Chill jazz music and the savory scents of delicious dishes greeted attendees to the annual Soul Food Café, presented by the Black Student Union in celebration of Black History Month. About 90 people were present at the event in Martin Chapel on Friday, a significant improvement over the underwhelming attendance of previous events planned for this month.
The black tie event featured several prominent speakers from the local community, as well as poetry readings and musical performances by students. There are rather few black tie events on campus, so students relished the opportunity to employ the best of their wardrobes. “It’s fun to dress up once in a while,” said Sophomore Jenn Orantes.
After everyone had been served and had a chance to enjoy some of the night’s dishes, which included fried chicken, grilled fish, mashed potatoes and collard greens, Harrisonburg Mayor Richard Baugh gave a speech on community and diversity. Of all the children in Harrisonburg’s school system, according to Baugh, there are between 46-55 different primary languages spoken before English. “One of the underappreciated things in our community is the strength of our school system,” said Baugh.
Representatives from NENA (North-East Neighborhood Association) were also present. The organization’s goal, according to their Facebook page, is “to help make our neighborhood a safe, attractive and strong community.” “This is one of the most active neighborhood associations in our city,” said Baugh.
Camille Whiting, First-Year at VSU (Virginia State University), shared a few of her poems and commented on what it was like to be part of local Christian rap group TBO (The Best Out). “God is always helping us focus,” said Whiting, who also mentioned that “[EMU’s] campus is gorgeous.”
The event also featured artwork from local artist Charles Bibb. The sleek silhouettes of dancing figures featured in the pieces perfectly complimented the night’s jazz performance and general ambiance. Senior Joel DeWald enjoyed the “intricate ink work” of the art.
Esther Nizer, president of Harrisonburg/Rockingham County’s NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) chapter was also present. Nizer talked about the organization’s goals for the near future, which include voter registration and childhood obesity campaigns, the latter of which she admitted she considered not mentioning, given the copious amounts of fried food on everyone’s plates.