Office of Intercultural Affairs SOC Dinners Offer Support to Minority Students

By Stephaney Wilson
Elm Staff Writer

We all enjoy a good meal surrounded by friends and family. The Student of Color dinners at Washington College create that sense of community in a much-needed time on our campus. Once a month, a dinner is held by the Office of Intercultural Affairs, led by Director Jean-Pierre Laurenceau-Medina and Assistant Director Tya Pope.  These dinners bring minority groups together through a monthly meal to relate and talk about their experiences on- and off-campus, and sometimes just to wind down.

As a student of color here at WC, I have found these dinners to be a beneficial support group in my journey at a predominantly white institution. I have found a space where I can my express my grievances about the issues associated with being in an environment where the culture isn’t my own. It has been really comforting to know that many people have shared similar experiences, while also getting to enjoy eating macaroni salad together.

When I had first arrived on campus, I suffered through a slight culture shock. I had spent most of my life in Baltimore, where the population majority is black. I had gone to school with people of my own race for quite some time and having to be immersed in an institution where white culture dominated was a bit of a shakeup. I had to readjust and learn how to navigate this different environment. Then, out came an email and invitation for a student of color dinner. I was so excited; I couldn’t wait.

I have finally found a community of people among students who actually understand how I feel. At the first dinner, some of us were passionate and outspoken and determined to change things.

Some of the stories I heard were depressing and sad, and it was downright shocking to hear about racial aggressions that happened at WC. One thing I learned from these dinners was despite the small number of people, we were all unified by a common experience and by the telling of our stories. Everyone realized that we are not alone. With that realization came empowerment, freedom, and a few small words of advice being passed around.

It’s important to have these talks because so very few people on campus have the safe space to do so. I have felt many times at the end of these discussions more at one with myself and feeling a sense of belonging that I could not find anywhere else. The feelings on topics we share as a group range from instances of biases, to the style of our hair.

Despite the many benefits of these dinners, the event still needs more people. The Student of Color Dinner Discussions are open and warm. It is almost like a religious event, where people can sit down, eat, listen, talk, and be given advice by the many people around them. So, to all those that have ever felt lost, come join the SOC dinners and join our family away from home.

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