AUC students host 4th annual Thanksgiving celebration

Larry Aldridge and JaKobe Alexander created an on-campus celebration for students unable to travel home for the holiday.

Since 2019, Larry Aldridge, a senior at Morehouse College, along with his best friend, JaKobe Alexander, have used the family-oriented nature of Thanksgiving to create something to quell the loneliness of the holiday for their fellow college students at Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, and Morehouse College - three schools under the Atlanta University Center (AUC) umbrella.

Aldridge wasn’t planning to attend Morehouse. His first choice was Clark Atlanta University.

It was at the urging of someone he’d grown up with that suggested he attend Morehouse. He applied and got in, but was still determining if he wanted to leap. A product of the Black Pentecostal church, Aldridge did what he learned to do when faced with a major life choice: he prayed.

“I said [to God], send me where you want me. Tell me what you need me to do,” he says. “My apostle was preaching, but after a while, I got in prayer and I couldn’t even hear him anymore. All I heard was Morehouse.”

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Aldridge identifies as queer, but hadn’t told anyone yet.

“I kind of just stayed away from it, honestly,” he says. “I don’t have time to fight this battle. I need somewhere to live. I need somewhere to be happy, and I need to be safe, so I’m not gonna worry about that right now.”

Aldridge arrived at Morehouse and started building a community for himself. He became a resident assistant and befriended other queer students on campus.

“Good friends who have graduated and moved away, they had already started to create a safe space for me,” he says.

In turn, he wanted to do that for others. But Aldridge and Alexander both observed something alarming during their first year on campus.

“I see people eating Burger King on Thanksgiving,” Aldridge said. “It’s because either they’re low-income, first-generation [college students], like me, and they can’t afford to go home. Or they’re queer like me, and they’re not comfortable at home.”

With an innate understanding of how loving spaces can facilitate healing, the two teamed up to create the AUC Thanksgiving. And now, they’re getting ready for their 4th annual celebration.

Credit: Instagram/@chasesgraphics

Credit: Instagram/@chasesgraphics

A different kind of ministry

Senior art major Da’Marion Miller was one of those students who could not go home during their first year at Morehouse.

“I didn’t go home because I couldn’t afford to go home,” he tells The Reckoning. “It didn’t make sense to go home in November and then go home again in December for good for a month.”

Miller, who identifies as gay, has been previously invited to the AUC Thanksgiving celebration and plans to attend this year.

“I want to be a part of this again and again,” he says. “Not being at home, but feeling at home on campus is so important.”

ExploreWhat do you do when you can’t go home for the holidays?

The celebration is filled with old-school music, games, and fellowship. But like any Thanksgiving celebration, the food is a centerpiece of the holiday.

Families have gathered for generations around tables to eat and fellowship. Hefty servings of turkey, dressing, pies, and trimmings fill tables yearly. The only time this celebration has been interrupted was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the first year of the AUC Thanksgiving, organizers chose K&K Soul Food for catering, and they’ve stayed with them ever since.

“We ordered pans of dressing, macaroni and cheese, green beans, collard greens, yams, cornbread, muffins,” Aldridge says. “Sponsors donated Ham and turkey. Desserts were donated by Crave My Cakes, and drinks were donated by [AUC] alums.”

AUC Thanksgiving is important for students because it gives them a space to be around others and enjoy a meal enveloping them in love. They also feed students on campus who choose not to be present physically.

“You don’t wanna be in a room full of people? Let us know,” Aldridge says. “Reach out to one of us via [direct message]. We’ll walk this plate to you.”

From feeding the security guards to handing out leftovers to those who are unhoused, the tradition continues.

“It’s very quiet in a dorm room by yourself. The TV can only produce so much noise,” says Aldridge. “We’re not stopping. We gotta keep this moving. We gotta keep it going.”

Editor’s Note: The Reckoning publisher, CNP, is a sponsor of this year’s AUC Thanksgiving.


Credit: CNP

Credit: CNP

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Today’s story comes from our partner, The Reckoning, a digital publication covering Atlanta’s Black LGBTQ+ community powered by the Counter Narrative Project. Visit them at thereckoningmag.com or on Twitter @cnptribe.

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