This Wednesday, the Black Student Union, or BSU, and Sodexo collaborated to bring menu items reflective of African heritage to the Birch Tree Inn. In celebration of African Ancestry Month, the Birch dining hall served several different food items to celebrate black culture from around the world. During lunch, members of the BSU tabled near the dining hall’s entrance, advertising their upcoming events and encouraging students to add their names to the organization’s email list.
“I actually saw that there were two individuals that seemed as if they were interested but they seemed a little hesitant to come to the table. I don’t know, maybe it was because they actually were of a different race – but then one of our BSU reps actually encouraged them to come over and they ended up signing up which was really interesting,” said Taneisha Williams, the publicist of BSU and senior advisor of Ebony Women for Social Change, a BSU subgroup. “We always stress that, although it’s the BSU, we don’t discriminate, so it’s still open to everyone. So I was glad to see that.”
The event was a result of communication between BSU spokesperson Brittany Jordan and the marketing manager for Sodexo at Ramapo, Julio Herrera, who helped to put together the special menu and realize what their “vision” was for the event, according to Herrera.
“[Jordan] was really adamant about not just highlighting the United States when it comes to black history, but highlighting more of a worldly [variety],” Herrera said. “So we've incorporated some African, Caribbean, Latino or Hispanic, and some U.S. menu favorites so that we come to a kind of a more well-rounded [variety] than just southern food, which is typically what you would probably see.”
The BSU and its subgroups are not the only organizations involved in celebrating black history; Students of Caribbean Ancestry, Health and Counseling Services, the Women’s Center, Diversity Action Committee, the department of Africana Studies and Lambda Theta Phi Latino Fraternity all have events listed on the African Ancestry Month calendar. Similarly, the Birch menu for the busy lunch period pulled from a wide variety of cultures and regions.
“They’re serving jambalaya, coconut rice, jerk chicken [and] tostones,” Jordan said, listing the different choices being offered.
“I did not try everything but thus far I like the chicken,” commented Jasmina Joseph, BSU publicist. Joseph, along with Jordan and Williams, enjoyed the cultural cuisine as they handed out fliers listing upcoming events, including a discussion on Brown v. Board of Education, an empowerment event called “Black Girls Rock,” and a fashion show, which is held during African Ancestry Month every year.
“We had a few people come up to the table and sign up, ask what our org was about, and now they’re on the emailing list so we can give out more information and reach out to more people,” Jordan said.
Not only did the BSU gain some attention and interest from students passing by on their usual lunch run, but the unique food gained some positive comments from those who tried it.
“They should do it more often,” said freshman Rand Abdul-Raziq about the Sodexo-club collaboration. “It’s different than having the regular stuff, and I like that.”
“It was better than the usual,” added fellow freshman Jose Carrillo.
Herrera hopes that this partnership between the BSU and Sodexo for African Ancestry Month will not be the last time dining services cooperates with on-campus groups in order to bring a creative cultural menu to the Ramapo community.
“I encourage any student organization that wants to partner with us to contact us, send us an email,” Herrera said, mentioning that the handle “ramapodining” is used by dining services for most of their social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Herrera, who also said he greatly enjoyed the food, gave credit to the BSU for helping put together a successful and diverse Ramapo dining event.
“I'm just happy that we were able to kind of break away from that stigma of what Black History Month food should be, and it’s all because of their help,” he said.