SORT Going Forward

On Tuesday, February 24, students and faculty gathered for a brown bag hosted by Colgate’s Sisters of the Round Table (SORT) to discuss the history and purpose of the group, as well as its vision for the future.

Four core members led the discussion, including first-year Jehdeiah Mixon, sophomore Antoinette Nwabunnia, senior Maya Atakilti and alumna Melissa Meléndez. They explained that the goal of the group is to provide a safe space for women of color at Colgate to share thoughts and concerns. To begin, the group asked different members of the audience to read Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman.”  

The primary function of the group is to provide support to women of color, but the group made it clear that anyone is welcome to join and to become a part of solving the problems that these women face. The club was founded by a professor who saw a need for the group after repeatedly hearing similar concerns and struggles about life at Colgate as a woman of color.

Another topic thoroughly discussed was the idea that SORT is perceived as a group only for “angry women of color.” The group first addressed that these women often have a right to be angry and that there is nothing wrong with that. However, they said that this is not the reality or the intention of SORT. It is meant to be a welcoming group and a place to air concerns.

After discussing what the audience perceived as the function of SORT, the members read their mission statement:

“SORT is a group of women, particularly women of color, to come together and bring to the forefront issues that concern women of color… SORT will provide an outlet for women to create plans of action, activities and events that will promote awareness on the Colgate campus about issues that affect women on both the local and global level. This group will also serve as a support system for its members, encouraging them to advance in a society where they as women and women of color are often marginalized and underrepresented.”

Members of the club shared their own experiences with the club and how it has helped them. Several described growing up in predominantly female households and how difficult it was to transition out of that environment into the one at Colgate. Each member felt that SORT had

empowered them in many ways.

“The world is falling apart,” Associate Professor and Chair of Educational Studies Barbara Regenspan said. 

Regenspan raised what she described as a “controversial question,” asking if SORT might serve more functions as an umbrella organization, one not as specifically intended for women of color but for other people who feel “stuck” in how to deal with race relations.  She argued that we need to look for new ways to effect change on issues of inequality.

“What you’re asking raises an issue I battled with as well, of how we make SORT more inclusive, but at the same time realize that whoever is in the space makes the space,” one of SORT’S chairwomen and senior Natasha Torres said.

Ultimately, SORT representatives felt that the club doesn’t need to change to be that organization, reiterating that it is open to anyone to come and work through any issues they want to, including “stuckness.” However, it is also specifically intended to function as a voice for marginalized groups.

Students who attended the Brown Bag felt it was a productive discussion.

“I had never heard of SORT before so I think the SORT Brown Bag was very informative. It was nice to hear personal accounts of how the core members found out about SORT, why they were interested in joining and how they benefited from SORT. SORT sounds like a good outlet and way of being open and being able to express yourself in anyway you choose. There’s definitely a relaxing atmosphere during discussions and it is important for anyone to be able to share times where they had been excluded or speak out about a topic they feel strongly about,” first-year Cheyenne Brown said. 

“I have been to a couple [of] SORT meetings so I didn’t need to have it de-mystified. However, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the stories from the Core members about what SORT meant to them and how it started. Overall, I found it enlightening and enjoyable,” first-year Savanna Soto said.