Dustin Steinhoff, Staff Writer

Throughout the Millennium Student Center, the smell of delicious fried food and sounds of melodic R&B music filled the air as the University of Missouri-St. Louis kicked off Black History Month with the Soul Food Celebration on February 1.

UMSL students and faculty members were able to grab a plate and load it as full as they pleased from the pans of prepared soul food. Soul food is a traditional Southern African American type of meal. The foods available at the event included fried favorites such as fried okra, fried catfish and chicken wings, sides such as macaroni and cheese, biscuits, corn and mashed sweet potatoes and various types of cakes for dessert. Sodexo and campus catering provided the soul food for the event.

Ashlee Roberts, assistant director of the Office of Student Involvement, coordinates community and diversity service initiatives for UMSL and organized the Soul Food Celebration as well as all the other 2018 Black History Month events. While February is National Black History Month, preparation for all the events started last fall by UMSL organizations such as the Black Student Organization, Black Business Student Association, Associated Black Collegians and the Office of Student Involvement.

The Association for the Study of African Life and History issues a theme for Black History Month every year. This year’s theme is “African Americans in Times of War.” One event in particular that goes along with that theme is I, Too, Sing America: Black Patriotism in the U.S. The event takes place on February 20 in the MSC at 7 p.m.

“This event is really timely considering everything happening with Colin Kaepernick and his stance, people advocating for black lives matter, being accused of not caring about the country and not being patriots,” Roberts said. “It will pull in historical contexts of patriotism as well as contemporary issues.”

Music fans will want to check out Soul’d Out on February 9 and Black Umfolosi on February 17. Soul’d Out takes place in the MSC and features vocalists, spoken word, musicians, visual artists, and more in celebration of African Americans in the arts. Black Umfolosi is an acapella group that  will be performing at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. Black Umfolosi specializes in imbube music, gumboot dance and Zulu dance and has toured extensively across the U.S. as well as Europe, Canada, Australia, and Asia.

Film enthusiasts will have multiple opportunities to watch important African American movies as well. The documentary “Am I: Too African to be American or Too American to be African?” will be shown at the Student Government Association Chambers on February 8 and “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” will be shown in the SGA Chambers on February 16. UMSL is also offering tickets to see the upcoming Marvel film “Black Panther” at 24:1 Cinema on February 18.

Roberts stresses that while Black History is a celebration of African American history and culture, the events can—and should—be enjoyed by people of all cultures.

“Black History Month programs are open to everybody,” Roberts said. “Black history is American history and while we have this designated month, it is for everyone to learn about black history.”

Black History Month also presents an opportunity for students to learn about subjects that the school systems generally tend to overlook.

“Black students are not learning about [black history] aside from their families and the likelihood that non-black students are is even lower. Students are certainly not learning about [black history] in the schools beyond Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks,” Roberts said.

Almost every event for UMSL’s 2018 Black History Month is free and open to the public with events happening multiple times a week.

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