Black man, White grandma plan to spend 6th Thanksgiving together

by Erika Stone, Senior Staff Writer
thanksgiving jamal hinton wanda dench

One mistaken text has led to six years of friendship between a young Black man and the White grandmother who accidentally reached out to him. Wanda Dench and Jamal Hinton will spend their sixth Thanksgiving together, after initially meeting in 2016. 

Ms. Dench originally intended to text her grandson about the family meal in 2016, before realizing the young man had changed his phone number. Mr. Hinton was the recipient of the text instead. 

Ms. Dench wrote that she was hosting Thanksgiving dinner, and hoped her grandson could attend. Mr. Hinton replied with a selfie and jokingly stated that even though Ms. Dench wasn’t his grandma, he would love to share a meal with her and her family. 

Ms. Dench replied immediately, confirming, “Of course you can. That’s what grandma’s do …feed everyone.” Thus began a tradition the two have maintained for six straight years. 

thanksgiving

In this Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016 photo, Jamal Hinton, center, and Wanda Dench, right, and her family and friends, have Thanksgiving dinner at Wanda’s home, in Mesa, Ariz. Dench, who accidentally texted Hinton, a stranger, an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner made good on her offer, greeting the teen visitor with a hug and an oven full of food after their story swept through social media. (Tom Tingle /The Arizona Republic via AP)

Wrong text leads to sharing holiday

Now Mr. Hinton’s invitation includes his girlfriend, Mikaela, and his entire family. Wrote Ms. Dench this year, “It would bring me great joy if you, Mikaela, and your family would come to my house on Thanksgiving day to share good food and great conversation. Your friend always, Wanda.”

And Mr. Hinton plans to attend, continuing the tradition that has brought great happiness to both families for years now. Ms. Dench is particularly grateful for the friendship with the young man, who is approximately the same age as her other grandchildren.

“Jamal taught me that age made absolutely no difference,” she said in an interview with TODAY in 2020. “I love all of my grandkids and kids, but we all are different generations and we all reminisce about different things. But when Jamal came along, my husband and I and him and his girlfriend, we would go out to dinner throughout the year together and we would just lose track of time.”

This year is especially important to the families because Ms. Dench’s husband died from Covid-related complications last year. Discussing Mr. Hinton’s support over the last six years, she wrote, “He’s changed my life a lot, I know that.”

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