MSU’s weekly BHM program comes to a close

MSU and Commons decorate for Mardi Gras. 

Emma Bartlett, Arts and Culture Editor

On Feb. 25, the Multicultural Student Union (MSU) wrapped up its Black History Month program which took place every Tuesday afternoon in Upper Commons during February. The organization collaborated with the Commons chefs to create a lunch menu celebrating black heritage. 

“We talked about more interactive programs because a lot of the campus doesn’t really show up to things at night,” said MSU Vice President Lalene Sirypannho.

The organization decided that hosting an event during the day would bring in more students and make it something students could look forward to every Tuesday. This year, the four themed meals included Tennessee BBQ, Southern, Jazz Club and Mardi Gras. Since the special food was served at Classics, MSU had to select a main meal, starch, vegetable and optional dessert. Each food was picked after researching its history to ensure the organization was appreciating and not appropriating other cultures.

One issue the club faced was deciding whether to include fried chicken on the menu. Fried chicken is often stereotyped as a food within black culture, which MSU realizes may have caused controversy on campus. 

“A lot of the members had a big discussion of southern fried chicken. [We] all wanted to make sure we were appreciating. Unfortunately, it’s stereotypical,” Sirypannho said.

In the end, after receiving input from members of different ethnic backgrounds, MSU moved forward with the idea, hoping people would understand. 

“It’s an easy food to make and it brings a lot of people together and you can do it so quickly. After Sunday church service, everyone comes over and it feeds a lot of people. It’s a staple that people look forward to,” Sirypannho said.

While the organization said it had good intentions, several students offered complaints on the choice of fried chicken.

“I find it ironic that they constantly preach about social justice and they rubber-stamped and approved this stereotypical meal,” said senior Noah Ashe.

“While I see the attempt in this one case, it ended up backfiring. Kind of embarrassing to see that. I think that people should just know better. Now, if you bring in other types of foods that aren’t as stereotypical, then I think you could do that. That’s not what we saw here.”

Ashe also believes Commons should have consulted a panel of students outside of MSU before going ahead with this collaboration. 

“MSU doesn’t speak for the entire student body. [We] all don’t think the same either,” Ashe said.

Senior David Hayes suggested taking a different approach to the initiative. 

“Maybe do something that honors [other] African American culinary innovations. Potato chips, that’s our thing. Peanuts. Have a whole peanut convention,” Hayes said. 

“If you want to do lunch, sure. That’s cool. Just don’t do fried chicken. There are tons of other staples of black culinary.”

Despite backlash for some of the food choices, MSU has received other positive feedback about the food. 

“[We] hope that people see that we were trying to celebrate a culture,” Sirypannho said. 

“Food is a really great way to connect people.”