African-American cultural dinner served at dining halls

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Kinsolving dining hall employee Dina Bricker serves food to a student during the annual African American Cultural Dinner Tuesday evening. The dinner, which featured foods such as fried chicken, cornbread and jumbalaya, was held during Black History Month in order to celebrate African-American cuisine.

Photo Credit: Shea Carley | Daily Texan Staff

An African American Cultural Dinner featuring items such as fried chicken and cornbread was held at Kinsolving and Jester dining halls on Tuesday in celebration of Black History Month. Jazz and blues music played at the events.

The dinner, which was hosted by the Division of Housing and Food Service, has been held for over 10 years during Black History Month to emphasize the culinary aspect of the African-American culture, said Scott Meyer, director of food service for the University. The menu was crafted with a reliance on menus used in past years as well as African-American staff members who helped contribute ideas, he said. About 1,200 students attended the meal at J2 and 1,300 attended at Kinsolving.

Meyer said some students may have never been exposed to certain food, and the DHFS hosts different culture-themed dining meals to help make students more multi-culturally aware.

“Food is a centerpiece of all cultures,” Meyer said. “All cultures have different foods that we may identify with them or they may identify with themselves.”

Meyer said the University hosts these themed dinners about once a month, and each one costs approximately $3,000 to cover the two dining facilities.

“In the scope of an entire year this is a relatively small amount when compared to the impact the dinner will provide,” Meyer said.

Meyer said he has never had anyone complain because they were offended by the use of the culture in a themed dinner.

“Occasionally I’ll have somebody that will complain about ‘I wanted to get my pizza tonight, and all you had that was normal was hamburgers and chicken breast,’” Meyer said.

English freshman Ariana Brown said celebrating Black History Month by having a special dinner is unproductive and doesn’t serve a purpose in celebrating black history.

“I feel like when people think ‘black history’ they need to know it’s more than fried chicken and jazz music,” Brown said. “I don’t see how eating fried chicken celebrates my black history.”

Brown said celebrating Black History Month as though the issue of race equality is a thing of the past is offensive.

“We have made some progress, but I don’t feel like we’re done yet,” Brown said. “We can celebrate when we’re done.”

Plan II freshman Chelsea O’Hara went to the dinner and said she enjoyed the food.

“We really appreciate the time Kinsolving puts into in creating the environment and meal,” O’Hara said. “To me, it’s not so much the cultural experience food-wise but the dining experience they create.”

Printed on Wednesday February 22, 2012 a: Dining halls celebrate Black History Month