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Love in Little Haiti

“We didn’t grow up with electricity. We didn’t grow up with food.”

Pastor Oxeda’s Haitian Caribbean Kitchen food truck feeds, binds the community
Pastor Oxeda’s Haitian Caribbean Kitchen food truck feeds, binds the community

San Diego’s active Haitian Pastor Johny (sic) Oxeda has a new weapon: his food truck. He uses it to reach out to his flock, to give them a taste of home. Also, to spread Haitian culture to others — and yes, to make money. Just now, it’s seven at night. We’re in a shadowy cul de sac in City Heights, and his food truck is blasting French-peppered Creole music. “French is our official language,” Pastor Johny says while he waits for customers. The Haitian Caribbean Kitchen truck is covered in pictures of grilled sandwiches that look like empanadas, or dishes of “Fritay chicken,” or Caribbean spaghetti. 

The reverend and his wife and family have just started this food truck business, slinging everything Haitian, from “griot and pikliz” (pork cubes with pickled shredded vegetables) to “fritay chicken (fritters) and tasso ham.” But it’s not just food. Pastor Oxeda wants us all to know about Haiti, too. “I come from the first free Black Country,” he says. “The slaves revolted and won. You had your revolution in 1776. We had our revolution in 1791.” What started as the largest slave uprising since Spartacus turned the French slave colony into the republic of Haiti, which, despite its problems, remains a beacon of black-ruled independence to this day.

Talented father and son: Pastor Oxeda and Sebastien (17) 4 languages each

Still, Pastor Oxeda says times in the country of his birth are really, really tough. He had to leave because of death threats. “Life was never easy like it is here. We didn’t grow up with electricity. We didn’t grow up with food. We didn’t grow up with nice clothes, clean water, good education. Being born in Haiti makes me value what I have now, and I teach people how many blessings they have, to be born and raised in a country like this. I have never been into drugs, alcohol, I’ve never been in any trouble, because where I come from, when you make a mistake, you get killed. If you steal stuff, they kill you. If you’re in drugs, you’re killed. People die for whatever reason, for whatever small mistake they make. So I thank my country. At least, with those choices, it forced me to be a better person.”  At an early age, his mom passed. “I had to survive alone, to be independent. But by the grace of the Lord, He has always helped me get through, and I will bless Him for that.” 

And Haiti? It has had to learn to endure, he says. “When it’s not being run by a dictator, it’s filled with insecurity, poverty, politics, and so many disasters, like the earthquakes of 2010 and 2021 and the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last July. It’s sometimes all a little too much for us humans. Only God knows how to change things. I grew up without father, mother, but one of the best strengths I have now is that I live here, in a safe country, a lovely country, where people respect you for who you are, and which gives us a lot of great opportunity. That’s something I’m really happy about.” 

We talk into the night, until Pastor Oxeda’s first customer walks into the pool of light. 

“Hello, sir. How are you?”

“Do you have tacos?”

“No, sir. This is Haitian food.”

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Pastor Oxeda’s Haitian Caribbean Kitchen food truck feeds, binds the community
Pastor Oxeda’s Haitian Caribbean Kitchen food truck feeds, binds the community

San Diego’s active Haitian Pastor Johny (sic) Oxeda has a new weapon: his food truck. He uses it to reach out to his flock, to give them a taste of home. Also, to spread Haitian culture to others — and yes, to make money. Just now, it’s seven at night. We’re in a shadowy cul de sac in City Heights, and his food truck is blasting French-peppered Creole music. “French is our official language,” Pastor Johny says while he waits for customers. The Haitian Caribbean Kitchen truck is covered in pictures of grilled sandwiches that look like empanadas, or dishes of “Fritay chicken,” or Caribbean spaghetti. 

The reverend and his wife and family have just started this food truck business, slinging everything Haitian, from “griot and pikliz” (pork cubes with pickled shredded vegetables) to “fritay chicken (fritters) and tasso ham.” But it’s not just food. Pastor Oxeda wants us all to know about Haiti, too. “I come from the first free Black Country,” he says. “The slaves revolted and won. You had your revolution in 1776. We had our revolution in 1791.” What started as the largest slave uprising since Spartacus turned the French slave colony into the republic of Haiti, which, despite its problems, remains a beacon of black-ruled independence to this day.

Talented father and son: Pastor Oxeda and Sebastien (17) 4 languages each

Still, Pastor Oxeda says times in the country of his birth are really, really tough. He had to leave because of death threats. “Life was never easy like it is here. We didn’t grow up with electricity. We didn’t grow up with food. We didn’t grow up with nice clothes, clean water, good education. Being born in Haiti makes me value what I have now, and I teach people how many blessings they have, to be born and raised in a country like this. I have never been into drugs, alcohol, I’ve never been in any trouble, because where I come from, when you make a mistake, you get killed. If you steal stuff, they kill you. If you’re in drugs, you’re killed. People die for whatever reason, for whatever small mistake they make. So I thank my country. At least, with those choices, it forced me to be a better person.”  At an early age, his mom passed. “I had to survive alone, to be independent. But by the grace of the Lord, He has always helped me get through, and I will bless Him for that.” 

And Haiti? It has had to learn to endure, he says. “When it’s not being run by a dictator, it’s filled with insecurity, poverty, politics, and so many disasters, like the earthquakes of 2010 and 2021 and the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last July. It’s sometimes all a little too much for us humans. Only God knows how to change things. I grew up without father, mother, but one of the best strengths I have now is that I live here, in a safe country, a lovely country, where people respect you for who you are, and which gives us a lot of great opportunity. That’s something I’m really happy about.” 

We talk into the night, until Pastor Oxeda’s first customer walks into the pool of light. 

“Hello, sir. How are you?”

“Do you have tacos?”

“No, sir. This is Haitian food.”

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