Dinner menu upsets faculty, student body

Column by Tess Montgomery

Tess-w2000-h2000I compose this letter in response to a very recent incident that occurred at Hubbell Dining Hall Wednesday night.

Early in the afternoon, a peer informed me that Hubbell was advertising a “Black History Month Dinner” with a menu comprised of fried chicken and collard greens.

The intentions were no doubt to include Drake students in a cultural experience, but it instead came off as offensive and insensitive not only to the African-American community but also to students and faculty of all races.

I understand that, years ago, there was collaboration between the Coalition of Black Students and Sodexo to produce an African American dining experience, but as the president of the Coalition of Black Students, I know that there was no communication between the two parties this year. We were completely taken off guard, to say the least.

What people fail to understand is that the proposed “Black History meal” was a largely southern meal more accurately referred to as “soul food.”

Had there been communication between both parties, Sodexo and CBS could have maximized learning potential in creating an educational event for all students on campus.

After talking with the director of Sodexo, we created a solution that included laying out historical informational sheets about African-American history and soul food, and we proposed the idea to create a second meal that will involve more collaboration between both organizations.

In fact, the Coalition of Black Students has its own annual event titled “Mama’s Cookin’” that links southern eating and culinary history.

The difference is that this is an event discussed and planned by the organization and is advertised as a soul food event where people can get a good, home-cooked, southern-inspired meal and, more importantly, our voice is included.

What upsets me, and a large portion of the student body, the most is that some portions of the meal perpetuated offensive stereotypes for a particular group of people, and a very small group at that.

Some African-American students felt embarrassed and patronized getting their meal because people may have been inclined to look at them as the “typical black girl/boy” eating the “black food.”

With more collaboration and communication, this hurtful atmosphere could have been avoided.

This event had good intentions, but the lack of communication hurt the potential of the event.

I believe that, with future collaboration, we can put this incident behind us and create something positive for the Drake community that is both delicious and educational.

From this incident, I hope that people take away two things: Honoring black history needs to go beyond serving stereotypical foods, and black history is American history.

Montgomery is a junior  advertising management major and can be reached at tess.montgomery@drake.edu


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