This year's traditional Thanksgiving dinner has been energized with entertainment organized by Lashawn Grace, an English teacher at Langston-Brown Continuation Program. She leads a group of students in a synchronized dance and then reaches out into the audience for partners.
Photo by Shirley Ruhe.
Thanksgiving guests are lining up before the advertised start time of 12:30 p.m. for the Thanksgiving dinner at Langston-Brown Community Center on Friday, Nov. 16. Cleveland Jones, principal of Langston-Brown Continuation Program, who cooked today's meal, was up at 5:30 a.m. warming the turkeys and is still in the kitchen a few minutes before the dinner begins mashing five pounds of potatoes. "It's my second batch."
Jones started cooking about a week ago by roasting the turkeys donated by A-SPAN and injecting them with orange-garlic butter with Cajun seasonings inside. Then he warms the turkeys up on the morning of the Thanksgiving dinner. "I spent last night making the macaroni and cheese and the corn pudding. The mac and cheese is usually the first to run out."
Volunteers are busy carrying up the trays of sweet potatoes, green beans, ham and roast beef as well as stuffing to set on the buffet line. "I make cornbread stuffing with herbs and seasoning but not with onions. You know people have allergies." One student in the line requests no green beans. The next woman asks for both a roll and cornbread. And the next asks for only vegetables. There is something for everyone and a table full of desserts at the end.
Students from Langston-Brown are invited to the event with their family and friends, as well as those in the senior center downstairs and the parks and recreation employees in the building. This year the students at the new preschool were invited but the tiny tables scattered with crayons sit empty due to the cancellation caused by the weather related two-hour delay.
Elizabeth Palomo, administrative assistant to Jones, says this year for the first time they have entertainment at the dinner. "Miss Lashawn Grace, who is one of our teachers here, used to do theatre. She runs a club for people who can sing and dance." Grace organized the students who will offer Pakistani, Ethiopian and Spanish dance as well as singing and poetry presentations.
In the dining room set up with festive tables with Thanksgiving decorations Grace leads a dance line of students weaving around the front of the room. "O.K. let's go out in the audience and get a partner."
Jones says he expects to see 150-200 people go through the line today. He says he started this tradition 16 years ago when he found out a lot of kids had to work on Thanksgiving Day and didn't have a Thanksgiving dinner. "Some of them didn't have families to go to. We like to think of ourselves as their extended family." He says last year one student told him he looks forward to this all year because he has no place to go. "That's why I do this. I want to make sure the family tradition keeps going." He hopes someone keeps on the tradition when he is gone, "but I have a feeling they may call me back."