Womxn of Color Panel sparks empowerment and community belonging

By Samantha Lopez, Feb. 23, 2021

Cal Poly Pomona’s Womxn’s Resource Center hosted its free event, Womxn of Color Panel, on Feb. 16, featuring five panelists women of color panelists discussing their journey to acceptance and belonging in their campus positions at CPP.

Womxn’s Resource Center’s Coordinator Maria Cerce said the event highlighted role models from various walks of life. Hosting this event with these women’s stories was meant to boost women’s confidence and affirm that they are important, heard and able to make a difference in the world beyond their life at CPP.

“When students are looking for employment, we don’t talk enough about the emphasis of our own values,” Cerce said. “Really think about what you value and seek out places that align to those values. Those are the places that are going to see you, recognize and celebrate all the aspects of who you are.”

The event, moderated alongside Leadership Development and the Career Center, aimed to establish hope and guidance by being vulnerable and honest in a time where being a woman of color seems fearful or negative, added Cerce.

Shayda Kafai, an assistant professor in the Ethnic and Women’s Studies Department and panelist spoke about how the discussion made her reflect upon memories she previously filed away.

“Unlike the panelists who spoke, I didn’t get the message of being a leader as a young girl,” Kafai said. “If I had access to stories like this in my life, it would have radically transformed my life.”

This message resonated with fourth-year psychology major, Angela Reyes, who had no access to proper information regarding mental health awareness growing up and wanted to change that by being a leader for her community.

“It made me think of own trials as a woman of color in this space,” Reyes said. “I come from a family of immigrants that think of mental health as taboo talk. It was the motivating reason I wanted to pursue psychology, to be able to discuss the mental health journey and how to overcome.”

At the end of the Q&A, breakout rooms were established to give participants a one-on-one opportunity to dive deeper into what was discussed during the seminar and ask questions that were left unaddressed.

Tari Hunter, the director of the Office of Student Life and Cultural Centers and panelist said the event went beyond recognizing the challenges of being a woman of color and was about using the lessons in experience to an advantage.

To her, the stories that she shared are meant to influence and inform the way others look at their own experiences: to empower participants to not be saddened by their challenges.

“It’s okay to pause and reflect upon your struggles,” Hunter said. “Give yourself grace, but immediately pivot and get back up.”

The Womxn’s Resource Center hosts various events for empowerment and inspiration through keynote speakers and overall conversation with participants. A list of their upcoming events for the spring semester can be found on their website at https://www.cpp.edu/oslcc/womxn-resource-center/wrc-programs-n-events/fallevents2020.shtml.

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