NEW YORK, NY — The Haitian community in the New York metro area has an abundance of entrepreneurs, professionals and artists. In this new year, we present 13 leading figures who are forging paths of success with vision and a sense of purpose.
After superstorm Sandy ravaged the Tri-State area, thousands of residents waited for the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) to restore their power. So, on on Nov. 6, 2012, when Michaelle Solages became the first person of Haitian descent to be elected to the New York State Assembly, she didn’t have time to celebrate — her neighbors and soon-to-constituents were calling non-stop, in search of assistance and answers.
In 2011, Solages was instrumental to her brother Carrié Solages’ victorious campaign, in which he was elected county legislator in Nassau County and became the first Haitian elected to public office in Long Island. Solages had already become familiar with politics, having worked on local campaigns and served on numerous community organizations’ boards. Therefore, when redistricting yielded the new 22nd district for the county, Solages put her hat in the ring. The Hofstra University alumnus will be one of the most watched junior legislators in Albany, as a community’s hopes for better representation rests in her capacity to navigate first impressions and high expectations.
The beauty and cosmetics industry is constantly evolving. And for one entrepreneur, she is not only changing the face of the industry, but utilizing it as a platform to improve the quality of life of women in Haiti. Yve-car Momperousse’s beauty line Kreyol Essence, provides quality and diverse organic beauty products for hair, skin and body from Haiti that she can now share with clients in the US and around the world. Her signature product is Haitian castor oil, known more commonly in Haitian households as lwil maskreti.
In addition to running her own enterprise, Momperousse heads alumnae relations for Cornell University. She has been active in her community as co-founder of the National Haitian Student Alliance and Haitian Professionals of Philadelphia. Momperousse has also been a consultant for issues concerning non-profits, humanitarian organizations and top-tier universities. She was recently featured by the Haitian Embassy as a leading entrepreneur in their Discover Haiti series.
Among high-profile court cases in the country, the Casey Anthony and Travyon Martin cases have sparked national outrage, and Midwin Charles has been a leading voice in national media, providing her expertise to help analyze these cases. She is also the founder of boutique law firm Midwin Charles and Associates, in New York.
Charles, an experienced litigator who’s handled complex cases, has been a legal analyst and frequent contributor to CNN, HLN and WBLS. The American University alumnus has carved a prominent niche for herself, contributing to the national debate as a respected talking head on signature legal cases and hot topics.
“This is not a Haitian thing but a New York thing and we’re not going to stop, this is only the beginning…” Rosemonde Pierre-Louis said at a rally outside HOT 97 studios, back in 2010. The issue at hand was an outrageously disrespectful comment by a dj of a popular Hip-Hop radio program. The Haitian community, which had successfully fought against many stigma logged at it’s identity, mobilized a massive protest against the station, and got them to punish the dj. Pierre-Louis was at the forefront of this effort; and has remained active in civic and political circles, advocating on behalf of her community.
The attorney turned politician, is the first woman of Haitian decent to serve as Deputy Manhattan Borough President. She is passionately working to reshape and redefine the position. Pierre-Louis is also a co-founder and chair of the board for the prominent professionals’ group, The Haitian Roundtable. The organization is committed to professionals’ development, civic engagement and charitable activities in Haiti.
Vladimir Calixte a.k.a. “Haitian V”
With more than 100,000 hits on his YouTube channel, Vladimir Calixte also known as “Haitian V”, created a comedic Kreyol-speaking character. He’s become a YouTube sensation with his entertaining skits and memorable characters.
Calixte’s YouTube success helped land him a role on the CBS cop drama Blue Bloods, last year. The Brooklyn native is currently in production for a movie based on Haitian V. Calixte’s road to success will be forged as he creates new platforms for striving Haitian actors to land leading roles in television.
After the 2010 earthquake, Dina Simon, a daughter of Haiti, was seeking ways to help rebuild her homeland. In support of the resurgence of tourism and investments in Haiti, Simon founded My Haiti Travels, a boutique concierge firm that coordinates high-quality travel services to Haiti, for leisure and business. Simon wanted to promote patronage of local businesses, resort establishments and restaurants.
Simon and her team are currently launching their first annual Impact Week Haiti, a signature expedition to Port-au-Prince, Haiti scheduled for Jan. 17-21. The premiere expedition targets multi-cultural travelers seeking to enjoy Haiti’s historic attractions and culture, while it provides an opportunity for service to the local community (in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Service Day here in the US).
Dr. Mathieu Eugene made history in 2007, when he became the first Haiti-native elected to the New York City Council. Before obtaining his role as the staple Haitian representative and member of the City Council, Dr. Eugene had been active as a community organizer, focused on educating his community in public health.
Currently up for re-election this year, he’ll be one of the most watched public officials in the community, with murmurs of a possible challenge during his primary. In the meantime, the Councilman continues to conduct annual health fairs, assist with Haiti relief efforts and organize public health symposiums to help under-served constituents in the borough attain access to free screenings and other health services.
The rich food tradition of Haitian culture has many ambassadors in New York City’s vibrant food scene. One of them, Elle Philippe has a passion for the culinary arts that goes beyond the limits of comfort food to create dining experiences that reflect the flavors of Haiti, and the world over. Last year, Philippe founded Chez Elle, to provide private dining services within the intimate setting of her apartment bistro.
Since childhood Philippe knew she wanted to be a chef. A native of Leogane, Haiti, Philippe began her culinary career in New York; she studied at the French Culinary Institute (currently the International Culinary Center) before moving to Europe to master French and Italian cuisine. This year, Philippe’s quest for excellence and thirst to explore new dishes will continue to set a standard for the presentation of Haitian cuisine.
In the 90’s, as a leading labor union organizer for 1199 SEIU, Moses St. Louis helped organized one of the biggest Haitian demonstrations in the US. The Brooklyn College graduate showed early signs of interest in civic and political life — he majored in Political Science, and was a passionate advocate against stigma.
Now, the former manager of popular Haitian band Phantom has shifted gears from political organizing to media and entertainment. St. Louis founded HaitianBeatz.com, one of the fastest growing entertainment websites in the community. With a focus on promoting Haitian culture with concerts and multi-themed social events, St. Louis knows how to draw an audience. This year, St. Louis plans to launch HaitianBeatz-TV.
Over 15 years ago, Brooklyn-raised Garvey Lundy launched his career in fine jewelry design. The Haiti native began as a painter, when he landed a coveted apprenticeship In New York’s Diamond District. There, Lundy spent seven years learning how to process precious metals like gold. He learned how to refine, assemble and clean metals and stones, in order to manipulate them into the shape he wants.
2013 will mark his 10th year in business. Given the momentum he’s garnered through featured spreads in magazines like Munaluchi Bride and high-profile events such as the Evidence Dance Company annual summer gala, Lundy is poised to make a lasting mark in fine jewelry.
“There aren’t many people of color doing this,” Lundy said. “With my wife Camille by my side, we’re hoping to grow the brand and become a major player in this industry.”
The earthquake was an opportunity for many Haitians to contribute to relief efforts. Fabrice Armand decided his birthday should serve as a platform to raise funds for smaller non-profits who had deeper ties in the communities they served on the ground. Thus, his signature event Haiti Cherie was born. The St. John’s University graduate utilized his professional skills in marketing and fundraising to help raise over $300,000 for relief and recovery programs.
This year, Armand is working to bring the event to new heights, to serve as a vivid and sophisticated avenue to showcase Haitian culture — and woo influential tastemakers to help with recovery and make long-term investments in Haiti.
If you’re up on the the growing trends of lifestyle magazines online, then chances are you’ve browsed through Crème Magazine. The brainchild of Haitian-American serial entrepreneur Gladymir Leveille, along with his co-founder Dominga Martin, the publication highlights the best in mainstream and independent music, film, arts and culture.
Leveille, who attended Long Island University, developed a marketing career that he’s spurned into a thriving media outlet that highlights the lifestyles of the young and affluent.
While Councilman Jumaane Williams is not of Haitian descent, he has become one of the community’s leading advocates in City Hall and beyond. Williams’ district covers the largest concentration of Haitians in the US — outside of South Florida. He champions policy measures like Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians impacted by the earthquake.
His passionate stance on police reform, stop-and-frisk policies and overall concerns of the people in Brooklyn’s 45th district, landed him on City & State‘s list of top influential politicos in New York. Though he’s up for re-election this year, a primary challenge is highly unlikely for this rising political star.
Manolia Charlotin is the executive editor of The Haitian Times. She is the former editor and business manager of the Boston Haitian Reporter, and a news commentator on the African diaspora, women’s affairs, media diversity and politics. Follow her on Twitter; she can be reached at email@example.com.
Farah Louis is a correspondent at The Haitian Times. She is currently a Political Reporting Fellow at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism. Follow her on Twitter.