“Dreams Deferred” was this year’s title for the 27th annual Black Student Union Soul Food Dinner on Saturday Feb. 27. As in the past, the event was planned to coincide with the last Saturday of February to mark the close of Black History Month.
The event opened with attendees being called to an appetizing dinner of collard greens, corn on the cob, corn bread, mac and cheese, yams, rice and peas, fried chicken and ribs. The menu was completed with ice cream and apple crisps for dessert.
BSU’s Student Association representative senior Christian Beckley explained that what he likes about the event is that it unites the community by breaking bread together. Exemplifying this notion of community spirit, members of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity reached out to lend a helping hand with preparation for the dinner.
“We were able to make a lot more food and were able to get stuff done in time because of them,” BSU president junior Emonnie Bennett said. Campus Auxiliary Services also provided support by supervising, ordering ingredients and offering a place to prepare the food.
Beyond promoting unity, the use of soul food—which has roots in the Deep South—was a way of celebrating the black community and the historical resourcefulness of slaves and their children.
“Slaves only had a limited amount of resources and they [would manage] to make great meals out of leftovers,” BSU vice president senior Ashley Ramos said.
The meal was followed by an entertainment segment in the form of a play featuring BSU members as the actors. Set in the 1920s against the backdrop of the Harlem Renaissance, prohibition and segregation, the play followed the conflicting dreams of African-American father Maxwell Huff—played by Beckley—and his son Leon—played by freshman Luc Turnier. A proud owner of a lucrative speakeasy club during the nation’s prohibition era, Maxwell Huff continuously turns down offers from Donald Romney, a white owner of other speakeasies who seeks to buy Huff’s club so that he could establish a monopoly.
Huff’s refusal to sell his club stems from the fact that not only was his club one of the few black-owned businesses, but also because he had worked extremely hard to make it successful.
In contrast, Leon Huff is an aspiring poet with a conflicting vision for the future of his father’s business. Leon Huff wants to sell the speakeasy in order to revamp it into into a poetry club. When Donald Romney passes away, his wife Linda Romney—played by senior Caroline Berrios—continues to work to fulfill his dream of achieving a monopoly. The shocking climax features Linda Romney burning down the club when Maxwell Huff continues to refuse to sell it, unknowingly killing him in the process. With retrospective regret due to arguments he had had with his father, Leon Huff eventually achieves his own dreams of forming a poetry club.
“We wanted to put on a show not just to entertain, but also to educate,” Ramos said.
This fusion of entertainment and education was further stressed with freshman Alexa Rosario’s rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” which featured a PowerPoint slideshow of the aftermath of race riots in places like Rosewood, Florida and Tulsa, Oklahoma, where “black Wall Street” was targeted and burnt down by angry white mobs.
President Denise Battles was in attendance along with Assistant Dean of Students for Multicultural Programs & Services Fatima Johnson. Johnson was honored for her commitment to promoting diversity within and around the Geneseo community.
Another highlight of the evening was the announcement of a new scholarship initiative which will be implemented beginning next spring. Two freshmen recipients from the Access Opportunity Program will be awarded $250 each based on certain criteria. BSU explained that they aspire to open the scholarship to the whole campus in the future.
Ramos emphasized her hopes “to continue on the track BSU is on, with excellency, exploring history, progress [and encouraging] diversity on campus and in meetings.”