Black History Month Kick-Off in John Jay

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In which Columbia dining connoisseur Dena Yago informs how much soul she got for her swipe at last night’s John Jay dinner:

Kicking off Black History month, John Jay held what is colloquially referred to as “Black Night.” DVD’s and CD’s of Sidney Poitier and Mary J. Blige were tactfully set up over the yams and ribs, but by far, the main centerpiece was the Barack Obama shrine set up over the salad bar.

Biscuits and cornbread were the runaway favorite, perfectly matched to the collared greens and pulled pork. Wilma took real pride in her creation, barbecue sandwiches and some unidentifiable veggie patty with cole slaw. The more adventurous set had fried plantains and baked yams at the vegan bar. Breaking from John Jay tradition, the food had soul. Soul food, perhaps?


The presence of spices and flavor threw a couple visitors for a loop, as did the plethora of flags hanging in the
dining hall. I’m not really sure what countries they were; I’m not really sure if they knew what countries they were.  If I recall, there was an Armenian flag, and that is definitely a white country.  Ultimately, along with the informational brochure provided by the Black Engineering Society of Columbia, the meal lived up to the hype and left me feeling strong, black and proud.

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  1. ruminator  

    dena yago = related to gideon?

  2. Anonymous

    Possibly the biggest drawback to studying abroad is missing banana pudding at the my favorite John Jay night of the year.

  3. back in the South

    such wanton stereotyping by a University would inspire outrage, especially a historically white institution such as Columbia.

    but alas, give the people (no matter what race) what they want. and Southern fare is always welcomed (my freshman year I thought this was a Southern food day at John Jay, only realizing with "Mr. T's Banana Pudding" it was for Black History Month---Mr. T, a true American hero).

    • agree  

      i'm surprised more people don't find (or talk about finding) this at least a little offensive.

      • yeah  

        As a Southerner myself, I was pretty appalled at this last year, and given the propensity of this campus for outrage, I don't know why people don't find it more offensive. It's one thing to serve foods common to the African Diaspora and note their African origins (e.g. yam fufu), but fried chicken and cornbread is by no means "black," and it's often derogatory to imply that it is. What else did they serve, watermelon?

      • hmmmm  

        yea the flag comment and this is kind of a bit much: "left me feeling strong, black and proud." but i mean, maybe she did?

        and are Armenians really "white"?

  4. omg  

    is this for real? this is crazy.

  5. holy crap  

    i'm effing sick of all this hypersensitivity to black issues. how is "friend chicken and cornbread" offensive to blacks? it's just as much a part of the culture as yam fufu. quit being a reactionary asshole.

    • McFister

      I agree, to get offended by this is ridiculous. It's not a stereotype, it's a traditional cuisine. You'd be hard-pressed to find a single soul food cookbook that leaves out recipes for fried chicken and cornbread. The thought would be laughable. The fact is, these foods are embraced as part of this culinary tradition, which is strongly associated with black culture. And the 'Double Standards' poster is a fucking moron.

  6. I think  

    that Dena is officially the multi-cultural meals guru for the Bwog. Perhaps she should get a title and go out on weekly assignments.

  7. mlp  

    As a Cajun, I'm always pretty offended by the Cajun Night John Jay throws every Mardi Gras. I just wish they would maybe do some research to determine what Cajun food (and culture) actually is -- spicy does not necessarily equal Cajun.

    • Cajun  

      I had no idea there were any other coonasses here! I don't find "cajun" food offensive, as much as I find it terrible that others will somehow think that cajuns really like that crap.

      As a southerner, I don't care if what they serve for black history month offends people. I love fried chicken, fried okra, and cornbread (especially jalapeno cornbread).

  8. Poli. Corr. Asshole  

    "If I recall, there was an Armenian flag, and that is definitely a white country."

    Because Armenia doesn't have black people?

    And anyway, why would white people care about Black History Month? It's not like black people are relevant to White History anyway, right?


    I wish Bwog would stop writing about other cultures as if they were really foreign. I've noticed that the only case in which they tend not to do this is regarding Jewish culture. Could this have something to do with the staff?

    I suggest recruiting people who are majoring/knowledgable about other cultures too. And no, this doesn't mean that they have to be a certain race/ethnicity. It just means that they should be aware of things that the current staff isn't aware of.

    • well  

      Armenia does not really have many black people:
      Ethnic Armenians make up 97.9% of the population. Yazidi Kurds make up 1.3%, and Russians 0.5%. There are smaller communities of Assyrians, Georgians, Greeks and Ukrainians.

  9. don't call me lady!  

    "I've noticed that the only case in which they tend not to do this is regarding Jewish culture. Could this have something to do with the staff?"

    when did "the jews control the media" stop being an offensive stereotype?

    • umm  

      noting that bwog treats jewish culture somewhat differently from others does not constitute the equivalent of the statement "the jews control the media"

      ...hyperbolized rhetoric endlessly crying wolf about anti-semitism is the worst thing I can imagine for jews...or anyone else, and leads to some of the very conclusions it frets.

  10. asdf  

    so is she gideon yago's sister or not? let's focus here people.

  11. anonymous  

    As an international student, I think that AA students need to drop the "African" from their nomenclature, especially as they have little in common with current Africans - who prefer to addressed by their actual nationality. Since we don't refer to Americans with European heritage as European-Americans why are we still using such a pc and archaic term?

    • Agreed!  

      And why do we use "Asian-American" as if Asia was a country? Parts of Asia hate other parts of Asia.

    • uh...yeah  

      While I'm not offended by the soul food in JJ (The reason it hasn't been made an issue is because it'd be hard to find an African-American who hasn't been raised on cornbread, fried chicken, and peach cobbler and enjoyed every second of it.), I do find it really offensive that you think we should drop the "African" from our heritage. Despite the fact that we may have little in common with current Africans, we still feel a connection to our past, which began in Africa. Most of us don't know what country we're from originally, and something about the way "American" was added to the nomenclature has made it pretty hard to keep up with the times across the Atlantic.

      It's not archaic. It's an acknowledgement of our history.

    • anonymous?  

      quote: "As an international student, I think that AA students need to drop the "African" from their nomenclature"
      As an international student, and not an african american, I don't think that it is your choice as to what people call themselves.

  12. argh  

    Everyone just call yourself what you want. If you want to be called black call yourself black. If you want to be called AA then do that. It's only PC if you overthink it.

    A+ work by Ms. Yago.

    • dd2  

      It is not so easy to say "call yourself what you want" when each person in a minority is taken to represent a whole. What offends me about this AA bs is that all people with black skin, regardless of origin, are lumped together. College apps, for example, ask you to describe your "race" base on black/african-american (hey, we all look the same, don't we [/sarcasm]), non-hispanic, white, etc. This is truly bs. How can a culture continue to ostracize themselves from the majority by insisting on keeping the hyphenated name? What about Africans (Ghanaians, SAfricans) who come to the US - the former immediately being labeled as AAs, and the latter as whites? It is not a question of culture, or lost heritage (how many of you actually try to learn something about the different countries and cultures? It's a continent, each country having different traditions! It cannot be summed so succinctly into one word) it simply is a question of color, using a thinly veiled terminology. If people think that 100, 200 years from now, these terms are really necessary in order to remind others of the past, they are mistaken.

  13. if you want  

    to be accurate, just call actual people who are from the African continent AAs, and the ones that have been here for X generations post-slaves.

    • wow  

      you really advocate calling an entire ethinicity in america 'post-slaves'?

      the outrageousness, insensitivity, bigotry, and idiocy of that suggestion are too great to explain on a blog.

    • login  

      How about:
      What is wrong with that? People with European descent don't feel the need to tack that on to their names, why should an entire culture, most of whom have never been to the continent in question, and probably never will go, choose to continue to associate themselves with it? As other people might be wont to bring up, the term Asian-American is in prolific use. However, the majority of people who identify themselves as such either have parents, or grand-parents who have come from a country in Asia or they themselves currently immerse themselves in the culture (visits, language, etc.).

      Another thing: #29 you are a douche.

  14. my problem

    with "African American" is that it lumps in dark-skinned people from non-African countries. Do you think Jamaicans appreciate being called AA? Or people from Caribbean countries, and other non-African island locales? If we're going to insist on referring people to their ethnic makeup and skin colors at all (which is dumb in and of itself), we might as well make it simple: black, white, etc. Because in our efforts to be as inclusive and PC as possible, we actually end up excluding more people.

    • Confused  

      I do know that many people from the Caribbean are called "black," but why would anyone call a Bahamian African American? I think people only apply that term to people from islands such as those when they haven't yet considered that many blacks find their ancestry in/identify with the islands, and not Africa. I think the fact that we have campus groups like the Haitian Students Association shows that many people don't "lump" all black people together.

      And I don't think that calling myself African-American because of my family's history ostracizes me from the majority, as #28 suggested. Using student life as an example again, I personally see clubs like BSO, HSO (Hindi and Haitian), CSC, and KSA as using their identity in celebration, not isolation. Call me naive, but I don't think taking ethnic distinctions out of our lexicon completely is the right solution for the problems that people speak of.

      As for the recent gastronomy at John Jay. I think that some of the evening's characteristics sound a little bit awkward, but that food sounds delicious. I love Wilma! Many of the items described are definitely considered "soul food," whether also part of general Southern-ness or not. Plantains appear in many different countries; why on earth should I feel that I shouldn't include them in a Caribbean-themed event just because they're also eaten in South America and Africa?

  15. southerner

    collard not collared

  16. the Man  

    Lets not omit other groups of people who are lumped into AA by politically correct ethno-academics with agendas to push...

    Would it be fair to classify Egyptians as AA? I'm sure they would take much offense, as they are very proud of their well-known ancient history, and I think modern Egyptians would associate themselves with their Arabic neighbors to the east moreso than their fellow Africans to the south.

    I totally agree with #33, in that AA lumps too many people into a continent that do not have any connection to it. This lumping is further complicated by an insistance on using the term AA to brand a culture (e.g. food, music, etc)

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