Celebrating Black History Month at Home Away From Home

COMMUNITY POTLUCK HSU students Jessica Rose (front) and Elijah Chandler (center)) and Home Away from Home coordinator Pauli Bachemin (back) at the D Street Neighborhood Center in Arcata promoting the Feb. 18 community potluck celebrating Black History Month. Submitted photo

Maureen McGarry
Special To The Union

ARCATA – Much can be learned by exploring the history of the Black-American experience. With input from students of color from Humboldt State University, the Home Away from Home program is hosting its third community potluck.

Community members are invited to come to the D Street Neighborhood Center in Arcata on Sunday, Feb. 18 from 5 to 7 p.m, to celebrate Black History Month. Those who are able are asked to bring a “soul food” dish.

Suggestions of dishes to bring include chili cheese grits, collard greens, split peas, potato salad, candied yams, sweet potato pie, peach cobbler, as well as fried chicken, hot links, ribs, ham, fish, and pork and beans.

“It’s a great idea that was suggested by the students, the people we are trying to reach,” said Pauli Bachemin, coordinator of the program. “We want to show an effort beyond just the concept of equity by using bread-breaking as a bridge to real opportunities.  We want to get beyond just walking by each other without acknowledgement and recognition of each other as equal members of the community.”

HSU student Elijah Chandler is an important participant in the planning of this event. He is a member of Brothers United, vice president of the Black Students Union and chair of the Student Diversity Committee of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“I feel like this is great for students and community members who would not have this opportunity to meet, actively engage, find common ground, and build a relationship outside of their normal circles,” Chandler said.

“We want the community to realize that the Black American experience is everywhere. There is much good that comes from it culturally, but there are hardships that come along with it as well.  In light of recent events, this is a great time for us all to come together and realize how our fellow community members are being affected.”

Bachemin is asking volunteers to commit to getting involved.  Home Away from Home would like volunteers to bring a potluck dish, help meet and greet students at the event, and assist with set-up and clean-up.  He emphasizes that the potlucks are more than just potlucks.

“This is just the catalyst.  This is where we meet in the hopes that all community members make relationships outside of these quarterly events.  We can feel good at the events, but we need to make the connection into relationships, to set tangible change into motion.”

Joining in the spirit of camaraderie and goodwill, Volunteer Center of the Redwoods (VCOR), the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), the City of Arcata, and HSU are working together to encourage participation. Beyond providing food, the event includes an information table about jobs and housing, and a “free stuff” table. Local businesses can get involved by advertising employment opportunities, providing donated goods and gift certificates, and posting signs in their windows promoting this event. There will also be a table with information about home sharing, a program of the Area 1 Agency on Aging.

When students were asked about what they needed that could be brought to the “free stuff” table, the immediate response was personal care items such as toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, lotions, dish soap and laundry soap.  These items can be expensive for students on a limited budget.  If you are one of those people who likes to buy these items in bulk, and you have a closet full of them waiting to be used, here’s your chance to cycle them out to those in need.

For more information about the Sunday, Feb. 18 potluck, email paulibachemin@gmail.com.

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