As I thought about the programs and experiences that I wanted our campus community to share in honor of Black History Month, I, of course, had to start with the food.

Growing up, my grandma’s kitchen was always filled with people from the community. It wasn’t just her food that drew them in, although her cooking was legendary and her table was always abundant, it was how she used food to bring our community together that left a lasting impression on me. Everyone had a seat at grandma’s table. Over oven fried chicken, macaroni, and rice we talked about big issues, checked up on the health and well-being of our neighbors, learned from our elders, and nourished our own souls with a profound sense of belonging.

Members of CUW’s Black Student Union each shared that common experience within their own communities growing up. They all fondly remember crowding around a full table connecting, learning, story-telling and enjoying soul food. As our organization considered how to recognize Black History Month, we made sure to keep food, community, and the stories and lessons of others at the heart of our plans.

Here are three ways that CUW is recognizing Black History Month:

1) An evening of soul food and conversation.

On February 26th, the CUW Black Student Union is partnering with the Office of Student Life to host an evening of conversation and soul food. Featuring a presentation by writer, speaker Muhibb Dyer. The topic of the conversation will be about the dual lives many African American students experience as college students who also identify as members of the urban community. Through spoken word and shared stories, Dyer will lead an inspiring discussion.

The evening will conclude with a soul food dinner prepared by Sodexo, CUW’s food service provider. Members of the Black Student Union and Sodexo got together to discuss recipes and plan the menu. Because of demand, this is an invite only event. The guest list includes students, faculty, and staff members of many organizations on campus.

2) Book drive featuring African American authors and content.

The Black Student Union is hosting a book drive to raise awareness of African American authors and African American content. Books will be distributed on campus and at the multiple schools that the Black Student Union visit throughout the year..

You can support this mission in several ways: 1) Purchase a book by an African American author or a book that features African American content, 2) Donate a gently used book, and 3) Make a financial donation to cover the cost of a book. Book donations should be sent directly to my attention at CUW.

3) Area school visits.

The CUW Black Student Union visits a school once a month throughout the year to promote college readiness. Last semester we interacted with Hope Christian Schools, Kilbourn Elementary Milwaukee Excellence, Charter Academy, Milwaukee Lutheran High School, Riverside High School, and West Allis Hale/Central High Schools. This Semester we are scheduled to collaborate with Granville Lutheran, Golda Meir High School, Kingdom Prep Lutheran High School, Milwaukee School of Languages, and St. Peter Immanuel Elementary. While we tailor our visits to the age and needs of the schools we visit, we also promote literacy and appreciate the donation of books.

— Lisa Liljegren is vice president of marketing and strategic communications.

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