By Ellen Rossow
Last year, posters hung throughout campus advertising a “Soul Food Dinner.” Complete with fried chicken and Kool-Aid, promotion for this event stirred up controversy with passersby as whispers of the event’s racist intentions spread campus-wide.
This event was held by the Black Student Union (BSU), an organization on campus dedicated to the celebration of black culture.
According to BSU president and mass communication junior Lexi Byler, the intention of the “Soul Food Dinner” was to do just that.
“Our main goal is to promote social change and celebrate black culture,” she said. “We make food that stems from black culture.”
Byler believes that the creation of controversy surrounding the event is what made it racist.
“People thought it was racist, but really it was their own prejudice that made it that way,” she said.
The confusion, for many, could have stemmed from misinterpretation of the language used on the poster.
“There are just certain foods that we call ‘soul foods,’ and that’s what we have at that dinner,” Byler said. “Obviously black people don’t just eat fried chicken all the time, so when we do we call it soul food.”
According to Byler, BSU intends to continue hosting an annual “Soul Food Dinner,” regardless of the controversy last year.
“That is just what we call it, and it’s going to keep being called that,” she said.
Besides celebrating culture through food, BSU holds a variety of other events and speakers that aim to promote the organization’s goals.
Last year the group held an event called “The Mis-Education of NIG*ER,” which gave attendees a look into the history of the word. BSU also hosts monthly meetings on specific topics, like police brutality, institutionalized racism, white privilege, and gang violence.
BSU is a relatively new organization on campus, as it was formerly known as “Umoja.”
“Umoja is Swahili for unity,” Byler explained. “That organization kind of faded away, so last year we rebooted it and changed the name.”
Byler said there were many reasons for the name change.
“The Black Student Union is a national organization in campuses across the whole United States,” she said. “We wanted to be affiliated with that.”
Just as BSU received backlash for their “Soul Food Dinner” event, there was some controversy surrounding their name change as well.
“Because of our name, people assume that it is only for black people,” she said. “We try to stress that is is open for everyone.”
For more information about BSU, like or message MSUM Black Student Union on Facebook.
“We want to celebrate black culture, but that doesn’t mean with only black people,” Byler said. “That means with everyone.”