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Blacks in Government Feeds Crowd at Annual Fish Fry

By Eddy Ball
September 2006

Annette Rice doesn't let the hot sun and even hotter cooking oil get in the way of
  making great French fries.
Annette Rice doesn't let the hot sun and even hotter cooking oil get in the way of making great French fries. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Inventory Management Officer Dennis
  Taylor and BIG President Kim Peterson
  take a much needed break from frying fish.
Inventory Management Officer Dennis Taylor and BIG President Kim Peterson take a much needed break from frying fish. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

people lined up for the good food
The shelter was filled with people by 12:15 as people lined up for the good food. The crowds kept coming until the serving line closed at 1:00. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

cooks show off their outdoor kitchen
BIG cooks show off their outdoor kitchen. Shown are (left to right) Pinckney Wilder (NIEHS), Janice Harris (EPA), Percy Harris (EPA), Lorena Bobbitt (NCHS), Margaret George (NIEHS), Veronica Godfrey (NIEHS), Annette Rice (NIEHS), James Copeland (EPA), Michael George (EPA), Randy Harrison (EPA), Kim Peterson (NIEHS) and David Sanders (EPA). (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

What would summer be without a traditional fish fry outdoors in the park? That's what members and officers of Blacks in Government (BIG) seemed to be thinking as they bent over hot pans of cooking oil watching as trout, whiting, and French fries turned a perfect golden brown. The cooks and servers were getting ready for the hungry crowds expected at the 2006 Annual Fish Fry on August 10th at the ball field picnic shelter on the NIEHS main campus. Every year around this time people from NIEHS, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), along with spouses and friends from the community, take a break from their usual lunchtime routines to enjoy traditional Southern fare and fellowship.

Over 200 people purchased $6.00 tickets to attend this year's fish fry, the group's major fundraiser for community activities. The local chapter began hosting the annual event a few years after the group was formed in 1987. Annette Rice, second vice president of Region 4 BIG, and a stem cell biologist at NIEHS, described the group's motivation. "We like to come out each year to teach people how we celebrate and to cook Southern food," she said. "The fish fry is also a great way to socialize and recruit new members." As many as 300 people have attended the Annual Fish Fry in past years.

As Rice and others continued to cook under a hot sun, servers packed plate after plate with fried fish, hush puppies, French fries, coleslaw, baked beans and homemade desserts. Before long the tables in the shelter filled as more hungry people arrived to wait for a place to sit. When the end of the lunch hour approached and the crowd began to dwindle, the warm work continued, and the exhausted members of the Triangle Chapter faced the prospect of cleaning up oily pots, gathering the trash and breaking down the serving line before getting back to their day jobs.

BIG is a national professional and service organization established in 1975 and incorporated as a non-profit organization under District of Columbia jurisdiction in 1976. BIG has served as a national response to the need for African Americans in public service to organize and use their collective strength to confront workplace and community issues. BIG's goals are to promote equity in all aspects of American life, excellence in public service and opportunity for all Americans. Triangle Chapter Vice-President Randy Harrison, an analytic chemist at EPA, extended an invitation for all area government employees who are committed to equal opportunity in the workplace to become part of the organization.

The local chapter's community service efforts focus on preparing area young people for the future by mentoring and tutoring in the schools, developing oratory skills and providing cutting-edge training in such areas as web page design. Some of the funds raised this year by the Triangle Chapter were used to support travel by young people to the group's Annual National Training Conference, held this year August 21 through 25 in New York.

To learn more about the Triangle Chapter of BIG, contact any of the organization's officers: President Kimberley Peterson, 541-7629 (NIEHS); Vice-President Randy Harrison, 541-0596 (EPA); or Annette Rice, 541-4410 (NIEHS). Find out about BIG at the Triangle Chapter page, and the national website.

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