Meet Stevenson Jean - an actor, creative artist, model and striving business owner, who's using his fashion apparel as a platform to speak up about issues that others might shy away from.
Embracing the new beginnings
On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti and claimed the lives of more than 220,000 people. Considered as one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern history, it left many Haitians in despair.
Stevenson was 12 years old when his parents gathered the children to discuss the possibility of relocating to the US. Stevenson's father explained the consequences of the earthquake, and how moving to the United States could benefit the future of their family. But, he also stated what they would have to sacrifice in return. "I remember feeling afraid. But we decided to make the best out of it," Stevenson reminisces.
After the relocation, the whole family had to adjust to a new culture. To get a grasp of the English language, Stevenson got creative and used social media and music. "There was a song that artists recorded to support Haiti, called "We are the world 25 for Haiti". I listened to it every day, singing it out loud, trying to understand the words."
However, leaving everyone behind was difficult. "I'm connected with my family in Haiti through Whatsapp, but it's not as natural," he reveals. "We had to wait for our green cards to come so that we could visit Haiti. And when it finally happened, it was amazing. My mum was the last one to get hers, she received it at the start of 2020. We threw a big celebration. She can go back home and see all of her loved ones again."
Diving into the creative field
At high school, Stevenson's friend conviaintnced him to sign up for an acting class. He didn't expect much from it, but it became so much more that he thought. "I've had a couple of dates with acting, and look at us now, we ended up married. We've had some ups and downs, but we're standing strong," he laughs.
Nowadays, Stevenson's acting career is on the rise, as he's currently playing the lead character on the TV drama series, Loyal-T. Produced by Amazon, the show tells a story about Travis, an aspiring artist who's trying to overcome his life circumstances.
Through acting, Stevenson ventured into art and learnt how artists and fashion designers use their platforms to speak up about pressing issues. One of his greatest inspirations is Jean-Michel Basquiat, a Haitian artist, who incorporated powerful messages into his art. "Unfortunately, he struggled with mental health and committed suicide in his 20s. The world never got to see where his talent could go," he shares.
Building a business driven by social justice
Fascinated by entrepreneurship and innovation, Stevenson, together with his brothers, started a clothing company called Blakhveny. Aimed to uplift cultures from all around the world, they strive to impact society by combining fashion, storytelling and art while fighting for social justice.
"We want people to take action on issues that others might be afraid to talk about. We are here to stand up for things that matter while educating people about the history of our cultures and how powerful Africans are," he explains.
Stevenson worked hard to find quality manufacturers and to incorporate the company vision into their designs and storytelling. "See, the more perfect you want it to be, the more time it takes to get where you want to be," he explains.
One of the topics that Blakhveny brings to the surface is mental health. Social media sets high expectations on today's generation, often causing insecurities that lead to feelings of inadequacy. "In our communities, we shy away from depression. I've had my own experience with mental health problems, and by the grace of God and African spirits, I came out of that alive," he shares.
Through Blakhveny, Stevenson and his team are shining a light on the importance of taking care of yourself. They are dedicated to releasing a part of their earnings to mental health facilities in Haiti.
Blakhveny has recently launched their first collection. His favourite design is called "Motherland Roots", which symbolises a tree of the humankind, rooted in Africa. "We're all connected, regardless of our skin colour. But, without the roots, the tree wouldn't be able to stand," Stevenson explains. "Despite what's happening in the world and in the US, we still have so much to be grateful for. Especially for how far we've come after fighting for our freedom."