Monday, February 6, 2017

Black History Month Dinner

The first-annual Black History Month Dinner in the Miser Mom household was a resounding success.  Woo-hoo!  (In fact, as you can tell by the fact that I'm calling it "first annual", we're already looking forward to next year).

What made it a success?  People, for one thing.  I had my extended family here (dad, step-mom, sisters, large subset of my children), plus a friend and her friends -- all together, we had 14 people for dinner.  We had enough people, in fact, that we had to set up a "cool" table for the teenagers, 

and a geeky table for the rest of us.
(Wait: did N-son get dinner at both tables?)
The food was fabulous.  My sisters (one wearing her pussy hat) cooked up fried catfish and "hipster collard greens" (kale from her own garden, with bacon and other yummy stuff).  I added homemade cornbread and store-bought mac-n-cheese.  
Next year, though, per about a gazillion suggestions from students and friends, I'm doing fried chicken instead of fried catfish, plus collard greens that are actually collard greens. But this year, I couldn't pass up the offer from my sisters to cook my dinner for me!

I decorated the walls of my living room with photographs I'd gathered during the summer. I had about thirty of these photographs.   (The names of the people are mostly the names I came up with last April -- see this post -- with the added suggestions that people included in the comments of that post.  That was so helpful!).  

To get good quality photos, I consulted with my college librarians.  They recommended that when I search via google images, I use the "setting -- advanced search" option to filter by "image size, larger than 1024x768").  This meant that the pictures all came out looking pretty good.  I tried to use "action" photos wherever possible (Maya Angelou lying on her carpet, writing, or Sidney Poitier next to a movie camera) to add context.   
My sister hangs out with Shirley Chisholm, Muhammad Ali, and others.
On the back of each photo, I printed out an abbreviated biography.  I spread the pictures out all across the living room, even covering up Georgia O'Keefe, so people wouldn't have to stand in front of each other to see the photos.
My daughter sits between Oprah Winfrey and Alex Haley, among others.
After dinner, we matched up the photos with sticky-note clues, three clues per photo.  At first we thought 30 photos with 90 clues was going to be way too many for us to match up -- it would get tedious.  But working together, we had a great time figuring out who was who, and the activity was surprisingly peppy and fast.  In fact, my guests gave me lots of "next year, you ought to add this person" suggestions.

It helped that each photo had three colors of sticky notes:  a yellow name, a green accomplishment, and a pink accomplishment
So we had some great discussions when we saw, say, two green tags on one photo:  Was this really Oprah?
An entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist who was the first female self-made millionaire in America, she became one of the wealthiest African American women in the country.
No, that was actually Madame C.J. Walker.

At the end, my friend Amanda led us through a "what surprising things did you learn?" exercise, to wrap it all up.  Amanda hadn't known about Major Marshall Walker; my sisters hadn't known that the first major-party black candidate for the President of the United States was a woman (Shirley Chisholm), and so on. The teenage boys, who had asked for this in the first place, and who in true teenage fashion alternated between enthusiasm and pretending to be too cool for the event, either actively or quietly soaked it all up.   (Heh-heh . . . I don't know whether having a pair of teenage girls at the dinner made the event more palatable, or whether it added to J-son's impulse to be a bit aloof from the activity.)  When I asked the boys about doing it again next year, they both gave an emphatic "yes".

In the meanwhile, my family is delightedly sending me more names to include in next year's profiles.  On her flight back home, my youngest sister snapped this photo of a statue in BWI airport:  Bessie Coleman, the first black woman to earn a pilot's license.  Uppity women unite!


  1. And now we all know about Katherine Johnson from Hidden Figures -- a good addition!

    This dinner looks great. Do you have a consolidated list anywhere of all of your monthly dinners? This is on my list of ideas for when my kids get older. I love Gretchen Rubin's advice to have celebrations to make days seem significant through the year (ties in with her "days are long but years are short"). Love that your family comes together regularly, like your older kids, to celebrate together.

    1. That's a good suggestion, thank you!. Someday I'll try to post a list of our special dinners.

      I, too, love that we get together regularly. I don't think I expected that to happen -- it's certainly not something my sisters and I did. We all flew the coop when we grew up, and only got back together with our parents twice or maybe three times a year at first, and only twice a year now. So having a nearly weekly reunion is a new experience for me.

  2. Was discussing this with my husband and he thought of a few more:
    - Levar Burton (Star Trek & Reading Rainbow
    - Kirby Puckett
    - Mae Jemison
    - Jackie Robinson (tho I'm sure you had that already)

    We have a post-it wall at school where people have been adding names for black history month, and it's so fun to see the kids get involved too. Every day, there are a few more post-its. Some students have been hanging posters around the school too -- I think they ordered them for Black History Month, as they're professional ones with info about the person.