Feeding the soul with celebration

The 55th annual Soul Food Dinner featured a collaboration between several Black multicultural organizations to celebrate and remind each other of the support and motivation a community can bring.
Elisa Lopez, courtesy of Black Student Collective
Elisa Lopez, courtesy of Black Student Collective

The highly anticipated cultural event of the year hosted food, live music and lots of company for a festive kickoff to spring break. .
In contrast to previous renditions of the Soul Food Dinner, several multicultural organizations worked together to fund and host an event that sought to celebrate and support the spectrum of racial identity represented on Hamline’s campus.
The event, typically hosted by Black Student Collective (BSC), was joined this year by Hamline African Student Association (HASA), East African Student Union (EASU), Global Students Society (GSS) and Hamline Undergraduate Programming Board (HUPB). This collaboration culminated in the formal dinner celebration and featured various local performers, advocates and creatives.
“The reason why we brought all three boards together was because we believe that Black History month and Black history should be celebrated through all the aspects of Black people, whether you’re African American, whether you’re Black, any race, whether you’re mixed, all types,” BSC co-president sophomore Nasra Shube said.

Members of HASA, EASU, BSC and HUPB arrived at Anderson Center at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday morning to begin decorating and setting up for the five hour event. Even though it did not begin until 5 p.m., with over 187 RSVPs, they had plenty to do to transform the plain Anderson 111 space into the classy and sparkly celebration attendees enjoyed that evening.

Catering from Soul Bowl and Sabrina’s filled attendees’ plates once dinner was served at the beginning of the event. (Elisa Lopez, courtesy of Black Student Collective)

“We got even more students, not even just Black students but all students of color in a room, which was the one goal we were trying to have the one night and that goal was successful and beautiful and it was so amazing, and I was so happy to see that it was accomplished,” Shube said.
The executive board members of HASA, EASU and BSC are largely underclassmen, newer to their roles and orgs as sophomores and juniors. Shube herself is a sophomore and stepped into her role at the end of January, joining Kamaria Williams as BSC co-president.
“Everybody on the board is the first time on the board, and I’ve been on multiple boards in the past,” Shube said. “I was already doing a lot so they were just like, you deserve the name too, if you’re going to be taking up all this work. And I was like oh, you guys, thank you!”

The underclassmen changemakers brought in Aurora Behavioral Health as a sponsor to the event, and representatives spoke about the importance of Black mental health care, connecting students to a community support that they otherwise may not have known about. Additionally, small business owner and Concordia College St. Paul student Zantavious Graham spoke about his fashion brand Forever-Remain-Motivated, or FRM MERCH.
Graham’s unique clothing line promotes the values of his company through their slogan, and he shared a motivational speech with the crowd. BSC and Graham created a promotional opportunity for Hamline students to purchase FRM MERCH and have part of the proceeds returned to BSC.
Senior Fednise Stark has attended Soul Food Dinner for the past four years, and appreciated the refreshing conversations in addition to the music and food that this year offered.
“The Soul Food Dinner this year was really much needed to just relax and be able to be with my friends and dance around and just have a really good time,” Stark said.
In her final year at Hamline, she expressed it can be difficult to work through feelings of senioritis and to remain motivated in pursuing her goals. For Stark, Graham’s words of motivation rang true.

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“[Graham’s speech] really changed my whole viewpoint for my last year at Hamline, because at first it was ‘Okay, just chug along and I’ll be fine.’ Now it’s ‘Okay, actually, in order to chug along I need to have something to motivate me and to move forward to.’ So I started just looking for more motivational points so that I’m not just going through life looking for the end goal,” Stark said.

The executive board members of HASA, EASU, BSC and a representative from HUPB posed for a photo. Clockwise from top left is first-year Ayan Ibrahim, sophomore Nasra Shube, sophomore Suli Fakunle, sophomore Momed Abdirahman, first-year Keegan Terrone, sophomore Manaal Ahmed, sophomore Jitu Duga, sophomore Fayine Kurkura, sophomore Ayan Abdulkader, sophomore Ridwan Hussein, sophomore Hanan Abdi, senior Elmo Glass and junior Kamaria Williams. (Elisa Lopez, courtesy of the Black Student Collective)

Along with Graham and Aurora Behavioral Health, Soul Food Dinner hosted a number of local artists to play music and get people up and dancing. Hip-hop artist MaLLy kicked off the after-dinner show, followed by Caleb Gampson and Three Degrees with a rap performance. Junior Joe Mason and his band Gifted Handz finished the night and ensured that the audience were dancing by the time his set was finished.
Senior Nasra Sufi, who had never been able to attend a Soul Food Dinner before this year, was surprised by the amount of dancing and energy the Hamline student body generated.
“I was just like, woah, people were that hyped. A whole conga line, and dance circles and everyone was just so confident in being there which again, I love,” Sufi said.
Students danced well into the night, and with spring break right around the corner, they left the evening reenergized for the last push of the academic calendar. In celebration of community and culture, the collaborative Soul Food Dinner could not have come at a better time of the year.
“I feel like them bringing the people here was pretty intentional, showcasing the different Black communities here, and with that I really appreciate it, especially [being] pretty underrepresented here at Hamline,” Sufi said. “I could see the sense of community, and with that it was pretty radical I would say.”

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