Giving Thanks By Kevin Hofmann Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion Yesterday while watching the Detroit Lion’s third victory in a row, I began prep work for Thursday’s guest of honor. My responsibilities are minimal but vital to the success of Thanksgiving. I began the process of making the bacon butter that will be slid under the bird’s skin to create a soft supple bird that begs to be eaten. The rub that will be spread on the bird’s skin has been made and is ready to dissolve and infuse itself to the skin and meat. Tonight, and tomorrow, I will begin the buttermilk brine to soak the bird for 12 hours before I put the bird in the smoker. The bird will sit for about 6 hours in the smoker before arriving for a full meal that will honor his presence. I plan to sit, admire my work, and watch the Lions win their fourth in a row. Please, Lord! A Lions win makes the food taste better. My wife will be handling the sweet potatoes, Cornish hens, curried chicken, potato salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, rolls, ham, collard and turnip greens, green beans, mac and cheese, and cornbread dressing. She will also be handling the sweet potato pie, the Almost-Better-Than-Sex Cake, yellow and chocolate cupcakes, banana pudding, peach cobbler, and pumpkin pie. The pumpkin pie is for me and my Caucasian tendencies. Pumpkin pie is frowned upon in the Black community, but I don’t care. I like it and that doesn’t make me less Black… right? Some will review what I am doing compared to what my wife is doing, and they will try to judge me for not doing enough. To those blinded by the smoke and mirrors please let me remind you I am escorting the guest of honor. If my portion isn’t prepared, smoked, and cut to perfection the day will be ruined. I would gladly take on my wife’s list but no one else can smoke Turkey. So, the overwhelming weight of presenting the reason for the season falls to me and I humbly accept. I also understand it is about quality, NOT quantity. I realize without me there is no dinner. For some, this responsibility would be too heavy. For me, my broad shoulders were chiseled for this one job. I look forward to this holiday for the food and family. My mother and sister will join us, along with my niece and her family. My wife’s mother, father, and brother will join us with a cousin and his family of three, soon to be four. My neighbor, Jonathan, will stop by to share a beverage or two before his extended family arrives at his home. His gathering will start later than ours and I will have the option to return his empty glasses full of more drinks later in the evening. This day I’m sure is far from the original Thanksgiving. This past summer I sat down with Rose, a local Native American, who shared her thoughts about Thanksgiving. She explained she doesn’t celebrate it as most do. She told me that the original Thanksgiving was, more accurately, a celebration dinner the Pilgrims had celebrating the massacre of many Natives. I will look differently at my mashed potatoes this year. I also thought about the fact that Native American Heritage month is celebrated this month — and every November for that matter. I’m conflicted because for some Thanksgiving could be considered trauma-inducing. It is for some a yearly reminder of genocide enacted upon innocents. I wonder why we had to combine the month of Thanksgiving with Native American Heritage month. It seems as if it was done to antagonize. I also wonder if that is why February is Black History Month. February is the shortest month of the year and seems like that was done to antagonize as well. Therefore, during the summer I suggested we celebrate Native American Heritage month in a different way. I wanted to honor a truer representation of what Native Culture and traditions are instead of Thanksgiving. It was suggested we participate in a Ghost Supper celebration last week. I wanted something more specific, more accurate and a better way to celebrate a people who we owe so much to. It is assumed that we only claimed land that was already owned, but what doesn’t get much attention is the knowledge stolen from Natives. The Native Americans had a far superior knowledge of farming, hunting, and surviving and their knowledge was taken along with land and traditions. One thing we got right was the name of the day, Thanksgiving. I would just hope we would make a bigger effort to apologize for how we treated a group of people who were hospitable at the very least. To begin it would help if we clarified what exactly we are and should be thankful for on Thursday. We should thank Native Americans for their kindness. We should thank them for not treating us like we treated them. We should thank them for sharing their knowledge on raising crops, hunting, and building community, and for not burying their knives in our backs as we did to them after we used them for their knowledge. When I drive my fork into my wife’s mac and cheese made with seven kinds of cheese, I will say a prayer of thanks for family, friends, and life, and most importantly I will give thanks to a group who help shape a country and didn’t get much thanks in return.