New Northwestern group launches discussions for women of color

Alice Yin, Assistant Campus Editor

Women of color in the Northwestern community discussed their identities and experiences on Monday as part of a new series of monthly dialogues.

The Women of Color Initiative and Gathering held its first meeting to discuss issues affecting women of color. The initiative, which is slated to hold two more meetings this quarter and continue throughout the academic year, was organized by staff from the Office of Religious Life, Multicultural Student Affairs, the Center for Student Involvement and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, as well as a team of NU students.

Jackie Marquez, associate university chaplain and one of the initiative’s coordinators, came up with the idea for the group.

‘There wasn’t a space just for women of color, though they mingle in their own spaces,” Marquez said. “This provides a space where people can find that and grow together and provide that support in whatever avenue that is.”

Marquez said the discussions are open to students who “identify as a woman of color in any way, however they define it.”

Communication senior Sara Fadlalla, who attended the first meeting, said she appreciated that the gathering included staff members and students and that many different cultural backgrounds were represented.

“What’s beautiful about this is that all these different groups come together,” she said. “I think it’s important to have in Northwestern.”

Dania Atallah, a Weinberg junior and group coordinator, said spaces like these ensure NU is “headed in the right direction.”

“It allows us to feel safer and that our voice is heard,” Atallah said. “Especially when the majority is white, having a space to connect with that identity of women is really important.”

For Monday’s kickoff gathering, which was closed to the press due to the sensitive nature of the topics discussed, students brainstormed issues they wished to explore in future meetings and shared their perspectives on being women of color, Marquez said. The discussion lasted for an hour and a half and included a mix of about 20 students and staff members.

“Tonight is about expressing our hopes for this space,” Marquez said. “I’m just providing a framework and I hope students fill it in with what they need and want.”

A similar gathering for Latina women began in Winter Quarter 2014, sparking the initiative to expand it to all women of color, Marquez said.

The new group’s participants will also be invited to a symposium for women of color in January.

Atallah said she believes the group will provide “thought-provoking conversations, which could be a touchy subject for a lot of us.”

“If the space is successful, it will nurture, educate and challenge,” Atallah said. “Hopefully all three will happen.”

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