Womxn of Color Club Spotlight

Attending a predominantly white institution such as Bates means that it can be more difficult to find spaces for women of color. That’s exactly what Womxn of Color (WOC) Co-Presidents Lauren Reed ‘23 and India McNeill ‘23 are striving to remedy. With their club, they aim to create a comfortable and accepting environment for all women of color at Bates.

“Our goal, and our purpose is to create a space where women of color can come and know that they will be accepted,” Reed said. “Women of color on campus can come and they know that they won’t be expected to do anything beyond what they want to do. We maintain a space in which we as women of color and feel safe around each other.”

According to McNeill, the club’s founders began WOC because they saw affinity groups for everyone except women of color. 

“We attend a predominantly white campus, and it takes a lot of work for us to find each other,” Reed said. “And our experience in the world is specific to who we are as both women and people of color. So we want to make a mini family and have each other be just comfortable with us.”

According to Reed, they want WOC to be a space where members can come and relax without the stress of the normal day.

“Womxn of Color has been such a space for people to really talk about anything and everything, and it always stays in that space,” McNeill said. “And I think that when as women of color, sometimes on campus you lose your space, in a sense.”

According to McNeill, this is especially true for freshmen who are coming into a new space and still trying to find their community. WOC welcomes all students, and as McNeill expressed, they also invite anyone who wants to learn about what they are talking about that week.

“I think that Womxn of Color has allowed people in general to find a space of people who are willing to engage in conversations that not many people are willing to have or are willing to just talk,” McNeill said.

Reed’s main task as co-president is to reach out to new students and encourage them to join the club. 

“As a club leader, it’s part logistics, but also part being host, hopefully a welcoming host,” Reed said. “I’m the mom of the family dinner. I also make it a priority to not pressure every woman of color I see into being a part of the club. This is a personal choice. It’s not a demand.”

WOC also hosts a number of events throughout the year. Last month, they hosted a Black History Month poetry workshop, and they are planning on hosting a Women’s History Month poetry workshop on March 16.

According to Reed, who leads the workshops, they occur in a very relaxed environment where participants can learn, listen and express themselves.

“We just talked about Black poetry and ‘What is poetry?’ I introduced some people to Audre Lorde,” Reed said. “I learned about Audre Lorde when I got to college and I was like, ‘Okay, I have to make sure that my other women of color colleagues, and other people, know about Andre Lorde.’ And I did a more contemporary poet, Ariana Brown.”

Poetry workshops are only one of many events that WOC hosts because there are no standard, run-of-the-mill club meetings for them. Some days are spent talking and listening to music while others are for playing games and goofing off. The one thing that every meeting has in common is that they are all relaxed and casual. 

Meetings are typically held in the Office of Intercultural Education in Chase Hall at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday evenings. 

Reed says that one of the main difficulties they have faced over the past year is maintaining and increasing attendance at club meetings. 

“In my experience from being a club leader over this past year,” Reed said, “I think that we have to work a bit harder as the Womxn of Color Club to have participants because it can kind of get a bit tiring to be a part of an affinity group and multiple affinity groups.”

Looking toward the future, Reed wants to raise attendance rates back to where they were before the pandemic. Additionally, Reed is looking to strengthen the connections club members have with alumni.

“We want to keep creating those connections, especially with alumni who are women of color, because once we leave Bates we know that there are women of color following us, but we don’t know who came before us,” Reed said. “So, bridging that connection is something that I know my co-president and I want to do.”