As the Multicultural Engagement Center (MEC) celebrated its 25 year anniversary last week, many of the campus organizations that work to support the MEC’s mission through daily efforts of conversation and programming recognized the milestone with special events. Queer People of Color and Allies (QPOCA), one of six student agencies housed in the MEC, hosted QTALKA: A Panel Discussion on Ally-ship and Identity last Wednesday as a way to encourage dialogue amongst the queer people of color community and the broader campus community.
The panel featured a variety of voices, representing the undergraduate and graduate student body, faculty, MEC staff, and community leadership from local organization ALLGO. The conversation sparked thought-provoking reflection on the complexity of identity, a concept that was the impetus for creating QPOCA. “In a mainstream conversation within a large institution, it is easy to lose your voice,” one panelist shared, “particularly, when the mainstream is predominately white and straight, it is important not to decompartmentalize identities of culture, race and orientation.”
The dynamic of the panel was both conversational and therapeutic as questions prompted varied responses of experience on campus and in the world. “Within this dialogue of identity, we are often asked to choose or the choice is made for us,” a student said, “the common understanding is that I’m too gay to be black and too black to be gay, but I’m faced with how I present to the world everyday as I walk down west campus.” These posturings opened up the conversation to the role of allies and the importance of having a safe space of support like QPOCA.
Although housed in a self-proclaimed liberal city, many of the panelists spoke to the paranoia or censorship they experience as they struggle to negotiate and navigate within certain situations or spaces. “It’s a difficult position to face every day and can be lonely and exhausting.”
For most of the panelists and those in attendance, the first annual QTALKA panel provided opportunity to openly share concerns and hopes. “I want the campus community, with or without the title of allies, to understand and appreciate that the elimination of any type of oppression makes our community better for everyone, not just the directly affected group, it’s about creating a space where no one feels challenged by being who they are.”
Check out QPOCA’s upcoming events here: http://qpocatexas.com/
– Virginia A. Cumberbatch