Caribbean-Americans who have had a positive impact on their communities in New York State were recognized Thursday at Caribbean Life’s annual Impact Awards held at Paradise Catering Hall in Brooklyn, New York. Haitian-American Cindy Similien-Johnson (CSJ) walked away with the 2016 Caribbean Life Impact Award, which celebrates Caribbean and Caribbean-Americans who are leaders in their industries and communities, and whose efforts make New York and the Caribbean community a better place.
Similien-Johnson is the founder of Goal Chic, a mentoring organization that educates, engages, and empowers young women.
Face2Face Africa (F2FA) caught up with her to find out where she draws her inspiration to inspire others from:
F2FA: Who is Cindy Similien-Johnson?
CSJ: I am Christian. I am Haitian-American. I am a woman. I embody all of these roles with ease because my life has been guided by only three goals: share my faith through positive messages, be a cultural ambassador for Haiti, and empower other women.
F2FA: What inspires you to want to inspire others?
CSJ: To inspire is to give hope to others that they can overcome whatever obstacle comes their way. Many people are walking around worried and sad, especially after the elections. There’s this pervasive fear that has shaken people to their core, and if they are not careful, they will lose balance and lose focus of their God-given purpose.
Each one of us is called to make our corner of the world a better place. I want to inspire people to remind them of their greatness. There’s nothing better in the world than to see hope in the eyes of someone, who before meeting me or reading my words, wanted to give up on life. As I always tell people, “As long as there is life, there is hope. Never, ever give up.”
F2FA: What’s your greatest achievement so far?
CSJ: My greatest achievement thus far is holding the first Goal Chic Empowerment Conference in May 2016. The idea for Goal Chic came to me back in April 2013. It started as a blog where I shared inspirational messages and profiles of inspirational women. This year, I decided to take a leap of faith and take it a step further and off the pages of the internet into real life. Another highlight of this “leap of faith” journey was being invited as a changemaker to attend the inaugural United State of Women Summit convened by the White House and First Lady Michelle Obama.
F2FA: Tell us a little bit about your book, “Goal Chic: Changing the World, One Goal at a Time.”
CSJ: The book gives women the tools they need to align their values with their goals and live a more purposeful life. I wrote the book after being always asked, “How do I achieve my goals?” I can now point people to the book. It offers the principles that I use in my “leap of faith” journey.
F2FA: You have awarded the 2016 Caribbean Life Impact Award, how did that happen?
CSJ: Caribbean Life News is a major New York based Caribbean publication. Every year, they offer the Impact Awards, recognizing outstanding New Yorkers of Caribbean heritage. I am honored to receive such recognition for doing things I love to do!
Earlier this year, I published e-cookbooks on Haitian cuisine. They are now bestsellers and I donate a portion of the proceeds to Anseye Pou Ayiti, an organization in Haiti that provides quality education to the children. In a sense, I’ve made an impact by using my gifts and talents to not only change my corner of the world, but also a community in Haiti. In addition, I make an impact on the lives of young women in my community by offering mentorship through Goal Chic.
F2FA: What’s your advice to African women who keep second guessing themselves?
CSJ: Women of African ancestry are always faced with the question, “Am I good enough?” There’s this meme I saw the other day. The question was, “What’s your talent?” The answer was,”I am Black.”
It is humorous, but being Black requires a certain kind of finesse. We have grace, fortitude, and resilience. These qualities are built in our DNA. There are tools in our arsenal. All we need to is tap into them, and the magic and miracles happen. In life, we will always face criticism. People will not like the way we dress, the way we style our hair, [or] the way our skin produces melanin. You name it. The list [goes] on.
In order to persevere and achieve your goals, you need to be sure of who you are, what you do, and where you are going. Once a woman knows her purpose, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Her decisions will be guided by her values. Yes, she will make mistakes, but she will be stronger and better.
To reiterate; know who you are, know what you are doing, and know where you are going. Knowledge is beautiful, but if you apply it, again, that’s where the magic and miracles happen!
F2FA: In one sentence, what’s the key to success?
CSJ: The key to success is faith – believe in yourself.