One of the newest clubs sponsored in the Upper School is the Black Student Union (BSU). In conjunction with Sanford’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and the celebration of Black History Month, they recently sponsored their first major fundraiser—a Soul Food Lunch.
More than 96 students and faculty members were treated to a traditional African/Latina meal, which included a choice of fried or bar-be-que chicken or meatballs and the choice of two delicious side dishes, cornbread or a roll, and a beverage. Interest in the luncheon was high, and many students and faculty members patiently waited in line to sample such treats as mac and cheese, rice and beans, empanadas, greens, sweet potato fluff, baked pineapple, potato salad, and deviled eggs. Diners were not disappointed.
In preparation for the luncheon, members of the BSU reached out to family, friends, and church members for support, and the response was overwhelming. Students entering the Commons for the meal were greeted by Fadima Williams' '23 aunts, Trenaisha Ndzegha and Tanae Williams, who wore traditional African dress. As participants went through the serving line, they were offered many homemade dishes that are an integral part of the cultural heritage. Many members of the greater Sanford community made their special recipes and donated the dishes for the luncheon. Numerous helpers made sure that the line moved efficiently and quickly, and were on hand to share some details about their offerings, if asked.
One of the sponsors of the BSU, Upper School Administrative Assistant Carlene Spencer, shared: "The success of the Black Student Union's Soul Food Lunch was a culmination of the vision and commitment of our amazing club members to celebrate their history and culture, combined with great food, good-ole toe tapping music, and wonderful friends and family in a very accepting, accommodating, and welcoming Sanford community setting."
Nia Naylor '20, president of the BSU, explained that the luncheon served a cultural and a fundraising purpose. "We were happy to share some of the foods that mean so much in our culture, and we appreciated the turnout of support from our classmates and teachers. We also used the Soul Food Lunch as a vehicle for raising funds to defray the cost of our upcoming trip to Washington, D. C., where we as club members hope to further our own cultural education by touring Howard University, The National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, The National Museum of African Art, and the African American Civil War Museum and Memorial."
Paidyn Moore '23 and Kendall Giordano '23 participated in both the Soul Food Lunch and the Chinese New Year luncheon held in January. Kendall elaborated: "We often do not think about what other families eat. I’m a picky eater, so I did not try any really new foods, but I still liked that all students had the opportunity to learn about the foods of other cultures." Paidyn added: "I had heard of sweet potato fluff, but I had never had a chance to eat it. So, I tried that dish, and I liked it. I agree with Kendall that it is important for Sanford to have students sponsor special cultural luncheons so we can all broaden our horizons and develop a better understanding of each other."
BSU Treasurer, Gianna Hernadez '20 added: "We chose a Soul Food theme for our luncheon for a couple of reasons. Soul food is made with love and care for one’s family and friends. It is a part of the African American culture, and most recipes are passed down from the elders in the family. While we wanted to share our traditional food with our Sanford 'family,' we were also hoping that the luncheon would raise awareness about African-American foods and provide insight into our culture. This event required our group to collaborate on everything from the menu choices to the budget to the organization of the volunteers and various jobs that had to be done prior to, during, and after the luncheon.
"Sponsoring this Soul Food lunch helped us as we work to achieve the BSU goals of providing support for black and minority students at Sanford School and offering resources and access to the student body and staff concerning the many positive attributes of the black community. By including the entire Upper School in the event, we had the opportunity to come together and realize that we have more in common with each other than we have differences."