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How many bell peppers does it take to make tofu scramble for around thirty people? The answer is not three. One time, I got into an argument (well, more of a disagreement) about this. There has been a long-standing tradition for Semester in Detroit cohorts to have an immersion weekend. We all carpool to Detroit to spend a weekend learning about the city and how to engage with solidarity. This is also an opportunity to bond with the other students in the cohort and meet some of our community partners. The weekend always culminates with a community dinner - a meal prepared by the incoming cohort and shared with SiD alumni and friends I still remember my community dinner. We had all just met each other and stood in front of a big blank sticky-note pad with the task to plan what we were going to make. Everyone played a part. I remember that I felt a little nervous to be talking with so many new people, so I volunteered to write the notes down as the conversation unfolded.
We decided to make breakfast for dinner. Our menu was vegan banana pancakes, tofu scramble, roasted potatoes, fruit salad - with orange juice, tea, and coffee as well. We divided the tasks - we went shopping at Eastern Market and Honey Bee Market, a local grocery store in the Southwest part of the city. We had a pancake team, a tofu team, a potato team, and so on. I remember dancing around the kitchen as the oven was preheating; there was an excitement in the air as we started to build little connections among each other. I was in the Spring cohort of 2018, and I still can picture exactly what we cooked almost three years later because it meant much more than a plate of food. This one meal showed me the power of how food can be fuel for community growth. Sharing this meal felt like a little thank you and an introduction to the people who were welcoming us into their home.
When we all came back a few months later to officially start the program, we had already taken a couple footsteps into the community because of the immersion weekend. I moved into the Cass Corridor Commons, a non-profit community center (and a very important space for SiD), with nine other people in my cohort. We shared classes and a living space, but we all had different internships. I interned at Detroit Audubon, a non-profit organization that fosters appreciation and education for the environment we share with all living things (using birds as the access point). I helped lead outdoor field trips for students in Detroit Public Schools and planned summer camp activities for the Belle Isle Nature Center. At every event we always brought snacks, and snack-time became a space to come together and reflect. However, one of the best parts of my day was when all of my housemates returned home from our different internships and sat down to a “family dinner”. We split up into groups of two and took turns cooking dinner each night of the week. Whether it was chili, or fried rice, or tacos - we all got together at the end of the day. Even if the food happened to be cold, our souls felt warm as we reflected on our days and shared our experiences with each other.