Part Two

Transformation truly begins with you. In my last article, “Transformation Begins With You, Part One,” I discussed the importance of knowing who you are. As you gain a better understanding of who you are, what you do, and where you are going, you can effectively bring the changes you wish to see in the world. Your legacy is built by the actions you take every day.

My grandmother, Philomene Beaubrun, passed away last year in 2016 at the age of 105. She was just a few weeks shy from her 106th birthday. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her. She was a woman of integrity, honor, respect, and fortitude. Her name actually means “power of love,” and she manifested love by caring for those who were less fortunate in her neighborhoods in Jeremie and Port-au-Prince. The actions of those who came before us continue to have a profound impact on our lives. Grandma Philomene continues to influence my life. It was from her I learned the importance of knowing one’s history.

After meeting her for the first time in 2012, I embarked on a cultural journey to re-discover my Haitian heritage. Whenever she visited us, she would share stories about her upbringing in Haiti. My first memory of her was her food. Her dish of Mayi Moulen and Sos Pwa Nwa had such a rich and earthy flavor. Whenever I get a whiff of the buttery black bean sauce, I am always taken back to the time when I sat in her backyard in Haiti. Before her passing, I was able to gather recipes of the meals I had during my childhood. Some of them are now published my book, “Let’s Speak Haitian Food,” a collection of stories from other members of the Haitian Diaspora.

Along with my grandmother’s passing, the stories about Haiti, tips on cooking, advice on life, etc. were gone with her. As I searched what it meant to be “Haitian,” I came across individuals whose gifts and talents in their respective fields gave me the opportunity to experience and relive memories of Haiti. In this series, I will feature these seven individuals. Their life’s work not only help those of Haitian descent like myself reconnect to their roots but also introduce others – outside of the diaspora – to the beauty and wonder of Haitian culture.

… to be continued.

Cindy Similien-Johnson is the founder of CSJ Media Publishing, and author of the bestselling e-cookbook series and popular cooking classes, "Cook Like A Haitian." She's also the founder of the women empowerment grassroots initiative, Goal Chic.

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