Portland State’s Feminists of Color Collective provides a space to discuss issues and disparities affecting marginalized communities of color.
With Portland as a place of activism, resistance and outspoken opinions, but it’s also a place where those aspects of social and civic justices are typically driven by the city’s white citizens. With the predominant race essentially dominating conversations of change, it’s hard for marginalized voices that many social issues affect to be heard.
Looking at Portland State as an institution specifically, the issue of marginalized communities having a platform is localized but easier to address. In a way, that’s how the campus’ Feminists of Color Collective came to be, and its existence on campus is surely needed by the school’s students of color.
Currently a force of about 50 members, the FoCC was started last year, born out of the Women of Color Action Team. It was originally coordinated by Ebony Oldham, who ran the Feminist Possibilities for Imagining Otherwise, though Kaila Fontenot heads many of the collective’s dealings now. They meet once a week in the Women’s Resource Center in the form of a caucus, with “cultural appropriation, the exclusion of LGBTQIA++ in communities of color, the white-washing of POC narratives and health disparities in communities of color” as painfully recognized topics of interest often discussed, according to Fontenot.
Outside of their weekly discussions, Fontenot said the collective also holds at least one specific event each term. Last term, they hosted an event called “The Disposability Within Friend and Relationships,” but since this term occurs during Black History/Futures Month, their current event, the February Film Series, holds a particular weight.
“We wanted the film series to touch on the themes of Afro-futurism, Black masculinity, Black queerness and intergenerational healing,” Fontenot said. The series includes showings of Set It Off, I Am Not Your Negro, Moonlight and The Color Purple. “All four of these movies adhere to some aspect of those themes, and were also chosen because each film is unapologetically black, with blackness expressed in different ways,” Fontenot said.
Next term, the collective will be hosting their third Feminist of Color Collective Award Brunch, where a member can nominate another member for really any award they want. “In the past, someone was given the ‘Beyoncé Award’ for being the baddest bitch,” Fontenot said. “We disrupt traditional award ceremonies because everyone in attendance must nominate themselves for an award, as well as another person.” It’s another opportunity to recognize excellence of color, but the collective will still be tackling some of the more sensitive, hot-button issues.
Over the next few months, they’ll be putting on a workshop about how to interrupt microaggressions as they’re happening to you along with a discussion about the POC experience within the cannabis industry and the legal roadblocks in place holding people of color back. The collective is also in the beginning stages of coordinating a program that “focuses on hope and resilience” with the Associated Students of Portland State University, and would love to work with some of the other cultural clubs on campus, given the chance.
It doesn’t take dues, a big name or an incredible amount of time to become a member of the FoCC. It’s as easy as showing up for their weekly meetings, held every Friday from 4–5 p.m. in the Women’s Resource Center. You don’t even have to show up to every one of them. Meetings are put on hold until the February Film Series is over, with film showings occuring during the usual meeting time. Next on the docket is Moonlight.
Don’t let apprehension stop you from participating. Just remember this—“The Feminists of Color Collective is a great space where students of color are able to release from a stressful week, (occasionally) eat waffles and talk to other students of color about things they aren’t able to talk about in class,” Fontenot said. If you’re looking for a community on campus, FoCC has got one for you and sometimes, you’ll even get some waffles out of it.
Cervanté Pope is a music and culture journalist whose work has been included in various publications around Portland including Willamette Week, the Portland Mercury and the Portland Observer, as well as a couple of creative nonfiction anthologies. When she's not tackling a giant mountain of deadlines she can be found headbanging at a metal show, advocating for animal rights or trying to scheme a way to get on Family Feud.