#FreedomFriday Introductions

Happy #FreedomFriday, readers!

As you may be aware, we decided to pull the curtain back so you can get to know our team of Freedom Fighters over the next few weeks. Each member of our LMDJ team are answering the same five questions this month so you can get to know us. The past two weeks we’ve introduced Paul Robinson, our Executive Minister and Reverend Ramelia Williams, LMDJ’s Director of Ministry Initiatives. This week, meet Benjamin Vazquez, LMDJ’s Director of Social Enterprise.

A bit about Ben’s life outside of LMDJ:
I was born on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. I am the youngest of seven – three brothers and three sisters. When I was five, my family moved from PR to Chicago, and eventually, we all moved to Cleveland, OH. Two words that best describe my family are hardworking and loving. My parents owned a small, busy restaurant and catering business; my older brother owned a small community grocery store. These family businesses kept everyone busy! Clearly, my love for food and business comes from my family. Hospitality was an art that my dad taught the family, and it was special to see him in action until he was called home to be with the Lord. One value instilled from my upbringing was that everyone should feel welcome. My family modeled this value, making everyone feel welcomed and at home. I have tried my best to model this in my own life. When people feel welcome, they stay longer and give more of themselves. I have built teams around this simple word: welcome.

Ben (right) with his older brother: his heart and business partner.

A bit about Ben’s job within LMDJ:
My role as Director of Social Enterprise includes being the technical lead and consultant on market analysis, research, program design, and business development projects for Covenant Enterprises. I have the opportunity to serve alongside strategic thinkers with huge dreams, visions and work ethic. It brings me incredible joy to be a small part of what God is doing through entrepreneurs committed to building under-resourced communities. I understand the power of entrepreneurship and how it transforms people and develops communities. For me, this is not a job, is my business.

One of Ben’s Freedom-Fighting she/heroes:
Richard Allen is one of my favorite Freedom-Fighting heroes. He was born a slave on February 14, 1760, in Delaware. Richard began to attend meetings with his sister and brother at a local Methodist church that welcomed slaves, and while still in his youth, he joined the Methodist church. Richard taught himself to read and write and became a minister, educator, and writer. He eventually founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first independent black denomination that allowed blacks to worship without racial oppression. He is one of my favorite Freedom Fighters because he did so much to lift the social status of the black community.

One social media account Ben thinks everyone should follow:
healthy.food.addiction As I said, I love food. I believe food brings us together and creates communion and the sharing of intimate thoughts. This social media account gives great recipes on all types of healthy eating. I hope you enjoy trying some of them!

In case you weren’t already hungry, here is one of the dishes Ben’s father was known for: Mofongo (which is a mouth-watering mountain of smashed plantains with Caribbean spices and shrimp).

One book Ben thinks everyone should read:
All Along You Were Blooming: A collection of poetry by Morgan Harper Nichols. This book of poetry is a great little book that should be by everyone’s bedside table during this season. “There is a purpose in every season, and no matter how you want to race through this day or run away from this place, rest assured that you are invited to live fully – right here, right now.” ~ Morgan Harper Nichols

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