Free soup joumou at NYC area Haitian restaurants on Independence Day


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By Sam Bojarski

A cauldron of the traditional Haitian delicacy, soup joumou. Creative commons photo by Lea-Kim Chateauneuf

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.

haitian activist jensen desrosiers and diana richardson
On Dec. 8, Jensen Desrosiers and Assembly Member Diana Richardson announced an initiative to serve free soup joumou at multiple Haitian restaurants on New Year’s Day. Photo by Sam Bojarski

“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.

Greginald Spencer, a musician who also works as a consultant for the restaurant Zanmi, said participating in the initiative is a show of goodwill toward the community.

“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.

Brooklyn

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

Queens

Brasserie Creole Restaurant, 22702 Linden Blvd., Queens, NY 11411 718-341-1376

Long Island

Le Spot Restaurant, 476 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont, NY 11003 516-233-1003

Sam BojarskiSam Bojarski

Sam Bojarski

Sam Bojarski has been covering Haiti and its diaspora for The Haitian Times since 2018. He is currently covering New York’s Haitian community as a Report for America corps member.
Sam BojarskiSam Bojarski

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