My Enterprise story idea actually came as a surprise. I was not aware of the situation, and neither was anyone else — including my sources. I first went up to Miller Cafe in Lassonde Studios to interview former Chef Mark Jacson about how the menus are chosen there and he revealed the issue to me. Because I am a Black woman and advocate for Black issues, this topic sounded like a no-brainer to me. I also spoke with Chef Francine Kahindo.
Next, I thought to talk to the staff in the Dining Services. I ended up only briefly talking to Jamie Denker, the director of marketing and guest experience. I tried to talk to Mark Morrison, the director of Resident Dining, but he declined an interview and referred me back to Denker. I attempted to reach out to Andrew Fuchs, director of Union Food Operations, but he never got back to me.
From there, I decided to talk to the Black organizations on campus. I went to the Black Cultural Center and spoke with Meligha Garfield and Jatara Smith who then referred me to Cha McNeil, a social justice advocate at the Office of Equity and Diversity. They also advised that I seek out an advocate to help me with talking to the Dining Services on campus, preferably Tawanda Owens. I was able to meet with Owens, who worked with me on my story.
I encountered so many issues. First, people failed to get back to me while I was on deadline. Second, Denker did not give me any useful information for my article. Last, the information that I acquired from Jacson that birthed my story was not entirely true. With the help of my sources and an extension from my professor, I was able to obtain the true information and change the outline of my story for the better.
My focus was handed to me when Jacson told me about the issue. I knew right then and there that I had to write a story about why Soul food was not being served anymore at Miller Cafe. Bits and pieces of my story were missing until I talked to Cha McNeil who flipped the script. She gave me all the information I needed to write a story, which ended up being more about what Soul food is and cultural awareness for the chefs instead of a potential aggressor renouncing Black History Month and Soul food and getting away with it.
The writing process of this story was difficult, seeing as though I ran into multiple obstacles during the stage of gathering information. I learned that it can sometimes feel like the world is trying to stop you from writing whatever story you are on. Things will come up, people will cancel on you, mislead you, and ignore your calls for help. Regardless of what happens, though, I learned that you must power through — or the show must go on, as people say. You have to find a way to complete your story, even if that means going off the original path to make it flow and make sense.
There is no more information that did not make it in my story — that I know about. I wish I would have been able to contact Chef Jacson again after all of the information was presented to me. I would have liked to see what he thought of the whole thing, and to have him involved in the 2020 Black History Month celebration at the U. I wish I would have been able to meet and talk with the students who filed the original complaint on the chicken and waffles fiasco. I think it would have been very interesting to see the faces of the students and hear what they felt when they saw the food.
It did and did not surprise me that Black students were the ones who complained about the food. With the timing of the blatant racism on campus, I was thinking that a racist student had complained instead. But, I was relieved to hear that it was Black students who posed the question of cultural awareness. There was no ill intent behind the truth of the story, and that was more satisfying to me than my original idea being completely true.
I am proud of my story, even though it did not turn out how I expected it to at all. But, I am very excited to see the impact that my story makes for the U, and hopefully shine a light on other issues hiding in the dark.
I am a full-time student currently at the University of Utah, and in spring 2020 will continue my academic career at Rutgers University-Camden until graduation. I am a poet, mentor, and future journalist. I aspire to use my platform to spread awareness for various issues regarding race, gender, and class, inspire people of all ages, and mentor the younger generations. Some of my hobbies include working with young poets, writing various forms of poetry, movie plots, and lyrics, cooking and creating new recipes, reading magazines and books, and analyzing films.