Organizers of Little Haiti Thanksgiving Brunch Want to Encourage Volunteerism, Activism

Nov 22, 2017

The women behind a Thanksgiving brunch in Little Haiti are hoping turkey will distract from the community's renewed concerns about immigration.

"We have turkey cooked five different ways," said Emeline Alexis-Schulz, who founded the 11th annual event. "Whole turkey, barbecued turkey, turkey in Creole sauce, jerked turkey, fried turkey."

Plus a turkey calling contest. Participants will have to imitate a live turkey that will be attending the brunch — in a cage.

But the meal at the Little Haiti Cultural Center will have slightly somber undertones this year. Earlier this week, the Trump administration announced its decision to end the program that has allowed Haitians to live in the U.S. since the devastating 2010 earthquake there. Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, is now set to expire in July 2019.

Still, Alexis-Schulz and fellow organizer Sandy Dorsainvil say they're eager to gather their community for a joyful event.

"This celebration reinforces how much we've become part of the community," Dorsainvil said. "This brunch has turned into a tradition for my family. I've been coming with my children to volunteer for years."

The brunch originated as a neighborhood gathering in Legion Park. This year, Alexis-Schulz says she expects 400 guests for two catered meals, a Christian worship service, games and live jazz by the French Horn Collective.

But, she says, an underlying goal is to keep young professionals, who might be moving away from Little Haiti after graduation, engaged with the community. About 70 volunteers — most of them young adults — will be decorating, serving food, welcoming guests and driving meals to people who are homebound or in nursing homes.

"Our hope is that their willingness to serve is not going to stop," Alexis-Schulz said.

She argued it's particularly important now because Little Haiti needs the zeal of young people to continue protesting the decision to end TPS.

Two catering companies, Yolenes Catering and Saralys Catering, contributed food for the event. The Magic City Innovation District Foundation was also a sponsor.