For the 20th year in a row, the Black Student Union will host its annual Black History Month Heritage Dinner. This year’s theme is “celebrate the past, welcome what the future holds.”

Do not let the name fool you, this event is far more than a simple meal. With dance performances, guest speakers, a band, charitable donations and a separate after party, this year’s Heritage Dinner will satisfy more than just your appetite.

The BSU Black History Month Heritage Dinner is from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11, in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room. Tickets are $13 with student ID and $16 for general admission. The BSU’s PaYOW after-party begins at 10:30 p.m. and goes until 2 a.m. in the MPR. Tickets for the after-party are separate from the dinner and are $3 for students and $5 general admission.

BSU President L’Shray Jones said the BSU hosts this dinner each year as a way to celebrate black history, heritage and culture.
“We aim to increase the awareness of Black History Month to all and not just the African American community at WWU,” Jones said. “Our struggle, success and history are worth more than one month of celebration and acknowledgment. February is just the month that was ‘assigned’ for our struggles and success to be recognized nationally.”

At the core of the event is the food. This year’s menu will consist of baked onion breaded chicken, homemade mashed potatoes, medley veggies, salads, dinner rolls and peach cobbler for dessert.

The BSU is bringing many performances to this year’s dinner. PG Boyz, a dance team from Tacoma, will perform, as well as Seattle band Triple Treat and the BSU’s own Swagga Stepp Team. There will also be a praise dance and other unannounced performers.

Attendees of the event can have their pictures taken at a photo booth that will be set up in the MPR.

A silent auction will be held during the dinner with all the proceeds benefiting the Billy Ray Shirley III Foundation. Shirley was an active adolescent volunteer member who sought to improve facilities and living in his hometown of Tacoma. He was tragically killed in a shooting this past August, and the foundation serves to continue in the spirit of selfless, community-driven activism and volunteerism.

Also receiving charity at the event is Treehouse, a Seattle-based organization that provides help and necessities to foster kids in King County. There will be seven Treehouse kids at the dinner.

“We will present the clothes that BSU collected during the clothes drive we put together, the clothes will be donated to the Treehouse Warehouse for the youth, and at the dinner we have also put together a video letting the youth know they have inspired us and thanking them for letting BSU be a part of their lives,” Jones said.

The real party will start after the dinner event at the BSU’s PaYOW afterparty. DJ Royel will be spinning club hits for a solid four hours.

BSU Public Relations Officer Danela Butler said that while Western has a small black population, that small group represents a great deal of culture, a culture that is imperative to be shared and educated on for all people, regardless of race.

Jones said there are difficulties being a Black Student Union at a predominately white school, just as it is being an African American in the United States of America.

“There will always be a struggle everywhere we go, but as history shows we will continue to overcome every obstacle put before us,” Jones said.

“Our strength to overcome the odds is the reason why the Black Student Union continues to stand strong on Western Washington University’s campus 44 years later.”