Shot and edited by Josephine White
“Black excellence” was the theme of this weekend, according to University of Chicago freshman Moturi Ondeyo.
Black college students and alumni from Chicago area universities descended upon UChicago’s main quad in Hyde Park on Saturday, May 6, for the first inaugural Intercollegiate Black Cookout.
Hosted by UChicago’s Organization of Black Students, in collaboration with their African Caribbean Student Association and DePaul University’s Student Government Association, the event was a day full of mingling, dancing, eating, and performances by student artists. The event’s creator, UChicago sophomore Jennifer Aniede said the purpose of the event was to build comradery within the Chicago Black community.
“This is not just food and not just having fun, but interacting with people, networking,” she said. “To build support within the Black college community in Chicago is the goal.”
Originally from Texas, Aniede said that much of her youth was rooted in the tight-knit Black community she grew up in. She said that she “wanted to bring a little of what I experienced growing up” to the UChicago campus. To Aniede, this event “means family,” she said with a smile.
According to Aniede, the original idea came to her in December of 2022 after a cookout for UChicago Black student organizations.
“Me and my friend were thinking, what if we expanded this [cookout] to the entire Chicago community?” she said.
And that is exactly what she did.
Not only was this event about bringing Black Chicago college students together, but it was also about engaging with the greater Hyde Park community.
Local Hyde Park business owner Joanna Davis was invited to sell her products at the cookout. Davis owns a local boutique, Designs by Anna J, in which she sells modernized versions of traditional West African clothing and accessories.
Davis was certainly busy on the day of the event with a consistent line of customers eager to purchase her products. According to Davis, she was just “grateful to be on the campus.”
To her, this event was more than just selling her products.
“It’s important for this to happen so that you see the type of community that you’re in,” she said as she helped a customer. “You are in a racially and ethnically diverse inclusive area that supports people learning about who they are.”
Black UChicago freshmen and photographers Mashika John and Moturi Ondeyo were on site to photograph the event. According to John, “There’s nothing like capturing the moment.”
“We got the congregation,” he said. “So we’re just out here trying to capture that Black moment, that Black love, that Black everything.”
Ondeyo said his experience being Black at a predominantly white institution was “tough until I found my Black people.” According to Ondeyo, increased Black unity is needed moving forward.
“People just need to come together more,” he said. “I want more Black creatives to collaborate.”
DePaul sophomore Jamari Grant has a similar experience as Ondeyo being a Black student at a predominantly white institution.
“My experience has been like a ghost,” he said. “They don’t really see me until I do something great.”
So what can be done about these feelings of invisibility? According to Mashika John, it is all about having more events like the cookout.
“We want to make a more inclusive Black community and it all starts with events like this,” he said while gesturing to the attendees. “Getting to know people, just being Black around Black.”