Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Dedicated to providing a safe space and community for women of color, the Swarthmore Womyn of Color Collective has re-formed with renewed momentum. SWoCC is a support group that seeks to empower women of color on campus and raise awareness and sensitivity to issues concerning women of color both on and off campus.
In past years, there were similar student groups at Swarthmore. But now, with more than 30 members and a group of sophomores and juniors putting thought and energy into a series of programs and events, the group hopes to take a much more impacting and permanent role in Swarthmore’s community.
First on the agenda for the Womyn of Color Collective is bringing a reproductive justice panel to campus. This panel will consist of four executive directors, each from a different reproductive justice organization.
In contrast to reproductive rights, which founding members of Womyn of Color described as concerned mostly with the right to abortion, reproductive justice is focused on access in addition to rights. For example, among the issues the panel will focus on are the availability of health clinics, birth control, and emergency contraception, as well as sexual violence and abuse. As Cecilia Marquez ’11 put it, reproductive justice is a “multi-racial, multi-class, gender, and sexuality approach to reproductive issues.”
Aside from this panel, the Collective is also creating its own big sib/little sib program, similar to sibling programs in other affinity groups. Upperclassmen in the Collective will be paired with freshmen and sophomores with the goals of providing mentorship, whether academic, social, or emotional. In addition to mentorship from peers, SWoCC also plans to reach out to women of color in Swarthmore’s faculty through faculty-student luncheons and advising.
Also in organizing stages is GROW (Grass Roots Organizing Weekend), a campus-wide event, which will provide leadership training and encourage the empowerment of women of color.
The main motivation behind starting SWoCC is deeply rooted in identity. As Grace Kaissal ’10 explained, joining the Collective doesn’t make members “choose between identities”: SWoCC realizes that both racial and gender identities are important to many of its members.
Extremely central to the group’s beliefs is that women should not have to carry a label that is constantly in relation to men. At their first meeting, the group discussed the spelling of Womyn, and why this was so significant to the group’s identity. Some possible meanings of the label “women” which were discussed included “lesser man,” “wife of man,” “woe of man,” and “womb-man.” By replacing the “e” with a “y,” the SWoCC has defined an identity that is entirely independent.
Emphasizing that women of color should not have just one safe haven, Womyn plans to meet at a different location every week.
SWoCC hopes that as a collective, it will be able to accessible for all women of color. Lisa Sambat ’10 said, “I think that because a lot of cultural groups are closed, it can lead to a lot of communities becoming somewhat insulated, which inhibits our potential to work toward similar goals together.”
For more information about SWoCC or about any events mentioned in this article, contact Cecilia Marquez, Grace Kaissal, Kaitlin Smith, Sable Mensah, or Lisa Sambat.