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ISSUE 121 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/29/2008

Soul food feeds discussion

By Sagirah Shahid
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 29, 2008

The aroma of crispy fried chicken, savory macaroni and cheese and sweet corn filled the air as St. Olaf students crowded themselves into the Diversity Awareness House Friday evening.

"It evoked memories of being home," said Mejenta Littsey '11. Soul Food Night, one of the many events provided by C.U.B.E. in honor of Black History Month, allowed students to eat their share of traditional soul food while taking part in an open conversation about multicultural issues faced at St. Olaf and in the United States.

"This is not the first time we've had this event, but this is the first time we've had Ron Hunter, the founder of C.U.B.E., present," said Shiquita Bradford '09, the current president of C.U.B.E. and one of the main organizers of Soul Food Night. Hunter, the honorary guest speaker of Soul Food Night, started St. Olaf's first black student center (the original C.U.B.E.), in the old Ytterboe music Annex nearly 40 years ago in the late 1960s. Originally from Tennessee, Hunter majored in math and was a member of the math team at St. Olaf.

Reinforcing C.U.B.E.'s theme for Black History Month this year, "A long way in a short time," Hunter shared his unique perspective on being one of St. Olaf's few black students during the civil rights era. A legal adviser for a major corporation and a member of St. Olaf's Board of Regents, Hunter vividly described his struggles of trying to improve racial dynamics at St. Olaf.

Fully loaded with archives and old photos to help students construct a visual of the time period, Hunter also openly discussed the current state of diversity on campus with students. "St. Olaf's efforts to become more diverse are great, but we need better," commented Hunter during the discussion. While responding to students' questions concerning affirmative action and racism, Hunter advised students to "take off the lenses" they normally use while interacting with people who come from different backgrounds than they do.

Students enjoyed hearing Hunter talk because of the wide range of subjects addressed. "I liked the ideas and different issues discussed," said Justin Remer-Thamert '10, who attended soul food night with friends.

Other students appreciated Hunter's historical perspective. "It was interesting to hear [Hunter's] perspective on St. Olaf's past and to see how it's changing and where it's going," commented Kyla Rylie '11, an active member of C.U.B.E.

Although Hunter addressed several controversial issues such as subversive racism and the issues concerning divisions within multicultural groups, he still had time to comment on the food. "The eating at St. Olaf sure is a whole lot different," he chuckled.

Several St. Olaf students left the D.A. house with full minds and stomachs. C.U.B.E. member Lynette Simpson '11 summarized the night and Hunters talk in a single word: great.

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