Black community at UA opens doors to students far from home

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The black community of the University of Arizona came together last week to bring a little more light and a little more food to students for Thanksgiving weekend.

On Friday, Nov. 22, the African American Community Council, or AACC, held a potluck in partnership with Team Keeping the Culture Alive, offering students the opportunity to get to know their community.

“It is an event for those students who don't have the money to buy food or are not able to go home,” said Ray Ray Lambeth, an administrative assistant for African American Student Affairs, or AASA.

And to those students without a place to go for Thanksgiving day, some community members even offered their homes to students for the holiday. The event was aptly called the Home Away from Home Potluck.

“It’s great. Those who are going home can spend time with those who are staying,” said Annalise Cooper, an AASA member who attended the potluck. “It is like a big Thanksgiving.”

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The Home Away from Home event took place in the Martin Luther King Jr. building on Friday evening, where more than 80 students gathered to celebrate with a warm, home-cooked meal brought by the community.

“The Home Away from Home event is a chance to connect our UA African American students with their Black community here in Tucson,” Beah Williams, the coordinator of this event, said in an email. “No matter where they are from, they have a Black community right here in Tucson that will support and uplift them throughout their educational journey.”

Karla Morales, director of the Department of Multicultural Advancement, mentioned that the UA has different community councils that provide safe environments for students, where they can make friends.

“The purpose is to build community,” Morales said. “It is to make sure that we let our students know that there is a place for them on campus where they can build community, where they can develop these friendships and develop these relationships.”

Part of the AACC’s goal for the event was to show students that even though they are far from home, they are not alone.

The holidays can feel especially isvolating for students with no way back home, but for international students like freshman and UA football player Eddie Siaumau-Sanitoa, moving from American Samoa to the U.S. for college was a big enough transition already.

“It’s a different environment, being far away from home,” Siaumau-Sanitoa said.

According to Williams, not having family close to them during holidays can induce a state of loneliness in those students. Events like the Home Away from Home Potluck offer them the chance to feel connected with their community when they might otherwise feel disconnected from it.

“Even if it is not part of the culture where you come from, it provides an opportunity for students to feel included, to feel part of the community, to feel part of a family,” Morales said.

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Beside the large spread of homemade dishes — including wings, fries, salad, cake, mashed potatoes, bread and much more — community members also offered their homes to students for the holiday weekend. These community members gave students without the ability to go home for Thanksgiving day the opportunity to feel like a part of a family.

“The most exciting thing putting together this event was the amount of individuals throughout the Black community that wanted to participate and [were] willing to open their homes to our students during the holiday break,” Williams said.

According to Williams, thanks to the involvement of the black community students who would have normally spent the weekend alone have found a home in Tucson where they are welcome to spend their holiday.



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