UDS serves up exhibit for Black history

Krista Poplau

Amid recent press coverage of racially motivated hate crimes, University Dining Services hosted a student exhibit that acted as a wake-up call for people who believe Martin Luther King’s “dream” has been realized.
The exhibit was part of a UDS event designed to promote Black History Month, which ends in a few days. A southern-style soul food menu offered by UDS accompanied the exhibit, while vendors sold a variety of African books and sculptures to more than 100 attendees.
Sanjay Govindan, UDS assistant food service director, planned the event as a way to combine UDS’s diverse food menu with a meaningful showcase.
Black History Month is important to Govindan because he grew up learning about the nonviolent philosophy Martin Luther King adopted from Indian leader Mahatma Ghandi.
“Black History Month is about treating human beings with dignity,” Govindan said.
Michelle Lockhart, a University history graduate student with a minor in African history, displayed her exhibit, “Why Martin Luther King’s Dream is Still A Dream.”
Lockhart said her exhibit focuses on the civil rights leader’s dream that his children would one day be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.
“Where is that dream?” she asked. “The reality is that nothing has changed.”
The exhibit consisted of small pieces of text spread across a display. Closer examination revealed the words describing several recent hate crimes.
The recent dragging death of a black man in Texas and the brutal beating of a Haitian man by New York police officers were two of the writing samples adorning the exhibit.
Lockhart said these examples serve as a reality check to those who see her exhibit. African-Americans are still being judged by their color instead of their character, she said.
“Anyone who takes (Black History Month) seriously feels it isn’t enough,” said University graduate adviser Rose Brewer of the Afro-American and African Studies department.
Area vendors and community members were invited to sell African art at the event as well.
Susan Martin, a youth program coordinator, sold African-American ceramic figurines, which she said were unavailable to Minnesotans in the past.
Martin said she has participated in many Black History Month programs through her work.
“I try to get young people involved in their history. It’s a self-esteem issue,” she said.
Freelance artist Salif Keita from Mali, a country in West Africa, brought traditional African art and jewelry to the event. Keita tours area schools with his art, teaching students about African art and culture.
Keita said the influence of African history should be included in Black History Month as well.
“There’s a ton of history from Africa, and Americans should know more,” he said.
Govindan said the event turned out to be bigger than expected. About two times as many people showed up than usual, he said.
Attendees of the event expressed their appreciation.
“This is a good day,” said community program specialist Marit Enerson, looking around. “They should do more of them.”
Krista Poplau welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3221.