Women’s Center initiates POC Circles for students of all gender identities

The Women's Center at 55 Talbot Ave., a space open to people of all genders and identities, is pictured on Oct. 20. Organizers of POC Circles aim to spark discussions surrounding gender equality, patriarchal power and the gender binary. (Shaivi Herur / The Tufts Daily)

The Tufts Women’s Center has initiated biweekly POC Circles, which are dedicated to “community care, solidarity and intentional coalition building” for people of color, according to their first Facebook event.  The first POC Circle was hosted on Sept. 14 at the Women’s Center and will meet every other Thursday.

The Circles, created by seniors Made Bacchus and Natasha Karunaratne and graduate assistant Koko Li, are the Women’s Center’s first effort to create a space specifically for POC of “all gender identities,” according to Women’s Center Director K. Martinez.

“We haven’t taken such an initiative, specifically for students of color, on campus,” Martinez said.

According to a survey taken after the first POC Circle, more than 90 percent of respondents who had attended the event felt that there are not spaces similar to the Circles for students of all races and gender identities to connect on campus, Martinez said.

Bacchus and Karunaratne told the Daily in an email that the initiative was inspired by positive feedback from the Women of Color and Feminism Panel, created last year by senior Priyanka Padidam.

“People really loved having the space and asked us if this was something that we could do regularly,” Bacchus said.  “Unfortunately, last year we didn’t have the capacity to do so since the center did not have a director, but this year, supported by our Grad Assistant Koko Li and our new Director K, we’ve built the capacity to hold this space every other Thursday.”

Circle themes will include friendship and food, relations to the POC community, inter-POC relations and understanding each other’s backgrounds, hair and spooky things, according to senior Amanda Ng Yann Chwen, who works at the Women’s Center

One of the central intentions in the creation of the POC Circles was to make them a space for marginalized identities, Bacchus and Karunaratne said.

“Our biggest challenges came out of making a space that centers race and gender simultaneously while also rejecting the gender binary,” the two leaders wrote. “This [led] us to many conversations about how we would foster an inclusive space that would center those who find themselves in the margins of the margins of these identities.”

Chwen said they felt that one of the benefits of the POC Circles will be their broad inclusivity for all people of color.

“In my experience, some of the other spaces organized on campus are very race-specific, and there aren’t a lot of broader general ones, such as for people of color,” they said.

Furthermore, students will have complete control of these circles, both leading and designing their format, Martinez said.

“I wanted the space to be designed in a way to make the students feel like they have autonomy over the space,” they said.


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