ 718-287-4949
Zanmi Restaurant, 1206 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11225 ‒ 718-676-1047
Brasserie Creole Restaurant, 22702 Linden Blvd., Queens, NY 11411 ‒ 718-341-1376
Le Spot Restaurant, 476 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont, NY 11003 ‒ 516-233-1003
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