The first in a series of Black History Month dinners was held in Okenshields on Thursday.

Emma Hoarty / Sun Staff Photographer

The first in a series of Black History Month dinners was held in Okenshields on Thursday.

February 2, 2018

Black History Month Dinners Celebrate Foods of the African Diaspora

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Cornell Dining is embarking on a month of flavor, history and tradition.

In honor of Black History Month, Cornell Dining is hosting a series of special dinners featuring African diasporic cuisines ranging from North African to soul food. The dinners began Thursday evening and will be held once per week throughout February.

Sponsored by Black Students United, Campus Life, Cornell University West Campus System and Cornell Dining, these themed meals result from a joint effort to “enrich student, faculty and staff experiences of black cultures,” according to a description of the event from 2013.

Renee Alexander ’74, associate dean of students and advisor to BSU, told The Sun that the dinners are a tradition.

“I’ve been working with this board [BSU] for a number of years, and the tradition has been to work with dining to host some dinners that have Afro-centric themes, themes from the African Diaspora — Caribbean, African and of course American,” she said.

Paul Muscente, associate director of Cornell Dining , told The Sun  that the meals are normally one of dining’s “more attended dinners with a variety of menu options.”

This year, the menu features meals such as soul food at Okenshields, North African cuisine at Flora Rose House and an African-American Freedom Fighters Dinner at Alice Cook House.  A soul food dinner in 2013, for example, was slated to offer black-eyed pea soup, Southern fried catfish, shrimp and grits with andouille sausage, peach cobbler and more.

While Cornell Dining provides an abundance of food options, BSU often presents entertainment after the meals that highlights the diversity of black cultures.

Muscente also talked about how in the past they have had different entertainment and programming to support these special events. Various Cornell students and organizations perform in these programs that showcase the different themes of cultural foods and the African diaspora.

“Cultural celebrations center around food, but [are] not limited to [it],” Alexander said. “We have the African Dance Repertoire, we have … the Caribbean Students Association, and they have a dance repertoire. So there will be cultural offerings throughout the month to highlight the multiple prongs of the African diaspora,” Alexander said.

The next meal will be held at Carl Becker House on Tuesday, Feb. 6, and will feature Southern African cuisine.