The Women of Color Task Force, a new initiative run by Tonya Jones of the Women’s Resource Center, hosted its first official meeting last Thursday afternoon.
The Women of Color Task Force, a new initiative run by Tonya Jones of the Women’s Resource Center, hosted its first official meeting last Thursday afternoon. The program is geared toward engaging female students of underrepresented races and ethnicities.
Jones’ role as Empowerment Project coordinator within the WRC is to reach out to non-traditional students. This includes returning students, mothers, female veterans, first-generation students and women of color. This outreach has so far consisted of drop-in advising and a mentoring program.
The Women of Color Task Force is a subgroup under the Empowerment Project, which speaks to the great need for an organization tailored to the specific needs of these underrepresented students.
“There is no support system for women of color on campus, and so we face the issue of invisibility,” Jones said. “We live in Portland, which is
80 percent white.”
While north and northeast Portland used to be diverse areas of the city, according to Jones, gentrification has driven African Americans and other minorities into the suburbs. That community has therefore vanished.
“Portland prides itself on its diversity,” Jones said, adding that people of color who come here from other places experience cultural shock. “There is covert racism.”
This racial imbalance is mirrored by PSU’s enrollment—less than 3 percent of students are African American, and less than 18 are of a minority background.
The task force will primarily serve the purpose of drawing women into the WRC to show them how to avail themselves of resources on campus.
However, it can also be “a place to talk about issues,” Jones said.
Many women in general do not know that the WRC even exists, but students of color in particular suffer from isolation when they step onto a college campus, according to Melanie Dixon-Carldwell, the African American student services coordinator.
“Coming from a collective culture into a school without a strong community can affect academics,” Carldwell said, stressing the need for projects like the Women of Color Task Force.
Retention rates are very poor for first-generation students and students of color for this very reason, according to Carldwell. She hopes to connect students who come to her with the task force.
“With the Women of Color Task Force, you bring students together, you value and celebrate their experiences,” she said.
Some ideas proposed at the meeting involved raising the WRC’s visibility on campus.
“I want to make a pamphlet of resources and prepare for a symposium,” Jones said.
The symposium would be a way to give voice to diverse groups.
“The term ‘women of color’ encompasses a lot of groups—Latinos, multiracial students, not just black students,” she said during the meeting.
The symposium would be held early next fall in order to be incorporated into orientation.
Through the Empowerment Project, Jones is currently running the Black Women’s Film Festival. She will present films written and directed by black women every Monday this month in the WRC. In addition, Jones runs a series of Zine workshops to encourage women of color to write and self-publish.
Jones is a graduate of PSU’s women’s studies and black studies programs. She is also an Americorps member.
The next meeting of the Women of Color Task Force will be held on Feb. 24 at 4 p.m. in the WRC, which is located in the basement of
Montgomery Court. ?