The Multicultural Center Kicks off Black History Month in Style

The dinner itself consisted of traditional Caribbean and South American cuisine. ZOEDEFAZIO/COURTESY

By: Zoe DeFazio, Web Editor

Manhattan College kicked off Black History Month in style with a collaborative event by the Multicultural Center and Black Student Union. The Feb. 2 event consisted of an opening night dinner with a guest lecturer and a live steel-pan performance. 

The dinner itself consisted of traditional Caribbean and South American cuisine such as rice and beans, roasted chicken and curry goat. During the dinner, a lecture on overlooked parts of black history was held by Hayden Greene, director of multicultural affairs. 

Green went into  the history of Carter G. Woodson, the father of black history month and the many contributions of other icons who exemplified black pride. Greene stated that black history month was created in 1926 and originally lasted only a week long. However as time went on, many civil rights activists demanded a month-long celebration. Greens lecture also included an in-depth explanation about the African slave trade and the various countries and islands that most black history is a part of. 

The keynote guest speaker was Craig Samuel, a black entrepreneur and owner of multiple restaurants in NY. Samuel owns Peaches Prime, Peaches Hothouse, Peaches Lewis and Peaches Grand. All restaurants are located in Brooklyn, New York. 

Samuel discussed the value of hard work while still maintaining your family roots. He explained that the inspiration for creating his many restaurants came from traditional foods he enjoyed throughout his childhood. 

“Growing up, my Sunday tradition consisted of a big breakfast, church and then a big dinner,” Samuel said. “My mother made me help her with dinner all the time and that’s where my passion stemmed from. Seeing the food being served and the pictures of the Haitian food on the other slides made me hungry and brought back memories,” Samuel continued.

 Samuel is the son of immigrants from the islands and was brought up on traditional Caribbean cuisine. He owes his success to his supporters such as his primary family including his parents and his wife, Laura Canty-Samuel. 

Analia Santana, sophomore communication major, raved about the food and was excited to be a part of the dinner.

“I found the curry goat delicious and the chicken was  juicy and delicious,” said Santana. “Anytime the multicultural center hosts anything it’s always great.”

She continued by reflecting on how much she learned. Even though Santana has Caribbean roots, she too learned a lot.

“I learned so much about slavery like the origin of the word seasoning,” Santana said. “I am an Afro-Latina with my family origins in the Dominican Republic and felt seen by the focus on Black Caribbean people.”

The lecture discussed countries such as Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Brazil. Greene went into detail on why these countries were chosen for the slave trade. Greene talked about the historical process of adjusting enslaved people into their new location by slowly adding more and more enslaved people into one area; this process is called seasoning.

Chelsey Levique, senior advisor to MC’s Black Student Union shared her own presentation of her Haitian background. Each slide she shared consisted of her love for her heritage along with a relatable feeling of pride and appreciation towards her family. 

Christopher Colavito, sophomore biology major, reflected on Leviques presentation and was moved by her personal story.

“I didn’t know the history behind why Black History Month was a thing until Hayden described it during the dinner, and I found that really important since most students in the room didn’t know the history either,” said Colavito. “Hearing from Chelsey Levique on her Haitian heritage was really inspiring for people to be proud of who they are and where they came from.”

Donovan Vincent Jr., senior chemical engineering major attended the dinner to get a glimpse of his own ancestral background and feel the black pride. 

“As a Caribbean student, every month is Black History Month for me,” said Vincent. “However, February just has a special ambience like no other. Even as a Caribbean student, I still learned so much about my own history at this event such as information from Hayden’s [Greene] explanation behind some of the Caribbean roots and routes along the slave trade.”