Celebrating Black History Month

Area chefs participate in free community meal.

Celebrating Black History Month

Over 300 people attend free community dinner featuring area chefs

Over 300 people gathered for Kingston’s Black History Month community dinner held at the YMCA on January 31. The event drew people from all over the Hudson Valley. The free dinner, now in its third year, kicked-off a month of activities in celebration of Black History and the African-American experience. 

The YMCA Farm Project Cooking Crew assisted in making pies for the dinner.

On Friday night the gym was transformed into a large dining hall filled with greetings, laughter and conversation. The event attracted people of all ages, especially families and children. 

Eight area chefs and cooking groups participated in making the meal, including: Joseph Greenberg, Marcia Wilson-Melendez, Ruby Mae’s Soul Foods, Shad Gipson, Sharline Bevier, Seasoned Delicious Foods, Tim Barrett from the Hodge Center, Top Taste and The YMCA Farm Project Cooking Crew. The Cooking Crew worked alongside Joseph Greenberg to make pies and salad dressing. KayCee Wimbish, Project Director and Farmer at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project, says the dinner was an excellent opportunity for the young people youth to contribute.

“It is being a part of something that is so much bigger than themselves, and that sense of belonging to a community and helping to cultivate a community event that was clearly so successful,” says Wimbish. “It was such a positive warm feeling for them, and all of them said `that was so fun!’” 

The menu included salad, potato salad, corn bread, braised cabbage, collard greens, mac & cheese, and Jamaican Red Pea Soup. The meal was topped off with sweet potato pie and apple pie with ice cream donated by Dutchess Creamery. 

The Hudson Valley Farm Hub is a sponsor of Black History Month Kingston and of the dinner. The Farm Hub donated vegetables and beans and provided a stipend for the chefs. Chefs were responsible for choosing and executing their own individual dishes. 

The Farm Hub donated vegetables and beans used to make dishes including potato salad, cornbread and braised cabbage.

“This is one of my favorite events of the year,” says Katrina Light, Community Food program manager. “I really enjoy the energy, great conversations, and of course, the delicious food.” 

“It exceeded our expectations for a turnout, we feel fortunate that everyone got fed,” says Wimbish. “We were left at the end of the night with no food.” 

Tables were decorated with colorful packets of seeds donated from the Hudson Valley Seed Company highlighting African-American culture such as Paul Robeson Tomatoes. Photographer Kristopher Johnson provided a photo booth and took black and white portraits of the attendees. 

There were many other organizations supporting the event including UlsterCorps, Family of Woodstock, the YMCA of Kingston and Ulster, Live Well Kingston and Radio Kingston. 

Frank Waters, lead organizer for Black History Month Kingston, says he is not surprised that attendance for the dinner is growing every year. 

“It’s outstanding and a good way to see our community come out together to touch a large number on this cold winter night,” Waters says. “We know our community and this is what they want. It is a diverse crowd — you have teachers, professionals, students and kids. People are looking to connect with like-minded people and to embrace the community. We don’t have a lot of opportunities to do that and food is one of the best ways to get people together.” 

 -Amy Wu