Race ‘N Gravy
In southern Louisiana, good conversation comes with good food.
The LSU Honors College recently held its first installment of the “Race ‘N Gravy” program. The program, which has been active for two years, has its humble origins in the Leadership Alumni of Greater Baton Rouge. Director of Career Development at the Honors College, Cindy Seghers, has tailored Race ‘N Gravy specifically for LSU and its students.
Seghers saw how effective the program had been in initiating conversations about race, and decided LSU needed a program of their own to match. Partnering with the Leadership Alumni of Greater Baton Rouge and the LSU Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Honors College kicked off its Race ‘N Gravy discussion in the French House, over a meal, talking about the protests at the University of Mississippi after President Obama’s re-election.
Students from the Honors College LASAL program (Louisiana Service and Leadership) met with other Honors College students and students contacted through the Office of Multicultural Affairs. After sharing a meal in different groups of about ten people each, they broke off with a group moderator to talk about race and how it was involved in the protests at Ole Miss.
Eunice Lavigne, an alumna of Leadership Baton Rouge, opened the discussion by establishing that the goal of the day was to create a safe space where there is a lack of judgment, create a more unified community, and to learn something from other individuals. When the students returned after an hour of discussion, they unanimously agreed that the experience was a positive one.
“I'm glad that we were able to start and make roots in the discussion today,” said Honors College student Christa Mahlobo, “I saw that people are very passionate about race, and that people want to advocate for change in any way they can. And the best way is through conversation.”
Group moderator and Graduate Assistant of the Office of Multicultural Affairs Krystie Nguyen said that her students were prepared to confront the issue of race and handled the issue well.
“I was very enlightened as a group leader,” said Nguyen. “My group was more than knowledgeable and well-prepared for what we had to discuss. I think we unpacked a lot of themes in our group. We found common threads, and were able to come up with action plans to go out and make a difference.”
Tran Tran, also an Honors College student, commented it was a pleasant surprise to see how many people want to advocate change.
“It's rare when you just get together and talk about such a touchy but prevalent subject” said Tran. “So it's nice to know that most people want to have some kind of harmony going on in a community.”
Before the session closed, the students were told to choose two group leaders to orchestrate another four meetings before the end of the spring semester. All the groups will reconvene at the end of the academic year to discuss their progress as a small group.
“There was a lot of good discussion,” said Honors College student Harry Watts. “I think that after this we're going to use what we learned to actually make progress and unify LSU.”
Story by Jacqueline DeRobertis, LSU Honors College
For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831