Dinner at a Bigger Table

16 NOV 07 | All those that say the social justice movement has fizzled out at NYU, would have a hard time explaining the 100 plus student attendance at Oxfam America at NYU's annual Hunger Banquet. On November 16th 2007, over one hundred students chose to spend their Friday night learning about global hunger, on the top floor of Kimmel, overlooking New York City and its plethora of distractions. The evening however was not a passive learning experience, but an interactive dinner, with dynamic speakers, all reigniting the embers of student activism.

The first speaker was, Agnes Kamara-Umunna, an advocate for child soldier of her home country Liberia. She spoke of her search for oral histories, which she collects from the 1000s of Liberian refugees that live in our neighboring borrow of Staten Island. She highlighted hunger as a manipulation tactic in the times of war. Addressing the immense power of food, a commodity we so readily take for grant and often abuse.

Bring the perspective of an America college student, Lauren Bush, also spoke about her initiation of the FEED project. She launched FEED after a trip to Africa, where she was overcome by all the hunger she witnessed in school children. Using her passion of fashion she designed the FEED bag, which when purchased provides food school lunch for a child in Africa for one year. She told students she hopes her bags are not only monetary assistance, but also a conversation pieces to open up a dialogue about inequalities.

Guests entered the room and received a character card with their new identity for the evening. The objective of Oxfam's Hunger Banquet is to get NYU students to start thinking about those outside their own privileged communities (images of abundant dining halls come to mind.) Guests were arbitrarily given a ticket that indicated whether they sit on the floor in chairs or at a fully serviced dinner table. The randomness is important we do not have any control over the location, income and access to resources to which we are born.

In closing, Carter Carter, an NYU student, read his own spoken word. The last poem, "A day in the life of a student activist," elicited the loudest laughter. Although a few Oxfam members may have been embarrassed by the direct references to their own routines, guilt, and coffee habits, his up beat tone ended the evening with the message that ending hunger does not have to be depressing or serious, it just has to happen. Judging from the empowered students that left the banquet, this generation could make the change to make hunger a past reality.

» More Hunger Banquet '07 photos

© 2005 by Oxfam America @ NYU.