How Not to Celebrate Black History Month and How to Do It Instead

If you’re going to serve soul food for Black History Month make sure you’re serving some context too. (Photo11: M.Edlow, GPTMC)

Here’s what you shouldn’t do during Black History Month: serve a “black” meal.

Don’t follow in New York University and Loyola University Chicago’s footsteps and offer a Black History Month menu with fried chicken and Kool-Aid in your cafeteria. And don’t celebrate by having corn bread and watermelon water for your office lunch.

But why? We’re just trying to celebrate. Everyone loves food.

Last year, a dining hall at NYU served a Black History Month meal with Kool-Aid, watermelon-flavored water, cornbread, collared greens and ribs. Students spoke out about how offensive the offerings were, and the president of the university issued an apology, calling it “inexcusably insensitive.” The same thing happened at Loyola. A dining hall served a Black History Month menu featuring stereotypical food items, which angered students at the university.

Why having a Black History Month meal could turn out badly

Dr. Kimya Dennis, an associate professor of sociology and criminal studies at Salem College in North Carolina, says that most institutions generally aren’t inclusive and tend to ignore racial issues year round, so when they attempt to celebrate Black History Month, oftentimes they are doing so shallowly and insincerely. She said it’s like they’re putting a Band-Aid over the real issues at hand.

“So if they decide to celebrate Black History Month, that’s the one time where they address blackness whereas any other time black people who attend schools or work there, feel like their blackness has to be downplayed,” Dennis told USA TODAY regarding any institution that wants to celebrate the month.