The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

Love Around the Dinner Table at the Soul Food Sampler

Students+sitting+around+the+table+in+the+Office+of+Intercultural+Education.+
Tonya Bailey-Curry
Students sitting around the table in the Office of Intercultural Education.

Fried chicken, collard greens, black eyed peas, smoked turkey, cornbread, mac and cheese and red velvet cupcakes. These are just some of the dishes students tried at the Soul Food Sampler hosted by the Office of Intercultural Education on Feb. 11.

The first of its kind, the OIE hopes to make the Soul Food Sampler a flagship program that they repeat during Black History Month every year.

Associate Dean and Director of the OIE Tonya Bailey-Curry says that they started the event by explaining what soul food is, why it’s important and how to honor it.

“Soul food is food that is cooked with love and care,” Bailey-Curry said. “And so it was important for us in the OIE to exemplify that by preparing it personally.”

Bailey-Curry cooked all the food herself as a way of showing her love for the students and her co-workers at the OIE.

“As odd as it might sound, we love all of our students, and we care for them in ways that sometimes remind them of home,” Bailey-Curry said. “To me, that fills people’s souls with love.”

The recipes she used came from her home and from the women in her family.

“These recipes were passed down from my grandmother’s grandmother to my grandmother to my mom to me. Now I’m passing them on to my daughter,” Bailey-Curry said. “They’re not written down, we just know ‘oh about this much, and this goes here’. So, it’s a very personal experience.”

Bailey-Curry was touched to have students come up to her to tell her the food reminded them of home.

“As somebody that understands the importance of soul food, that’s the highest compliment that you can get as somebody that prepared the food,” Bailey-Curry said. “Because you know what that means, you know what the person is saying.”

One student, in particular, she recalls was particularly appreciative of the familiar food.

“One of our students had filled this plate with cornbread. And I was like, ‘you really like cornbread!’ And he was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I love cornbread. And I haven’t had it since I’ve been here, not like this.’ I think he was just so comfortable and experiencing this warmth that maybe he hadn’t experienced in a while,” Bailey-Curry said.

After students had filled their plates, Professor of Dance Brian Evans began a performance of his Busking for Reparation project. The project uses spoken word, poetry, music and song to engage listeners in a conversation about reparations for American Descendants of Slavery.

“His idea around reparations, that’s a heavy topic. But it didn’t feel heavy,” Bailey-Curry said. “It felt like this was important and it matters to all of us. And we all had different identities in that space. But it didn’t just matter to the Black and Brown people that were in that space. It mattered to everyone.”

Bailey-Curry complimented Evans on his ability to draw listeners into the conversation with his performance. Afterwards, she recalls students began talking about what they had heard amongst themselves and with the group.

“And those conversations were really robust. And I think that I was watching students that, again, all different identities, really engage in meaningful conversations with one another, and they appear to be comfortable doing so,” Bailey-Curry said. “And that’s not something that I’ve always seen.”

Evans in turn praised the work of the OIE, expressing the honor he felt to participate in their event.

“The people who co-create that space anchor the community in ways that focus on a collective community of care that serves us far more than the resources provided,” Evans said. “Any opportunity to lift up their efforts is the least I can do as a Bates community member to ensure their mission and vision for the college reach their fullest expression.”

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About the Contributor
Ella Beiser, Editor-in-Chief
Ella is a Junior from Chicago double majoring in Politics and Hispanic Studies. In her free time, Ella enjoys hosting a WRBC radio show, working in the greenhouse and biking around Lewiston. She is the Editor in Chief of The Student and previously served as an Assistant News Editor and Assistant Features Editor for The Student. She freelances for her local newspaper the South Side Weekly, has been published in the Maine Monitor and Vocalo Radio and in summer 2023 she was a reporting intern for the Lewiston Sun Journal.

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