With his graduation looming in the distance, Jay Alston has dedicated his last semester at the university to creating a safe space for queer and transgender people of color.
During his time as president of Haven, the university’s largest LGBTQ student organization, Alston organized a retreat for members who identify as queer and transgender people of color. During the retreat, the need for a more intersectional community — where students felt as though all of their identities received equal acknowledgement and respect — became clear as members shared their stories one by one.
There are clubs for LGBTQ students and clubs for people of color, but Alston noticed that there were no clubs for both. That is when his mission to create speQtrum, a student organization for queer people of color, began.
“You start to see other people find their niche, and they’re able to look into a room and see people that look like them and have similar identities,” Alston said. “There’s something to be said for entering a place and not feeling like you have to be on the defensive.”
As of two weeks ago, speQtrum is now one of the newest Registered Student Organizations on campus. Alston’s mission to bridge the gap between two different marginalized groups is now a reality.
“We want to have fun,” Alston said. “We want to put on events that are about art and music and culture and dance, we want to be able to celebrate our strength as a community.”
Taylor Matthews, the vice president of speQtrum and director of major programming for Haven, said she hopes to use pre-existing connections to get speQtrum’s name out in the open. The sophomore public policy and sociology double major said she wants queer students of color to know there is a space for them. Her immediate goal for speQtrum is for people to learn that the group exists.
To publicize their club, speQtrum is co-sponsoring events with other RSOs, such as V-Day’s production of “The Vagina Monologues” and Haven’s Drag Show.
In addition to working with RSOs, speQtrum is also coordinating with the Departments of Black American Studies and Women and Gender Studies, the Center for Black Culture, the Filipino Student Association and the China-America Association.
Matthews said she hopes that speQtrum will eventually be as widely known as Haven. She hopes the club will receive more funding to host events with various speakers and artists.
Briahna Miller, a senior and the treasurer of speQtrum, said the group will be hosting a dance party as a stress relieving and socializing exercise with their new members. The party will be a chance to celebrate heritage and highlight the culture surrounding queer people of color. Miller said a lot of speQtrum’s budget starting out will be dedicated to funding the dance party and creating a welcoming space for their new members.
“Most importantly we want to serve our members and see what their interests are,” Miller said. “We’re putting all of our money toward what our members want to do.”
Other than a dance party, Alston said the executive board is working with the Black American Studies department to start doing panels consisting of queer people of color sharing their experiences to classrooms. Alston said this will not only get speQtrum’s name out there, but also educate people outside of speQtrum to understand the issues they face.
Above all, Alston hopes speQtrum will improve the lives of marginalized groups of students on campus, far beyond his graduation.
“I want an incoming freshman, who is a queer person of color, to not just see themselves reflected in the students of speQtrum but to see themselves reflected in the leadership of the university,” Alston said. “I want them to see that not only does the kid in class look like me, but the Vice President or the Dean looks like me.”
speQtrum will host their first meeting on Friday at 5 p.m.