Inside the University of Northern Colorado’s Marcus Garvey Cultural Center, students gather and mingle in the center’s common space as they savor full plates of free home-cooked soul food. Outside the bustling kitchen of student volunteers, MGCC staff and others serve from a table of aluminum pans filled with crispy fried chicken and golden waffles. After receiving their food, students have the choice to add condiments such as butter, fresh fruit, maple syrup, whipped cream and Louisiana hot sauce as well as fill their cups with orange juice or a sweet, slushy sherbet punch.
The MGCC, located at 10th Avenue and 20th Street across from Wiebking Hall, hosted its famous Food for the Soul: Chicken and Waffles event on Sept. 19.
According to Talia Carroll, the MGCC director since 2015, the event began years ago as a fish fry for UNC students, staff and faculty.
“The folks who did start it probably started it as a way to really build community with folks on campus, particularly those who identified with those who we serve here at the center,” Carroll said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve really expanded the number of folks who come and the representation of the people who come.”
Committed to fostering strong relationships, Carroll can be found warmly welcoming students to the MGCC. She actively works alongside volunteers during events and collaborates with center staff to maintain its reputation as a home away from home for many UNC community members.
“A couple years ago, our administrative assistant, Cateline, made a suggestion [to serve chicken and waffles instead] because frying fish and fries became a lot and it was messy,” Carroll said. “She made this suggestion and I was like, ‘Yes, let’s do it!’”
Alexis McGowan, an MGCC cultural activities coordinator and second year pre-law student, attributes students’ motivation to consistently attend Chicken and Waffles to the MGCC’s kind and welcoming atmosphere.
“The most fulfilling aspect of working for the Garvey is knowing that all my work goes toward fostering a healthier conversation of race and identity,” McGowan said. “The Garvey is a center that educates, advocates and celebrates the African American/Black diaspora. I feel our center goes above and beyond that call to action and reaches all students on a fundamental level. We all crave understanding and to be heard; the Garvey is a place where those voices can be heard.”
The MGCC’s next event is its Homecoming Tailgate at 11 a.m. on Oct. 6 in the Nottingham Stadium parking lot. The next Chicken & Waffles event will be at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 17.