Searching for his mother in Haiti, David Pierre-Louis discovers his heritage

When a massive earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, David Pierre-Louis was distraught when he couldn’t find out any news about his mother. After more than a day of unanswered calls, he decided there was just one thing to do: travel to the capital city of Port-au-Prince and find her himself.

The story of what he found in the crumbling remains of his mother’s neighborhood was covered by CBS Evening News. The footage of his mother crying out his name is about as heart-wrenching a moment as you could imagine.

“I’m here, my son,” she says, smothering him in kisses. “I’m not dead.”

And his story has been transformed into a documentary called Kenbe Fem: A Haitian Story of Survival, Unity, and Strength. The title, a common Haitian term that roughly translates as “hold firm,” refers not only to his resolve to find his mother, but his decision to help the country he loves.

The member of Seattle’s WeWork South Lake Union has scheduled about two dozen screenings of the documentary over the next six months, including at Seattle’s WeWork Holyoke on April 11, Portland’s WeWork Custom House on April 13, Washington, D.C.’s WeWork K Street on April 20, and New York City’s WeWork Harlem on April 26.

A poster for the documentary about David Pierre-Louis and his search for his mother after an earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010.
A poster for the documentary about David Pierre-Louis and his search for his mother after an earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010.

In addition, Pierre-Louis hopes to schedule international screenings at WeWork locations in Berlin, Amsterdam, London, and Paris.

“When you hear about Haiti in the news, it’s always something negative,” Pierre-Louis says. “These screenings help us shift that narrative and focus on the good things that are happening in the country.”

Pierre-Louis is working on a handful of projects himself that are among the success stories coming out of the island nation. He’s an organizer for Port-au-Prince Startup Week, seven days of networking and workshops to help local entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground.

Pierre-Louis is also working to build Kay Tita, a Port-au-Prince community center named in honor of his mother. It will provide people from Haiti’s underserved communities with opportunities to learn essential skills or find funding for businesses. He says the project should break ground in August, during Port-au-Prince Startup Week.

Another hat he wears is executive director of the Haiti Coffee Co., which works directly with farmers to distribute the island’s crop. The company’s Haitian Cold Brew is available at WeWork locations in Seattle and Miami, among other places.

“The vision is to create a system that’s sustainable,” says Pierre-Louis. “It’s really a long-term strategy. There’s not an overnight situation.”

Last year, a hurricane wiped out much of Haiti’s coffee crop, putting many of the farmers “back at square one.” Pierre-Louis says the company is working to help them get back on their feet. The results, he says, have been gratifying.

“This has been a passion of mine for seven years,” says Pierre-Louis. “And it’s starting to get some good momentum.”

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