Celebratory foods are fascinating; every community has unique foods, drinks and ingredients that speak to their culture, country of origin, access, belief system and history. While many cultures celebrate the same event, access to 'common' ingredients and tools to heat or cool items as well as cultural significance, play a role in what foods are meaningful to each community.
My partner Daniel is part American, so he grew up with a triple dose of Turkey between Canadian Thanksgiving, American Thanksgiving, and Christmas day. Growing up in a Haitian household, I was accustomed to a Soup Joumou hattrick to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, Independence Day (January 1) and Day of Victory AKA Battle of Vertières (November 18). As Haiti's soup of Independence, this dish holds significance to Haitians and, for my family, was always present in times of reflection, gratitude, honour and perseverance.
Given that today marks the 219th anniversary of the Battle of Vertières, I wanted to dig deeper into this monumental event and understand more about the significance of November 18 for Haitians and its impacts on BIPOC communities worldwide.
"In overthrowing me, you have done no more than cut down the trunk of the tree of black liberty in St. Domingue. It will spring back from the roots, for they are numerous and deep."
These were the words of prominent Haitian general Toussaint Louverture when captured in 1802. Before his imprisonment and subsequent death in 1803, this revolutionary leader worked tirelessly for just over a decade to ensure all Haitians would be free from slavery. Once captured, his Lieutenant Jean-Jacques Dessalines carried out this plan to completion during the Batay Vètyè or The Battle of Vertière.
Regarded as the final battle between the indigenous Haitian army and Napolean's French colonial army, The Battle of Vertière occurred on November 18, 1803, near Cap-Français (later renamed Cap-Haïtien). This day was not the first time Dessalines would defeat the French army, but it would prove to be the last. By the end of October 1803, the Haitian military had secured much of the territory of St. Domingue. With France losing their footing in this final battle, they withdrew, and French military commander Rochambeau pulled back from Vertières.
I think about how Toussaint Louverture's words still ring true when it comes to adversities the Black community and Haitians continue to face. The spirit and conviction held by the Haitian people is after all extraordinary when you consider they were the first country to abolish slavery.
Today is a source of pride and joy as I reflect on how this battle symbolizes a day of freedom and a day of victory for all BIPOC. So I as eat my delicious pumpkin soup, I prepare for the new year ahead and remain grateful for the honour of sharing these stories with all of you.