Students of color from across campus gathered in high spirits at the annual Student of Color Barbecue, hosted by the Resource Center (RC) at 101 High St. on Friday, Sept. 22. Featuring an outstanding array of multicultural food vendors, performers, and representatives from identity-based organizations on campus, the SOC BBQ offered students an evening of connection and celebration.
“The goal of this event is to build community amongst the students of color on campus,” Assistant Director of the Resource Center Kiara Ruesta-Cayetano wrote in an email to The Argus. “We hope that through this event, students can get connected to one another and [help to] provide a space where we can celebrate and uplift their experiences and talents.
In addition to WesQuisqueya, the SOC BBQ featured a range of other SOC-run clubs—such as the Latin American Student Organization (LASO)—and performers of color, allowing underrepresented students to not only come together and showcase their talents in a warm, welcoming environment, but also to learn about and get involved with the various student-led initiatives to foster community among minority groups on campus.
“The SOC Barbecue is a good space to bring a sense of color on campus,” Yohely Comprés ’24, a representative of WesQuisqueya at the event, said. “[We get to eat] some yummy food, be with each other, and see the clubs that are available for any student of color to join. Seeing other people perform is cool [too].”
The SOC BBQ began in the ’90s thanks to efforts from the Black Student Union and other SOC-run organizations to create a communal space, and the barbecue was revamped in 2018 with support by the RC to ensure its continuity.
“It’s rare to have spaces like this,” Allie Pae ’25, a representative of the Asian American Studies Working Group, said. “This is the biggest student of color event that I’ve probably seen throughout the whole year, which is really cool to see on such a predominantly white campus.”
Despite recent increases in efforts to admit students of color, the University remains a predominantly-white institution (PWI) and the percentage of committed first-years of color (domestic and international) in the past five years has remained consistently between 39% and 44%. Events like the SOC BBQ are helpful for students who may not always feel welcome or at home as part of the minority at the University.
“Obviously, [the SOC BBQ] is [for] students of color, but I think ‘students of color’ [is] a broad term,” Neo Fleurimond ’24, president, founder, and saxophonist of Black Raspberry, the University’s only all-Black band, said. “[It’s more about celebrating] unrecognized students of color who need to find a community and a safe space where they can feel supported and seen and recognized for the hard work that [comes with] being a student.”
In recent years, student participation in events such as the SOC BBQ has been limited due to the challenges posed by COVID-19. Nevertheless, as the University has gradually returned to a semblance of normalcy, many students were eager and motivated to attend the barbecue.
“[This year was] my first time [at the barbecue],” Kaina Remy ’24 said. “Honestly, it’s kind of shocking to me how many people actually turned out for this because no one [seems to] turn out to [other events].”
Having started planning over the summer, the RC planning committee has been working tirelessly with sponsors such as Asian/Asian American House (AAA), Womxn of Color House (WoCoHo), and the University Network for Human Rights to carry on the annual SOC BBQ tradition.
“It was definitely a bigger collaboration,” Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality RC intern Alise Mackey ’24 said. “We started planning it really early…[and] marketed it more [to students], which led to a really good turnout.”
The SOC BBQ is but one of many collaborative initiatives of the RC to promote and affirm students of color on campus.
“We’re always working on ways to promote and create safe spaces for students of color [on campus],” Meera Nemali ’24, another Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality intern for the RC, said. “We’re coordinating with…a few staff members from Admissions and the Equity and Inclusion department, and then a bunch of student groups like SPECTRUM [and the] Muslim Student Association. We do a lot of smaller events, which [are] discussion-based.”
While the RC holds many dialogue-based events for students of color on campus, the SOC BBQ is an example of an event for underrepresented students to celebrate and uplift each other in an enjoyable and exciting way.
“The Resource Center does have dialogue sessions to talk about, like, heavy parts of identity,” Mackey said. “But we also do have events that are geared towards [the] celebration of your identity, which is really important, especially in a space that doesn’t always do that. I think it’s definitely hard sometimes at a PWI to feel like you’re being celebrated as a person of color. So I think [this event is] important just so that people can get together and have fun and celebrate their identity that way.”
Coming together to recognize the many faces that make up our campus community can be affirming for students who often feel unseen and unacknowledged by the University.
“We often don’t get recognition for the hard work that it is just to be in a space like this, and I think the Resource Center does an amazing job with making sure that we as students feel the love that I feel like we’re lacking in [the] contemporary era,” Fleurimond said. “I’m really blessed to be in a space where we can just collaborate…. I think that events like this that bring in community, true community and love and support, need to happen.”
Moving forward, the RC is hoping to continue supporting initiatives to help foster safe and vibrant spaces for students of color on campus. Students of color can look forward to an array of events celebrating their different identities and talents, including celebrations of Latine Affirmation Month, the annual Towards Love and Community series beginning on Oct. 19, and the annual Ankh’sgiving event in the spring.
Jo Harkless can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ryan Wong can be reached at email@example.com.