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A Black History Month luncheon draws a bigger crowd this year

The line of five faculty and staff, including the college President Paul Watson, serve the food at Kellogg Community College's annual Soul Food Luncheon in the Binda Performing Arts Center. A woman in the foreground wears a black leather coat with a fur collar and a black cap and glasses has turned to find a seat.  Another woman, with grey hair in a black coat with a fur lined hood gathers two white Styrofoam to-go boxes after putting barbeque sauce on a dish of ribs. On the table there are napkins and a variety of barbeque sauces to chose from.
Leona Larson
/
WMUK
KCC faculty and staff, including President Paul Watson, serve the food at the 24th annual Soul Food Luncheon in the Binda Performing Arts Center at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek on Feb. 20.

Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek celebrated the 24th Soul Food Luncheon on Tuesday.

People lined up for chicken, ribs, greens and more at the annual Soul Food Luncheon, Tuesday at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek.

This year’s luncheon for Black History Month drew about 100 more people than it did in 2022 and 2023.

“The food, the community, it's great to see so many people come out and be involved in an event like this. It's cool to get people on campus and talking about such cool stuff,” said Drea Fox, who works in the registrar’s office and remembers the luncheon as a highlight from her time as a student.

“It really opens up my eyes to the school a little bit more and makes me like, get more involved, honestly,” said first year student Josh Turner.

Battle Creek resident, Carolyn Ballard, said this was the first year she could make it. Her work schedule had not allowed her to come in the past. But now that she’s retired, she said she wouldn’t miss it.

“I kept saying, 'I wish I could go.' And as soon as the opportunity presented itself where I was able to come, that’s what I did.”

The Soul Food Luncheon is open to staff, students and the community. Now in its 24th year, the man who started the Black History Month event was there too. In 2000, the current president of Kalamazoo Valley Community College, L. Marshall Washington, was president of student services at Kellogg Community College.

“At first it was a small thing, where we kind of did something internally, and they asked if I would come and share some of my family's recipes, and worked in the kitchen for a day or two. And you know, and then it kind of grew,” said Washington, who said he’d been invited to return to KCC for Tuesday’s luncheon, which was held in the Binda Performing Arts Center.

A woman in a black hat and a brown and black sweater looks at her phone, perhaps running a sale, while two customers shop at her table.  One customer is in pink pants and a tie dye hooded sweatshirt. The third  woman is in black pants and a maroon hooded sweatshirt. The table has a display of handmade soaps and lotions on a black tablecloth.
Leona Larson
/
WMUK
Tiffany Blackman, from the Bread & Basket Marketplace in Battle Creek, works with customers while manning a table at the Soul Food Luncheon on Feb. 20. She's one of many local entrepreneurs participating in the Black-owned Business Showcase for Black History Month at Kalamazoo Coummunity College.

Washington refused to take all the credit for the event and added, “It was so many good people who came around this particular project.”

While the event started out small, Washington said it grew to include the whole community. Tickets were $10, and $5 for students. This year, KCC said 137 student tickets were purchased by the faculty and staff.

The event included a showcase of local Black-owned businesses.

Tiffany Blackman is from the Bread and Basket Marketplace in Battle Creek. Blackman said events like this one help inspire young entrepreneurs.

“If you see others, like yourself in any field, really, whether it's business, entrepreneurship, food management, whatever the case may be, then it gives you opportunity to dream and hope and see yourself as that as well.”

Leona has worked as a journalist for most of her life - in radio, print, television and as journalism instructor. She has a background in consumer news, special projects and investigative reporting.