Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio apologized to students and faculty after its dining services division launched a Black History Month menu. The menu featured fried chicken, collard greens, and other southern foods and was placed on a billboard featuring the photos of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other Black leaders.
The apology came down Thursday (Feb. 19) from WSU President David Hopkins via an email and promised that he and his team will investigate how such a display got the green light in the first place. The menu went live this past Wednesday, and a photo of it swirled around social media before it was taken down promptly.
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In an email to WSU, President David Hopkins recounted the university’s commitment to diversity and pride at hosting the Phoenix Project and forum featuring daughters of several civil rights leaders. Hopkins also pledged to dig into why a menu sign included chicken, mashed potatoes, collard greens and cornbread under a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. and other famous black figures.
“I apologize to anyone hurt by the display,” Hopkins wrote about the Wednesday night student union menu. “To our credit, the menu was quickly removed. But the larger question remains: Why was it done? I will find out. We will take steps to prevent this kind of behavior occurring in the future.”
Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services, which posted the menu, declined to answer several specific questions about the menu, but released a statement that read, in part:
“Chartwells celebrates many national events on campus and tries to provide authentic and traditional cuisine to reflect each theme. In no way was the promotion associated with Black History Month meant to be insensitive. We could have done a better job putting this in context of a cultural dining experience. We sincerely apologize.”
Billy Barabino, president of the Black Student Union, said he was “hurt” by the menu’s inclusion in the student meal offerings.
Also coincidental but telling, the menu was announced along with a panel discussion titled “Daughters Rising from the Dust: Children of ‘The Movement,’ Speak Out!” featuring Ilyassah Al-Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz; Reena Evers, daughter of Medgar Evers; and Mary Liuzzo Lillieboe, daughter of Viola Liuzzo.