I went “home” last weekend to my alma mater University of Missouri. I spent seven years of my life there between undergrad and law school, but have not been back much since I graduated. Let me start with the obvious question here before I get to the food stuff! If you keep up with the news you are probably thinking hmmm she’s a black alum of the school with all of the race issues??! Yep, the same University that was rocked by protests related to race issues last year. I won’t recount all that happened last fall, but the student paper does a great breakdown here. The issues regarding race, graduate student concerns and even planned parenthood had been gaining steam for most of the fall 2015 semester. Things picked up when a student activist vowed not to eat until University of Missouri System President Time Wolfe stepped down from his position. Many believed that Wolfe had been dismissive of black students’ concerns. Then these issues caught national attention when our predominately black football team vowed not to play if the University of Missouri System President did not step down. Well Wolfe stepped down before the next football game with the Chancellor following just hours later.
People always ask so I will say this, for the most part, I had a great experience at Mizzou. I met life long friends, learned hard life lessons and walked away with two degrees. Part of what made my experience so great was the strong black community that has been present at Mizzou for many years. We had our own organizations, student government, parties, meeting places and even coordinated living on the same floor of a dorm one year. We operated as our own sub-culture on a campus that was dominated by the culture of its predominately white student population. Some attribute this to fear of co-mingling with other races on campus or fear of not being accepted. That may be true, but for me I gravitated to those with similar backgrounds and cultural identities as myself. This was of my own volition rather than being forced to huddle with the other black kids for “protection” so to speak. Within our own little group, which we affectionally call “Black Mizzou,” we had THE best times.
Hanging with “the black kids” may have isolated me from some of the micro and macro aggressions that others experienced on campus. That is not to say incredibly messed up things did not happen while I was a student there, because it did. I will never forget when two white students spewed cotton balls over the lawn of our beloved Black Culture Center. At the time, I was a law student working in our school’s conduct office. The very office which adjudicated this violation. It is a moment that still impacts the work I do to this day.
Watching all of that play out as an alum was heart wrenching. Everyone all of the sudden has an opinion about a place that they did not even know existed until recently! I had to say “well actually” ONE too many times last fall. As a black alum, it was even harder to see students who look like you struggling to find their place on a campus where they have EVERY right to feel included. On top of it all the administration continued to fumble in their response. We watched this for months and finally a group of black alums including myself felt that we wanted to add our voice to the conversation.
About ten of us drafted a letter to the administration and black students. We wanted to express our support for the current black students and also call on our administration to make the necessary changes to ensure that Mizzou is an inclusive campus for ALL students. Within 24 hours 1,000 black alums signed this letter calling for change. Our letter resulted in the creation of the Mizzou Black Alumni Network, an organization that had disbanded long before I started at Mizzou. I took on the role as President and over the last year the board and I have worked to establish a mission and goals for the group. We want to ensure that we are engaging in thoughtful and meaningful ways with each other, current students and the University. As a result of my work with MBAN, fellow alums nominated for an award which I traveled to Columbia to accept last weekend. I was extremely honored that our University recognized the importance of the work we are doing. We also saw this as an opportunity to provide more insight on our group and perhaps dispel concerns of naysayers. Overall it was an extremely productive weekend!
Sorry for going all serious, but I would be remiss if I did not touch on why I was on campus and what has been going on at Mizzou the last few years. On to the food stuff now! I had to visit some of my favorite spots while in town. Do not judge my college taste buds, please! If you ever find yourself in Columbia for a SEC game or some random conference these are some good spots to swing by!
Every college town has pizza. It’s cheap, quick and convenient. In Columbia, the pizza spot is Shakespeare’s. It’s walking distance from campus and sells pizza by the slice. Sadly, Columbia has undergone some gentrification which even included a campus gem like Shakespeare’s! They tore it down, built some condos on top and put in a new Shakespeare’s. It honestly felt the same when I walked in and tasted the same, but I don’t like change!!
We call this spot Trops for short. Here they serve fruity slushes loaded with alcohol. Trops cups have no logo on them, but everyone in town knows what that red straw and white styrofoam cup symbolizes! I went for the sweet tart and it was just as good as I remember!
We settled on wings before the game on Saturday. I did not frequent this spot in college but decided to try on the suggestion of one of my friends. Great wings!
Now I grew up in Texas and I do not know how or why I thought this was good Tex Mex while in college?? El Rancho was the late night spot that people would go to get their drunken fill of good greasy food! This food is not great, I willingly admit this! Despite that, I happily stood in line to get their steak quesadilla!
I was in town for about 48 hours and attended a conference so that made it difficult to go to ALL of my spots in town. A couple of other favorites though, Andy’s Frozen Custard, Flat Branch Brewery, Addison’s, Sophia’s and Hot Box cookies! So many good spots there.
Since I won an award, the alumni association invited little ole me to sit in their suite during our football game! I worked at the stadium during undergrad but NEVER got to experience the fancy side of the stadium. Gosh I loved it!
Overall this was a great visit back “home!” I had a lot of fun with my college friends and it reaffirmed the need for the work that we are doing with other black alums!