Community coffee hour proposes plans for cultural food program, inclusive dialogue

Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

A program called “Not in Our Town” to stop hate, address bullying and build a safe and inclusive community in Charleston was proposed during the Interdisciplinary Center for Global Diversity’s Community Coffee Hour at Jackson Avenue Coffee.

The program would be a way open dialogue on inclusivity in the community, which other communities such as Bloomington-Normal have already started.

Many participants at the Community Coffee Hour said English professor Jeannie Ludlow mentioned the “Not in Our Town” program at a previous coffee hour.

Vernon Woodley, a sociology professor, said he is concerned although people who want inclusivity are at the coffee hour, others who are not open to the idea do not come but should.

“People self-select; they go to things they want to go to,” Woodley said. “What kind of event can we have were we can open it up to all members of the community?”

Woodley suggested a way to get people interested in coming to that type of meeting without feeling attacked. It would be to have an informal mixer with diverse groups, he said.

The mixer would be an open-forum where members of the community could come together to interact and mingle.

Woodley said some people might have reservations about going to the coffee hour, but because a mixer would be less formal, it could be easier to get others to come to the event.

Catherine Polydore, a counseling and student development professor, brought up the idea of having a celebration or a diversified food initiative like the “Taste of Chicago” to bring in more members of the community.

Polydore said having an event like Chicago’s and calling it “Taste of Charleston” would probably be well received by those living in the community.

Many participants who were present at the coffee hour agreed the initiative was something worth starting.

Connie Clarkson, the secretary of the Africana studies department, said the idea could work if they included more diverse members of the community to get more ethnic and cultural dishes.

Clarkson suggested the event could take place at a church and marketed with mention of having food from Africa and the Caribbean.

Sace Elder, a history professor, said she agreed with the plan and the idea of it being hosted in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union, but proposed sharing it with the community.

“I think that the Union and doing it at Celebration is really good idea, but if we’re going to put a lot of energy into it, I think we should try to do it in the community,” Elder said.

Todd Vilardo, the superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the Charleston school district, said he liked the idea and suggested having it be a project run by students.

“Wow, that would be cool if our culinary arts program would turn that into a project for students to cook different types of foods around the world,” Vilardo said.

Felix Kumah-Abiwu, a political science professor, said having a forum featuring minority members of Charleston’s community who have lived in the city for a long time could be helpful.

The idea of more community members acting as host families for international students was also encouraged and proposed during the meeting as well as the idea of another Lawn Party.

The next coffee hour will take place April 3 at Jackson Avenue Coffee.


Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]