A tasting event and a shoe drive are slated for the University's Juneteenth celebration

a tray with chicken and waffles next to a colorful card reading juneteenth and beyond

Chicken and waffles is among the dishes being served for the "Beyond Juneteenth – A Culture of Food" event on June 25.

The University's monthlong celebration of Juneteenth will culminate with a tasting event illustrating the rich history of the Black community and culture through food.

Johnique Woods, assistant director of event planning, Arizona Student Unions

Johnique Woods, assistant director of event planning, Arizona Student Unions

"Beyond Juneteenth – A Culture of Food" takes place on June 25 at 3 p.m. at the Student Union Memorial Center's Cork & Craft restaurant. From chicken and waffles to Southern peach cobbler, the menu offers culinary mainstays of the Black community, said Johnique Woods, assistant director of event planning for Arizona Student Unions and a member of the University's Beyond Juneteenth Committee.

"Being enslaved, there were only certain kinds of food we had access to as Black people, so we always had to be able to make something out of nothing," said Woods, who is leading the event. "We now have access to more ingredients, so we're going to be sharing a reimagination and elevation of these dishes."

In addition to enjoying food and beverages, attendees will learn about each item's significance and symbolism to the Black community. For example – black-eyed peas, greens and cornbread represent prosperity, and red foods like watermelon, strawberries and red velvet cake signify resilience, Woods said.

Tickets are available for purchase online.

(At the bottom of this story, find one of Woods' favorite recipes for banana pudding, which she calls "a staple in the Black community.")

A month of celebration

Lehman Benson, Vice President, Black Advancement and Engagement

Lehman Benson, vice president, Black advancement and engagement

"A Culture of Food" will wrap up a month of events marking the Juneteenth holiday, which is celebrated every June 19 to commemorate the arrival of Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 – more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed – to announce that enslaved people in Texas were free. The University began observing Juneteenth as a paid holiday in 2023.

"The recognition and celebration of Juneteenth illustrates the University's core value of inclusion, and I'm proud to be part of an institution that makes that commitment," said Lehman Benson, vice president for Black advancement and engagement.

students posing with several bags of donated shoes

Over the past two years, the Arizona Athletics Juneteenth Shoe Drive has collected over 800 pairs of shoes for those in need.

Benson was the first presenter in a lecture series being held throughout June focusing on the Juneteenth holiday. The series continues on June 18 with "History of Juneteenth – Historical Context," talk being given by Johnny Bowens, senior lecturer in the Department of Africana Studies. The talk will be held at 2 p.m. in the Pima room, on level three of the Student Union Memorial Center, and is free and open to the public.

Another event planned for Juneteenth is a shoe drive that Arizona Athletics is holding  in partnership with the Tucson Juneteenth Festival to give back to the community. During the third annual Arizona Athletics Juneteenth Shoe Drive, community members are invited to donate new or gently used children's and adult shoes on June 15 from 8 a.m.-noon at the McKale Memorial Center Ticket Office.

"I've been honored to be involved with the University's official Juneteenth celebrations for the past two years, including the Arizona Athletics Juneteenth Shoe Drive, which has collected over 800 pairs of shoes for those in need," said Thomas Harris, senior associate director for belonging and engagement for Arizona Athletics. "Juneteenth has historically been under-recognized, and it's truly gratifying to see our university embrace its significance."

Donated shoes will be delivered to those in need during the Tucson Juneteenth Festival, which runs from 4-10 p.m. on June 15 at the Kino Sports Complex at 2500 E. Ajo Way.

Additional Juneteenth information and resources are available on the University's Beyond Juneteenth website.

Banana Pudding


12 ounces of vanilla wafers (approximately 1 box; you may use more for trimming bowl)
5 bananas
1 box instant vanilla pudding mix
1/4 cup sugar (can be skipped if preferred)
2 tablespoons vanilla flavoring
1 cup whole milk
1 large tub (16 ounces) Cool Whip


Prepare the instant pudding.

Combine sugar and pudding in a bowl with milk and vanilla flavoring. Let thicken, then add half of the tub of Cool Whip. Stir well until fluffy.

Layer the bottom of a trifle bowl or 9-by-13-inch pan with vanilla wafers. Add (in order) layers of 2 or 3 cut bananas, then half of the pudding mixture, then more vanilla wafers, then the remaining cut bananas, then the rest of the pudding mixture.

Top with a final layer of Cool Whip and wafer crumbles.

Chill before serving.

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