What is your occupation and academic background and how did you come to work in this field?
My interest in Haitian history emerged through my experiences being a woman of Haitian descent, and noticing that in school there was barely a discussion about Africa, the Caribbean, or people of African descent living in places other than United States. I decided then to become a scholar, to use history as a tool to increase the understanding of black life and history with undergraduate students and local communities. I am currently a Ph.D. Candidate, a McKnight Doctoral fellow, and Distinguished Fellow at the Miami Institute for the Americas (MIA) at the University of Miami. My dissertation, entitled “Visions of a Modern Nation: Haiti at the World’s Fairs,” focuses on Haiti’s participation in World’s Fairs and Expositions in the twentieth century.
Presently, I serve as the Assistant Editor for Haiti: An Island Luminous, a digital humanities website dedicated to Haitian history and Haitian studies. An Island Luminous pairs books, manuscripts, newspapers, and photos digitized by libraries and archives in Haiti and the United States with commentary by more than 100 authors at 75 universities around the world.
I also founded the StartNoo Foundation, a 501(c) 3 organization. It seeks to address the outrageous tuition and student loan crisis, by helping disadvantaged students and alumni who have chosen to be engaged. The ultimate objective is to reward students/alumni who contribute service hours to non-profits with donated financial relief of their burdensome student loans, or tuition costs. The result is that nonprofit and community organizations will receive an increase in the number of volunteer service hours and forge stronger ties with community residents.
As a social entrepreneur, my passion is to increase access to education. That led me to serve as the Vice President of Global Recruitment for Global Tassels, a U.S. based, international 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. Our mission is to provide college education opportunities for underprivileged youth who possess leadership qualities, and live in the developing world. Global Tassels also seeks to support local organizations with programs related to poverty reduction. Students chosen have to commit to a 2-year community-based service project in their respective countries after graduation. Our pilot countries include Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, India, and the Philippines. We partner with colleges and universities in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles metro areas to support our scholarships.
What is the biggest challenge of your work?
My biggest challenge is managing the demands of my graduate school program, and being a highly-involved social entrepreneur. However, the support of my colleagues, friends, and Co-Founders at StartNoo makes my workload much more tolerable.
Identify one or two of your proudest achievements?
My proudest achievement so far is starting my own foundation, StartNoo. At StartNoo, we are currently running a test group based in New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Miami. I look forward to assessing the needs of our users and the non-profits we serve. Serving as the Assistant Editor for Haiti: An Island Luminous is something else in which I take pride. This digital humanities exhibit is an attempt to bridge the gap between scholars, teachers, university students, and the community. In an effort to reach an even larger audience, the website is being translated into French and Haitian Kreyòl, for use as a teaching tool in Haiti.
What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?
Jean Price-Mars and Michel Rolph-Trouillot are influential intellectual thinkers that I have admired. Their work pushes me to constantly pursue new narratives when writing about Haiti.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I see myself continuing to be a social entrepreneur, and continue to find solutions to social problems. I also intend to become a university professor that teaches courses on Haiti, the African Diaspora, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
What would be your advice to young people who want their careers and lives to have impact?
Have complete confidence in yourself, and also incorporate self-reflection. It is a good way to make every moment a learning experience. Reflect on your activities daily, to see how you are moving forward to achieve your goals. Also, surround yourself with likeminded people who empower you.
Did you have a mentor or do you mentor someone else? How has that experience changed you?
I am happy to have several mentors who have pushed me to continue my critical work, but also have given advice on how to maintain a work-life balance. I also have a mentee that has learned from my experience as a social entrepreneur. I always emphasize to my mentee that we should consider ourselves life-long learners and that is part of the journey to career success.