The City of Hattiesburg held its annual Celebration of Soul Food on Tuesday Feb. 4 at the Hattiesburg Train Depot as part of Black History Month.
The community potluck event was free to the public and attendees were encouraged to bring traditional soul food dishes, such as collard greens, fried catfish and fruit cobblers.
Mayor Toby Barker spoke of the importance of the event and the meaning behind it.
“One of the big reasons we do these sort of celebrations during Black History Month is so that the next generation can learn those stories and who came before them and whose shoulders they stand on. This is always a fun night of culinary traditions and community,” Barker said.
Councilwoman Deborah Delgado said the Celebration of Soul Food began several years ago after the city held it as part of its events for Black History Month and received several requests to have it again.
“Every year I would find a different theme and that particular year we thought about celebrating the food and the culture of the African American community in the South,” Delgado said. “And that’s generally thought to be soul food, food that African American families have been cooking since slavery.”
Delgado said that food and rituals surrounding food are an important part of culture and history.
“In life and in communities there so are so many things centered around food. And in the African American community, there is a certain kind of food that we seem to enjoy. And those foods are things that we’ve grown accustomed to,” Delgado said.
Attendee Larran Pickett said she has always wanted to participate in the potluck and was finally able to this year. She brought several different dishes, including curry coconut red beans and rice.
“It’s also my mom’s birthday, so we’ve just been hanging out and meeting new people. I really love the music here and just getting to meet people I’ve seen around town but never had the chance to speak to.”
Pickett said she thinks events like this are important to keep history alive for current and future generations.
“Some people don’t know how to cook, and our parents and grandparents used to cook a lot more than we do now. That was a way to kind of pass along history through food, so I think doing that is a good way to keep traditions alive,” Pickett said.
Food at the event was served with the help of several volunteers, including the Mayor’s Youth Council.
Sky Brewtoen, a member of the Youth Council, enjoyed volunteering at the event.
“It was great seeing so many people come together to enjoy food, and the king cake I had was good too,” Brewtoen said.
For more information about Black History Month events in Hattiesburg, visit www.hattiesburgms.com/events.