Theslet Benoir and Clemene Bastien are a married couple that immigrated to the United States from Haiti in 2005. They received asylum, settled in Parksley, Virginia, and opened a brick-and-mortar store that caters to the needs of the Eastern Shore’s Haitian population. In June 2023, Theslet and Clemene expanded their business by opening the Eben-Ezer Haitian Food Truck—the town’s first. They parked the food truck on their own private property next to their store and began selling beloved Haitian dishes.
This did not sit well with Parksley Councilmember Henry Nicholson. Soon after the food truck opened, Nicholson berated Theslet and Clemene for opening a business that he saw as a threat to nearby restaurants. He also took responsibility for cutting the food truck’s water line, rendering it inoperable until Theslet and Clemene could pay someone to repair the damage. And while trying to prevent groceries from being delivered to the food truck a few days later, Nicholson screamed at Clemene: “Go back to your own country!”
The town also retaliated against Theslet and Clemene after they criticized the town for passing a food truck ban by threatening them with long jail terms and thousands of dollars in fines, all for operating a permitted business.
Theslet and Clemene have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the town’s unconstitutional harassments and retaliation.