Women of color are women of various ethnicities such as Asian, African-American, African, Caribbean, Arab and Hispanic who have experienced similar facets of marginalization in the broader society. The term “women of color” is therefore a phrase that unifies these women and provides them with a sense of belonging, such that women of different backgrounds can come together and communicate their grievances and implement solutions to societal problems.
Here at West Chester University, the non-white population is still at a disappointing 23 percent, while women of color are an even lower percentage. Such facts remind us of the situation at hand; the lack of connection between women of color and lack of visibility models for them may result in their inability to have a full college experience, thereby propelling some women of color to crawl into their shell and reduce their ability to contribute to their quota.
The Dowdy Multicultural Center, the Center for Women and Gender Equity and some other departments are aware of the need to provide a unified front for women of color. On Thursday, March 1, they brought students and faculty together to celebrate the Women Of Color Day in Phillips Autograph Library.
The first annual National Women of Color Day celebration started in 1988 to celebrate great achievers and ordinary women who have made extraordinary contributions to their families and communities. The celebration started later at West Chester University in 2016, and it was inspired by the fact that student, faculty and staff have felt underrepresented in West Chester University. Andrea Young, a staff member of West Chester University, said, “Women of Color Day celebration is important because it’s an opportunity for the women of color on this campus to come together to create a community, because a community is always stronger than an individual, providing the cycle of support that oftentimes we don’t know exist.”
At this year’s Women of Color Day celebration, students were given the stage to showcase their talents, a move that speaks volumes to students who may have felt excluded in the past. Guest were thrilled with performances from WCU Gospel Ministries, Cinqcopation, Jada Thomas, Zoe Jones and Wahala African dance group.
As students were entertained with food, music and dance, they were also encouraged by the guest speakers Laura Reyes and Juanita Wooten to embrace inclusiveness, to support each other, to educate their communities and to never stop being confident. “As a queer woman of color on campus, it’s important for me to have visibility models. Oftentimes I am the one person of color in a room. It kind be isolating and you can feel a little bit invisible. So it’s nice to come to the celebration to connect with other students and faculty,“ said Siani Vargas, an LGBTQA peer educator.
Aside from celebrating the achievement of women of color, students, faculty and staff were given the opportunity to create a strong bond of connection, to learn from each other and to take the message back to their various communities. As Aisha Evans said, “I will take the messages I have learned from these beautiful and empowering women and apply it to my work at the multicultural center.”
The Women of Color Day celebration is expected to grow beyond a day, as the Center for Women and Gender Equity in collaboration with the Dowdy Multicultural Center is looking to educate people on what it means to be a woman of color. These departments are set to encourage more women of Asian and Latin descent to join the connection. Furthermore, they would like to create a network where students can meet mentors and role models that can help straighten their paths to success.
Victoria Molumo is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in international business. ✉ VM859943@wcupa.edu.