A UH Hilo Black History Month event—Soul Food for Thought Café—not only highlighted African American history but it also cohesively brought together cultures that comprise the UH Hilo community.
February is Black History Month and several events have been held on campus centered around the impacts the black community has had in history. Last Friday, Soul Food for Thought Café was held at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Campus Center Dining Hall. There was an array of events ranging from poetry and music to hula.
Soul Food for Thought Café not only highlighted African American history but it also cohesively brought together cultures that comprise the UH Hilo community. The vibrant and energetic colors, sounds and food not only resonated in the hearts and minds of those in attendance but it touched the souls of those who performed and participated.
The performers ranged from UH Hilo students to faculty as well as members of the Hilo community. Some performers participated for the first time, like Vince McMillon.
McMillon is a local bus driver and has been writing poetry since he was 10 years old—he comes from a family of writers and this was only his second time reciting his own work to an audience in a public forum. He says he loves hearing the spoken word and loved the inclusion of other cultures like Shelbi Shimazu’s hula performances and Pricilla Momah’s musical and vocal talent.
“I liked that it was not all Black culture,” McMillon says. “MC Michele Dalton mentioned at the beginning that Hawaiian and Black cultures are on the same plate and I would agree. I was impressed by and pleased that all cultures were invited. Plus, the performances were done by people of all races which was refreshing.”
Several UH Hilo students were in attendance—Maddy Shackleford, a transfer student and biology major from Seattle, Washington, was one. Shackleford says she was excited to attend Soul Food for Thought Café not only because of the delicious food but because she was interested in seeing some of the local talent from people a part of the UH Hilo campus as well as members of the Hilo community.
“The personal poems touched me the most,” she explains. “It helped further blur the societal lines put in place between races and classes.”
Shackleford says it’s nice to see people of varying culture and ethnicity come together to perform a range of activities especially with the current political discord occurring in the media world and social atmosphere.
Ginger Hamilton, director of the Minority Access and Achievement Program, and Michael Marshall, professor and chair of the Department of Art, currently hold seats on the Black History Month Committee on campus that coordinated and facilitated this event.
“We’ve been collaborating on events like this around campus for many years,” says Marshall. “The work of Student Affairs often intersects with academics—for example like Filipino American Heritage Month hosted in October.”
Hamilton says that she enjoys putting together and participating in these campus events because it is not just her job but also her passion.
“My office represents the underrepresented,” she explains. “I think Black History Month events are empowering to anyone because without civil rights many minority groups would not have the rights they have today.”
“All groups need to have a voice and this is a great avenue and opportunity for that to happen,” she adds.
Marshall agrees, saying, “It is important to share perspectives and experiences with one another along with placing emphasis on all cultures.”
Numerous students at the event said they would attend another event like this and plan to partake in more events around UH Hilo.
Anne Rivera (junior, communication) is a public information intern and Zoe Coffman (senior, art) is a photography intern in the Office of the Chancellor.
-UH Hilo Stories