Af-Lat-Am Launches Black History Month with Homemade Cuisine

Students and faculty filled their plates to the brim with ackee and saltfish, jollof rice, and plantains. Wandering up and down the line of trays, attendees chose from an assortment of traditional West African, Caribbean, and Latinx dishes at the potluck hosted by Andover’s Afro-Latinx-American Society (Af-Lat-Am) in the Underwood Room last Saturday.

Af-Lat-Am board member Ashley Alvarez ’20 said, “One of the best things that happened was my roommate was helping out with cooking. She made cornbread, and it was the first time she made cornbread, so it was really fun to just watch her figure it out and make sure it was good. She was going around with a spoon and making everyone try it, and everyone was just putting in effort, [doing] whatever they could.”

This gathering was a part of last weekend’s events kicking off the start of Black History Month. Throughout the month of February, Af-Lat-Am will be hosting a number of events in celebration of black arts and culture. Last Friday in Kemper Auditorium, many members of the community attended the showing of the movie “Boyz n the Hood,” which details the lives of three friends growing up in South Central Los Angeles.

Emily Ndiokho ’18, president of Af-Lat-Am, said, “It was showing because even though it was set 30 years in the past, it’s still telling about the way in which some black Americans are forced to live in the cycle of poverty, and also the actuality of certain social issues and how they’re still prevalent in our communities.”

The movie, which lasted about two hours, helped students rethink their lives at Andover, according to Abby Ndikum ’20, a board member of Af-Lat-Am.

Ndikum said,“It makes you think about what you currently have. It makes you really grateful for what you have. We all go to Andover. We’re blessed to be here, have an education, eat food every day, go to sports after school, participate in extracurricular activities, and basically prepare ourselves for the future knowing that we will do well. That movie caused me to think about what I have.”

According to Ndikum, the potluck also allowed the community to enjoy homemade food not usually served in Paresky Commons in a family-style setting.

Ndikum said, “I was talking to the board, and I was just like, ‘I’m really hungry for some good food.’ Food that I eat when I go back home. Just something that reminds me of home, because we always see different types of food at [Paresky], but we never really see anything from the West Caribbean or anything from African countries. I just wanted to see a little piece of home while I’m at Andover, so I said, ‘How come we can’t do this ourselves?’ ”

“We have Black Arts Month every year, but the [Paresky] dinner doesn’t always reflect what students on campus want because you can’t always control what [Paresky] can or can’t do. It was a good opportunity for people to have a really personalized dinner where we had choices instead of having just one Black Arts dinner that month and just writing it off,” said participant Hywot Ayana ’20.

The potluck could not have been completed without the help of volunteers who lent a hand with the long hours of preparation and cooking that went into the event, according to Ndikum.

“We met early in the morning at the Brace Center and were cooking the entire day. That was time people could have used for their homework [or] to go shopping with friends, but they were dedicated enough to this enough to get up early on a Saturday morning to cook for their peers and teachers. So, shoutout to everyone that helped with the event,” said Ndikum.

In celebration of Black History Month, Af-Lat-Am will also host more events in the coming weeks, including Black Arts Weekend on February 16 and 17, which will be open to all members of the Andover community.

Thaddeus Hunt ’19, board member of Af-Lat-Am, said, “It’s supposed to be a time where a lot of the missing history from years that have been left out of the regular curriculum can be brought to the forefront and really paid attention to. When it comes down to it, black history is American history for a large part, so it just focuses on that and represents what should have already been there.”