Gratitude, Culture, and Food

Thanksgiving can be a time that brings up a lot of feelings for people. Be kind to yourself and the people around you!


Thanksgiving often brings up thoughts about gratitude. While just noticing your gratitude makes a difference, you can add benefit to the people around you by expressing gratitude to them. Encourage people around the dinner table to share a story of when they were grateful for someone at the meal. 

You can also write about gratitude, and jot down the little moments of your day that make you feel grateful. If you want to bring this idea to Thanksgiving, create a gratitude tree or jar for everyone to use, or write gratitude postcards to people who are far away. You could also make a collage, Reel, or TikTok to visually express gratitude

However you notice and/or share – take time this holiday to experience gratitude. 


Your family may have traditions that you invoke for Thanksgiving. Cherish the ones that bring you joy, and don’t be afraid to suggest new ways of doing things this holiday to move away from activities that no longer serve you.

Remember that the history around Thanksgiving is complex. Thanksgiving can be a reminder of the genocide and violence that Native communities experienced and continue to experience. Decolonize your Thanksgiving by learning about, listening to, and celebrating Native people.


For many of us, food is central to our holiday. Try to make food a positive experience for everyone this holiday. If you talk about food, focus on the wonderful flavors of the season and gratitude for the land, workers, and chef who helped bring the food to the table. Use mindful eating strategies: 

  • Stick to normal eating habits, eating consistently and mindfully throughout the day. 
  • Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full.
  • Be present during meals. Slow down and notice how the food tastes. Feel the pleasure and satisfaction in the eating experience.
  • Add foods, don’t subtract. All foods fit into healthy eating! Consider how to add nutrient-filled and diverse foods into your body.

May your Thanksgiving be full of experiences for which to be grateful. 

Media Literacy Series Part II: What’s going on in ‘Orange Is The New Black’

Welcome to Part 2 of the Media Literacy blog series! Like I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, I challenge myself to think about what I’m watching, and relate these ideas back to my experience as a straight, able-bodied, Woman of Color at UNC.

In this post, we’re going to relate some media literacy skills to one of my absolute favorite shows, Orange Is The New Black (OITNB).

I am a huge fan of OITNB for many reasons. Obviously, the show is comprised of a superbly talented and diverse cast. In fact, I become so enthralled in the show that sometimes I have to step back and remind myself that OITNB is fiction —it should not be my go-to for facts about women’s prisons — the show is fiction with elements that have been dramatized for the sake of drama and entertainment. That being said, I absolutely loved this last season!

If you haven’t watched Season 3 yet, RELAX. This post contains NO SPOILERS for this season and is actually tailored for you. Read on if you want some cool tips for watching this season through a MEDIA LITERACY LENS:

promo poster

1. References to “White Culture”

This is something that usually goes unnamed; however, OITNB is not afraid of calling things what they are. Recognizing elements of white culture and whiteness is crucial to understanding privilege. In previous seasons, this included a glorious exchange about “white people politics” between Poussey and Taystee. Look for more of this in Season 3.


2. Multidimensional Characters

Let’s be real. Season 1 episode 1 started off depicting a privileged, white woman as the center of focus of the show, and we slowly started getting introduced to other characters from her perspective, often in the form of stereotypes. Now the show is more about the amazing women. The creator of the show, Jenji Kohan, has explained that she needed to do this in order to attract an audience that may have otherwise not been interested in a show about strong women of color.

The writers have created very intricate storylines to show a range of experiences around being black, trans, queer, white, etc. in a way that resonates with so many people. The show pushes against common misunderstandings that people have about social identities they do not share. For example, first they casted Laverne Cox, a trans woman of color, as a trans woman of color. This does not happen often, which in itself says a lot about media portrayals. Second, the show shatters misconceptions about trans relationships by portraying her as having been in a loving heterosexual marriage.

OITNB shows how the women’s social identities have shifted, transformed, and made them who they are today, while simultaneously debunking racial and gender stereotypes. Their back stories also might catch you off guard because it’s not what you were expecting. Notice that feeling when it happens this season and ask yourself, “What was I expecting and why?”


3. Cross-cultural/cross-racial relationships

You have the interpersonal relationships, of course (i.e., friendships, sexual relationships, etc.). But there is also the larger organizational (structure within the prison) and community level relationships. The prison itself is separated in terms of race, and it brings a lot of questions into mind:

  • What are the dynamics between and among racial groups?
  • Is separation by race good or bad?
  • What makes people feel more safe, comfortable, and accepted?

I ask these questions because on UNC’s campus, I’ve heard conversations about self-segregation. Have you ever heard someone ask, “Why are all the _____ people all hanging out together?” How often do we hear “white” in there? Not often. This show depicts some very interesting tensions, relationships, and conversations around race that mimic what people say in the real world and may provide some context (or at least a different perspective) about race relations. This might look like conversations about feeling safe and protected, highlighting moments of ignorance, or mimicking real-world conversations around stereotypes, for example. So, look forward to these conversations this season!


These are just a few things to pay attention to when you spend your Winter Break watching OITNB. This does not mean you have to be a snob and get together with a bunch of academics to critique every line of the show. It can be as simple as watching the shows as you regularly do, recognizing patterns, quickly naming it in your head, and moving on. That simple act is enough to start thinking about identity, power, and privilege. Because by critically engaging with media, we can reshape conversations about race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. and take steps to creating lasting change.


Niranjani Radhakrishnan received her BSPH from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill in 2013. She is currently a Program Assistant for Health Promotion and Prevention Initiatives at Student Wellness. She is also in graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill pursuing two masters degrees: Health Behavior and City and Regional Planning with an emphasis in environmental justice, health equity, and spatial analysis using GIS. 

The Chapel Hill in UNC-Chapel Hill

UNC Historical Marker
“UNC Historical Marker” by Will McInerney

UNC Old Well
“UNC Old Well” by Will McInerney

The history of UNC runs deep. Very deep. Established in 1789, UNC is the oldest public university in the nation. Our beautiful and historic campus stretches from the bustling shops and restaurants of Franklin Street to the hallowed steps of South Building, from the Bell Tower to the Old Well, and from Morehead Planetarium to the open green pastures of the quad. UNC’s campus has much to offer our students, faculty, staff, and visitors. But, the UNC community does not stop at our storied and stonewalled perimeter. Part of what makes UNC so special is the city we call home, Chapel Hill.

UNC and Chapel Hill are hard to separate, and in fact the two were created together. At the same time the original UNC Board of Trustees was dreaming up our campus, they organized a group to build an adjacent community, Chapel Hill.

Despite the deep connection between the town and our university, sometimes UNC can feel like a bubble. College life keeps us very busy, but it’s important to take time and to learn about the beautiful, vibrant, and important history and culture that literally surrounds our campus. By learning about this history and culture we will be better students and better community members.

Franklin Street
“Franklin Street” by Will McInerney

Below are a couple of organizations and resources that can help you learn more about the place UNC calls home, Chapel Hill.

The Center for the Study of the American South

Located at the Love House on Franklin Street, The Center for Study of the American South is an amazing campus resource for learning about the history of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the American South as a whole. The Center offers a range of resources in print and digital formats that paint a vivid picture of Chapel Hill’s history. Check out the Center’s Southern Oral History Program to find a vast collection of powerful and insightful stories that document the history and culture of Chapel Hill.

The Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History

The Jackson Center is located next to St. Josephs’ CME Church on Rosemary Street, at the gateway to the historic Northside community in Chapel Hill. The Jackson Center is a public history and community development non-profit that works in the historically African American Northside and Pine Knolls neighborhoods of Chapel Hill. Their aim is “to listen, to hear, and to preserve the life stories of residents, neighbors, and friends.” All too often these stories are forgotten, undervalued, and placed aside. The Jackson Center, in collaboration with the community, brings these valuable stories to the spotlight and advocates for community based leadership, growth, and vision in our town. Check out some oral histories from long-time Chapel Hill residents on their website and consider volunteering if you want to help out.

The Chapel Hill Historical Society

Located on Franklin Street just past the Love House and the Center for the Study of the American South, The Chapel Hill Historical Society is a local institution dedicated to researching, documenting, and sharing Chapel Hill’s history. Programs and publications offered by the Historical Society cover a range of issues spanning from the Civil Rights Movement in our town to the array of famous local cuisine. Check out the videos from the Historical Society’s recent event where they helped Merritt’s Store and Grill celebrate its 85th anniversary by detailing the history and culture of this local foodie legend.

Preservation Chapel Hill

Preservation Chapel Hill is located in the famous Horace Williams House on Franklin Street and is dedicated to “protecting the character and heritage of the town of Chapel Hill, and the surrounding community, through the preservation and conservation of its historical building and cultural landscapes.” Preservation Chapel Hill does this through a combination of educational programs, advocacy work, and physical preservation of buildings. Check out the organizations huge collection of historical documents and records available for public viewing and research purposes at their offices.

UNC Sign
“UNC Sign” by Will McInerney

P.S. The history of Chapel Hill evolves everyday! In addition to The Daily Tar Heel, be sure to stay informed with local news by checking out ChapelBoro and The Chapel Hill News.