Building Community Among Queer Women of Color

The idea to build a community for queer women of color (QWOC) on the UMBC campus stemmed from the sharing of similar experiences of feeling alone at the intersection of our race, gender, and sexuality. We began to rant about the lack of community, or lack of visible community, for queer women of color, specifically black women. Through our initial discussion we also uncovered that when dealing with student organizations that cater to only one part of your identity, left room for one to have to interact with people who did not accept the other parts of your identity, such as sexuality. The frustration of not having having a community that caters to our marginalized demographic led us to call to action.

Our goal was to facilitate a starting point to have a safe space for women of color in the LGBT community at UMBC. We thought it was beneficial to create a space for queer women of color to share our experiences, problems, and successes. We decided discussion-based event would benefit our long term goals of building a sense familial community, as well as attract more QWOC students for attendance.

To create our event, we sought out support from several existing student organizations that would have queer women of color in their populations or have a commitment for equality and diversity. The Women’s Center at UMBC agreed to initially allow us to use their space and time that is reserved for their weekly meeting called Between Women. The meeting is used to discuss various topic concerning women in the LGBTQ community.

We also realized we needed to advertise our event heavily to make sure that any QWOC that was interested in our initiative would have the opportunity to attend our discussion and voice their concerns about our community on campus. Due to a lapse in communication between group members, we did not get our flyers printed and distributed in the desired amount of time. However, we advertised our event on social media, in various student organization group chats, and verbally in various student organizations such as the LGBTQ Student Union.

Our discussion was held on April 22nd, 2019 at 3:30 PM in the Women’s Center’s common room. As we were supposed to used the time slot reserved for Between Women at 4:30 PM, it was spontaneously decided that our discussion would occur and hour before their scheduled discussion. We had a moderate number of student attend, more than we expected due to our lack of advertising. We used a fun slideshow to display our questions to the group. The question topics ranged from QWOC representation in media to stereotypes of QWOC. We also had an activity that displayed the diversity amongst the attendees.

During our discussion, we learned that our negative experiences in life as well as with other student organizations was almost universal being QWOC. We also learned that students who are QWOC would like to have more QWOC faculty and staff for representation. It was also mentioned that there needs to be a clear communication channel to address concerns like ours to the appropriate staff members. We considered our event a success.

During this project, we discovered that by simply putting a little effort toward fixing an issue is considered activism. We also learned that activism does not necessarily require academic merit, but it does require passion and copious amounts of communication between parties. It also requires other interpersonal skills such as active listening and dependability. Overall, we learned, that with the right cause, there is a little sense of activism in all of us.