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Women of Color Coalition revitalized, revamped

<sday, October 26th, the Coalition for Women of Color (WOC) held their first meeting in two years. The revived group, which is in the process of changing their name, is spearheaded by Office of Intercultural and International Life (OIIL) Peer Leaders Tresa Xavier ’20 and Mika Takamori ’20.

“We decided to move away from just being a group for women of color,” said Takamori. “We’re currently in the process of figuring out a new name because we’d like to include anyone who is a person of color with marginalized gender identities. We don’t like the gender binary between ‘women of color’ and ‘men of color,’ so we’re trying to grapple with that right now.”

Xavier, whose idea it was to revive the WOC group, was partly inspired by Men of Color (MOC). “Around week one, there was a lot of talk about Men of Color—they were tabling, there was all this excitement, they had door decs, and I think that really inspired me to go find out if there was a similar Women of Color organization,” she said.

Xavier then brought the idea to her advisor, OIIL Assistant Director Michael Hodges, who told her that the previous Coalition of Women of Color disbanded two years ago.

Regarding the prior coalition, Xavier said, “At that point in time, there wasn’t a need for people to relate to this identity, or to meet people or have these discussions, and that’s why it slowly died out. But I feel like right now is a good time, and people want to do it, and people are there for it.”

Xavier attributes this change in part to the makeup of Carleton’s most recent entering classes. “Our year and the year under us are very expressive, woke—they’re activists. People have a lot to say, and these are productive spaces,” Xavier said. “People need it as of right now, so that’s very important.”

Xavier and Takamori first met this term through their OIIL Peer Leader positions. Xavier reached out to Takamori about halfway through the term with the idea of reviving the WOC Coalition, and after that, “It was a pretty fast timeline,” said Takamori.

The two talked with MOC Presidents Baustin Shaw ’19 and Jean LaFontaine ’19, who gave them guidance about how MOC organizes their club, what events they tend to run, and how they conduct their meetings, said Xavier.

Takamori noted that MOC has been very helpful in getting the WOC group off the ground, but that “We would like to let Women of Color grow and establish themselves organically, without a sense of parallelism.”

“Men of Color definitely inspired us to restart the organization,” said Xavier. “But also I feel like right now, given the political climate and the sentiment on campus, it was really important for us to do this anyways. I think it was a coincidence that Men of Color was this big organization that forced us to make more immediate steps.”

About forty people attended the first WOC meeting, held in the Cassat Game Room, said Takamori. The new group’s email list already consists of about 60 members.

“There were a lot of girls who came, we had prospies, we had people from all over campus,” said Xavier. “I was really excited about that. There were women who were part of cultural organizations, but there were also a lot who weren’t in those cultural organizations.”

“Because this group involves a lot of people who are also in charge of their own specific cultural groups, everyone has a lot to bring to the table,” said Takamori. “It’s such a diverse group, and that’s kind of the point.”

The group will have one more meeting this term, followed by a self-care social during reading days, said Xavier. During winter and spring, the group plans to meet weekly.

The meetings will be primarily discussion-based, said Takamori. “Our current thought is that we’ll have certain topics we’d like to discuss over the course of the term, but I think that is also something that will be shaped by what the group in general wants—we’re going for a ‘what do we feel like talking about’ sort of thing,” she said.

According to Xavier and Takamori, the group’s primary purpose is to foster friendship and a supportive community. “A lot of cultural groups have very strong connections within the groups, and I’d like to see strong connections among those groups as well,” said Takamori.

“There are things OIIL is not able to do in terms of more casual group gatherings,” Takamori explained. “That’s a gap we’re trying to fill—to create a connection between the different cultural groups so that we don’t just exist in our separate bubbles.”

The group plans to collaborate with other cultural groups in the future, said Takamori, but they are focused on building their own community first. “Because we’re a new group and we’ve only met once so far, we’re trying to establish a sense of community within the group. We’re still in the early stages, so we’re still trying to get a sense of what we want and how we’d like to go about those goals,” she said. “This term is very much about getting ourselves out there.”

Takamori mentioned interest in doing volunteer work in the future, possibly with MOC or through the Center for Community and Civic Engagement.

The two are also exploring the idea of creating a board, according to Takamori. “It’s really about figuring out what the group wants and figuring out what the group will need,” she said.

“I can’t really tell what the future holds for us,” said Xavier. “As of right now, I just see a need for a very strong community of women of color. But whatever the community wants to do as a group, whether it’s activism or just anything, I think together we can do whatever we want.”

“There’s a lot of momentum right now,” said Takamori. “I think there is a lot of potential for our group—I think we could do a lot of different things.”

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