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Beloit clubs combine to celebrate women of color

From the week of Oct. 22 through Oct. 26 Beloit special interest clubs Afro-Caribbean Club, Voces, Black Students United (BSU) and Feminist Collective (FemCo) came together to celebrate women of color in a series of meetings and events. Voces, Afro-Caribbean Club, BSU and FemCo all held meetings throughout the week, culminating in a party held at the BSU house on Friday, Oct. 26.

Beloit’s Black Students United and Afro-Caribbean Club co-hosted the second event of the week on the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 24. Members of both clubs spoke about African, Caribbean and American feminists of color, including former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was the first woman to be elected head of state in an African country; Nigerian novelist and writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Trinidad-born journalist and activist Claudia Jones; Barbadian singer and diplomat Robyn Rihanna Fenty; and Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a leading critical race theory scholar and civil rights advocate, who was born in Ohio.

Aryssa Harris’21, the president of BSU, explained Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality to those present. First introduced to feminist theory in 1989, intersectionality identifies the ways in which various identities, including race, gender, class, sexual orientation and disability, are interlocked; the theory asserts that these types of social stratification cannot be examined or experienced independently from one another. Harris said that Black Feminism is characterized by the acknowledgment of intersectionality.

Harris and Afro-Caribbean Club president Meshach Roberts’19 were among those who organized the week after Lincoln Budasi’21 and Feminist Collective initially proposed it. Harris told the Round Table that she hoped that as many of those on campus as were willing to be educated about the importance of contributions by women of color would attend the events, and both presidents said that they were looking forward to a degree of increased awareness on campus as a result of their meeting and the remainder of the week.

Roberts was happy about the variety of events during the week, and their culmination with the party in BSU: “everybody wants a party,” he said.

“The goal was that we could have multiple aspects of [women of color’s contributions] and different perspectives,” Harris told the Round Table. “It was important to get multiple races and ethnicities.” In their meeting, FemCo chose ten prominent, female, feminists of color to discuss, while Voces discussed famous Latinx women of color. BSU chose “the topic of black feminism and compared it to regular feminism and talked about intersectionality,” Harris said. “I wanted to talk about the [women] who did a lot in the past who aren’t as well known now. So we talked about how you have all these subcategories that make up your identity and you can take that definition and apply it to everyday life, and not just for women of color, but for everybody. When you think about women of color, you can’t separate race and gender because they’re connected.”  

Harris explained that although BSU covers topics generally related to being a black American, the meeting was well attended and “it was a very diverse group. There were many different ethnicities. And that’s how most of the meetings have been going– there are more allies than there are black people. Which is good because they should know.”

When making sure their message reached a large, diverse group of people, Harris said that “often men…miss the point. The point isn’t to slander you, it’s to raise awareness…women who are not women of color understand these issues because they are also women and they just have to tie in the issues of race, but for men it’s harder for them to understand and see it.”

The aspects of LGBTQ+ identity among women of color was also elaborated during the BSU meeting, where a lot of the women featured “are queer women because they did developed the concept of intersectionality….they are really big activists,” Harris said. “A lot of times when we talk about [queerness] it gets lost in the issues of race and gender…I do think the black community as a whole needs to work on it.”

Overall membership in the various special interest clubs has gone up in the past year according to Harris, who explained that Afro-Caribbean Club and BSU have “done a great job of supporting one another and attending each other’s meetings, since some of us are in both clubs and they overlap a lot.”

Next up on the calendar this semester for BSU is a collaboration with the Health and Wellness Center called Soulful Friday, which will discuss mental health through student poetry performances.

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