Beauty Beyond Color (BBC), Occidental’s club for self-identifying women of color, held their first meeting of the year last week. Unlike other cultural groups on campus, BBC distinguishes itself by addressing the intersectionality of women and people of color. The close-knit group of women work together throughout the year to put on events to empower each other and to discuss issues that involve women of color specifically. I attended their first meeting with high hopes and curiosity.
As soon as I walked into the room, I was accepted into the BBC family with open arms. The bubbly e-board strived to connect with each of the women there, greeting prospective and returning members, personally welcoming them into the space. The room was loud and full of laughter as 35 women sat in a giant circle, designed so that everyone could see each other.
Co-president Eushrah Hossain (junior) and Vice President Danica Gressel (junior) said that the club was more active during their first year at Occidental, but had lost momentum last year. They missed the sense of community that the club had fostered and hoped to bring it back this year.
“There’s kind of a disconnect of all the women of color on campus, we all don’t really interact or have one space where we could all come together,” Hossain said.
Beauty Beyond Color was founded in 2014 by Camille Cribbs (senior) and a few of her friends. They said they noticed the narrative in many cultural clubs on campus had been predominantly male-dominated and that women were not given the same opportunity to share their voices. They then worked together to create a safe space for women of color where their voices would be heard and recognized.
The name “Beauty Beyond Color” was inspired by the notion that women of color are often seen simply for their physical traits such as the color of their skin. Gressel added that often women of color are not recognized for their many accomplishments. BBC aims to provide a place where women of color are seen as beautiful on the inside and out.
“[The name Beauty Beyond Color] emphasizes that women of color are so much more than just pretty faces. Oftentimes, we’re sexualized, but really we’re much more than that,” Gressel said.
Beyond empowerment, BBC offers women of color a strong sense of community and friendship that comes with the shared identity. Hossain remarked how open she felt at BBC meetings. The club was a place where she could discuss topics that are seen as taboo and often not addressed.
“It’s nice to break down constructs that are around you and that you don’t really see until someone in that space tells you about it,” Hossain said.
One of the external affairs managers, Anna Palmer (sophomore), emphasized that the club will be focusing more on mental health this year.
“I wanted to create a safe space for women of color because often times we [women of color] just don’t have time to take a break. So mental health, we’re focusing on that largely.” Palmer said.
The club balances the heavier topics with more light-hearted events. Every other week they try to include fun bonding activities to bring them all closer together as a family. Activities in the past have included slumber parties, mixers and even a fashion show. One of the activities they have planned this year is making natural beauty products.
At their first meeting, BBC emphasized that they understand the struggles women of color face today, but when they come together in solidarity, friendship and love, they can improve their sense of self and overall well-being.
The club ended their first meeting by asking the women present what they wanted from BBC. This question epitomized BBC’s mission to include each woman’s opinion, a value that is at the core of BBC. They’re here to serve women of color and to help them realize their self-worth and potential.
“BBC is about loving yourself” Hossain said.
You can find Beauty Beyond Color on Facebook or their weekly meetings at 6 p.m. Thursdays in the MLK lounge in Pauly.
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