By Lawrence Rogers
In celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and MLK Day, a host of Sewanee minority organizations, spearheaded by Sewanee’s African-American Alliance (AAA), sponsored a black-tie potluck unity dinner in the Mary Sue Cushman room of the Women’s Center on January 21. The other organizations included the Hispanic Organization for Latino Awareness (HOLA), the Organization for Cross-Cultural Understanding (OCCU), and the African- and Caribbean-American Student Association (ACASA). Because MLK day took place before school was back in session, very few students were able to attend the annual MLK-Day community celebration co-sponsored by the School of Theology, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, AAA, and the Cumberland Center for Justice and Peace.
Joey Adams, president of AAA and organizer of the event, stated that “The original vision was a 4-course gala dinner, but the funds just weren’t there, so we ended up having to do potluck-style dinner.” But this initial hindrance only served to enhance the sense of community and togetherness at the dinner, allowing each group to bring a dish to represent their culture. The tres leches cake and guacamole dip from HOLA, sesame chicken from OCCU, and samosas from ACASA were a huge success and easily made up for the lack of a gala dinner. “I only wish we’d brought more food,” said Adams. “You should have seen how fast it went.”
The dinner was followed by performances from several students, including a reading of Latoya McIntyre’s (C’20) poem “You Signed My Life Away” by Chandler Davenport (C’19) and a group singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. From there, each table discussed the significance of Dr. King’s work in their lives and then shared a few of the more important points from their discussion. HOLA member Ashley Malpica (C’17), remarked, “As a woman of color coming from a strong Latino community where some of my family my closest family friends are undocumented and face discrimination, MLK really allowed for thought and action amongst us here at Sewanee.”
Adams, a member of Sewanee’s Posse group, stated that AAA was trying to make the its events more closely resemble the Posse Plus Retreat hosted at Beersheba Springs every year, in hopes of attracting students that are not necessarily going out of their way to participate in events like the unity dinner. Malpica stated, “As much as we put up different events on campus through our organizations and invite the community to come hear stories of real students, we get the same faces. At unity dinner we also had the same faces,” but she is “positive that the people who were [at the unity dinner] will strive in the coming years to unite and educate the campus.”
The next few steps towards unification and education will come in the form of AAA-sponsored weekly themes for February, which is Black History Month. Week one will be a showcase of black music in the Ralston Listening Room, followed by week two’s celebration of black cinema. After black scholarship and black dance and art weeks comes the shortened black women empowerment week, as a segué into March’s Women’s History Month.