Enthusiasm for Jamaican lifestyle, social justice leads Somers ‘right here’ | Community News

Merna Delaurentis

Gail Somers is fairly pleased suitable in this article. The 43-calendar year-outdated Keene resident has worked hard to get right here, also, growing up in rural Jamaica before coming to the U.S. as a college scholar, earning two levels and launching a successful career in the foods business. “Here” for […]

Gail Somers is fairly pleased suitable in this article.

The 43-calendar year-outdated Keene resident has worked hard to get right here, also, growing up in rural Jamaica before coming to the U.S. as a college scholar, earning two levels and launching a successful career in the foods business.

“Here” for Somers is her downtown Keene cafe, Yahso Jamaican Grille, a title that interprets from the island’s Patois language as — you guessed it — “right right here.”

“So it’s an emphasis on a put, … calling interest to that position,” Somers said. “So for me, yeah, we’re serving food, but I like to assume we’re serving culture, as very well.”

For Somers, Yahso is not just a cafe, but a cultural hub the place she consistently invites Caribbean musicians to enjoy and shares her Jamaican culture via reliable dishes, a lot of of which are created employing her mother’s recipes.

“And specially in southwest New Hampshire, in which we never have that a lot diversity, I like to imagine I’m introducing to the cloth of diversity in the neighborhood,” Somers stated.

Her motivation to diversity and inclusion extends further than the restaurant, much too. Somers serves on Keene’s ad hoc Racial Justice and Group Safety Committee and chairs the Keene Household YMCA’s Social Justice Committee. This summer months, she reported, she’ll also be doing work with the Bigger Keene & Peterborough Chamber of Commerce on many diversity, fairness and inclusion initiatives.

This do the job is primarily important, Somers reported, in gentle of the renewed racial justice movement that began previous summer months just after George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police.

“And it’s essential that it just doesn’t lover out, and the flame dies,” she explained. “… The bigger concern is that Black and Brown persons are even now experience incredibly marginalized, and we need to communicate about all those matters.”

Catherine “Catt” Workman, a Keene metropolis councilor who is effective with Somers on the city’s racial justice committee, said Somers delivers a contemporary perspective and imaginative suggestions to the group.

“She’s very diplomatic, and is capable to convey herself really articulately,” Workman explained. “Even with the subject matter, it was not usually the simplest discussions that we were being acquiring and speaking about, and she normally brought the committee alongside one another.”

Somers was instrumental in drafting the committee’s report to the Metropolis Council, Workman additional. The 11-web site doc outlines recommendations for how the local community can deal with racism, together with in search of extra various employees in public organizations and escalating racial-bias training and consciousness attempts.

“I remember looking ahead to the opening of the restaurant just simply because it was going to include diversity and improve restaurant solutions for folks,” Workman explained, adding that she eats there “easily about two occasions a week, if not far more,” and that Yahso’s Caribbean shrimp and sweet plantains are amid her favorite dishes.

Workman’s working experience at Yahso is specifically what Somers envisioned for the restaurant, which she launched with her now 22-12 months-old son Andre Clayton immediately after they expended a number of many years sharing Jamaican dishes with buddies and family at local community gatherings.

“It was a significant offer mainly because we needed to have a diverse foods locally, as very well, and for us, we felt like this would be good to share with the location,” Somers mentioned. “Most men and women, even if they have not experienced Jamaican meals, know Jamaica or know of the Jamaican society all around food stuff.”

This tradition, Somers additional, is the a person in which she grew up in Port Antonio, Jamaica, a town of about 12,000 people today on the island’s northeastern coast. Her father, Keith Somers, worked mainly as a banana farmer, while her mother, Bertine, ran a modest grocery shop.

“So from a very young age, possessing a dad that was a farmer and a mother that ran a small small business, I assume certainly individuals items contributed to my entrepreneurial spirit,” she stated.

And although Bertine Somers died 23 several years in the past, she proceeds to affect her daughter’s lifetime and occupation. As the oldest of 12 kids, Bertine uncovered to cook at a younger age, and afterwards became the primary cook dinner for her own young children.

“And rising up, she just generally positioned that emphasis on producing us a very good food, even when we did not have a ton,” Somers reported. “So we did not do big Christmas celebrations or birthday celebrations. But Sunday supper was a huge offer. … It was kind of her way of exhibiting really like and caring.”

This expression of affection by foodstuff also extended over and above their instant family, Somers added. Anytime people arrived into Bertine Somers’ shop unable to afford foodstuff, she would find a way to give them a good food.

“So for me, even at a youthful age, I understood that foods was so much about protection, simply because I felt safe and I felt beloved,” Gail Somers stated. “I felt safe due to the fact my mom and dad normally had meals, and took such care in getting ready the food items. I felt practically at an edge since my dad had a farm, we had that tiny grocery store, and my mother was generally preparing terrific foods for us. And we would see persons coming that just didn’t have that, and I observed the emphasis my mother put on sharing a little something with them.”

Somers’ mother also prioritized schooling, which led Gail to pursue a faculty degree in company, to start with at the College of Engineering in the Jamaican cash of Kingston just before going to Philadelphia, the place she had some prolonged loved ones, in the 1990s and learning at Villanova University. She took lessons section-time, and also labored as a server at several restaurants, which includes quite a few quick-meals joints.

“I imagine I have worked in every speedy-foods [restaurant],” she explained with a smile. “There had been times I was working at many speedy-food stuff [restaurants]. I would go away Burger King and go to McDonald’s for a further shift, or Wendy’s. I have labored at them all.”

Just after graduating with her bachelor’s degree in finance, Somers got a position with Bimbo Bakeries, which tends to make makes like Entenmann’s and Thomas English Muffins. She labored there for about 10 several years though dwelling in the Philadelphia space and New Jersey. Together the way, she acquired her MBA from St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia ahead of shifting to Keene in 2013 for a task at C&S Wholesale Grocers.

This new vocation prospect motivated the move, Somers reported, but she has given that fallen in enjoy with the group, where her young son, 16-12 months-aged Alex Clayton, had a excellent working experience at Symonds Elementary College and Keene Center Faculty right before shifting to Northfield Mount Hermon University in Gill, Mass., for superior faculty. Her father and her brother Keino Somers have the two moved to Keene, as perfectly.

“And I sort of created a personal link to the area, coming from rural Jamaica,” she reported. “So even although I have lived in extra urban locations, I kind of nonetheless truly feel like I’m a rural lady.”

Immediately after seven several years with C&S, Somers left the corporation very last June to concentrate total-time on the cafe. She said the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced her with numerous hard conclusions, none extra tough than irrespective of whether to near Yahso, or go to a new locale.

“And I decided to not connect with it quits,” she stated. “We had carried out actually perfectly. I assume the notion was been given actually effectively. I knew I wanted a bigger house, for the reason that we were in a teeny-little place, primarily to showcase the lifestyle, mainly because there’s just so a great deal to it — the foods, the songs, the complete just Jamaican vibe.”

And as extra people today get vaccinated against COVID-19, Somers hopes organizations like hers return to pre-pandemic operations. In the extensive-expression, she wishes to open a second Yahso site, potentially in Manchester or Nashua, or it’s possible Brattleboro, she claimed.

For now, nevertheless, Somers designs to stay correct right here.

“We’re hoping that when persons occur here, they’re finding a great food but they’re also acquiring a superior vibe staying listed here,” she stated. “So, Yahso in Jamaica, it’s like anyone would say it’s a hopping, popping, preferred [spot] — the spot wherever items are occurring.”

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