A Safe Space at BLS: Young Women of Color

While listening to the weekly W block announcements, Boston Latin School students might hear an announcement on the intercom: “The Young Women of Color (YWOC) are meeting this period in the Seevak Room.”

Started by Ms. Rose Delorme-Metayer, director of the McCarthy Institute, in 2018, YWOC has grown to 30 consistent members who come to experience a diverse and safe space at BLS. With meetings alternating between the Seevak Room and Room 014 during W block, members are encouraged to be themselves in important discussions that focus on social justice issues regarding racial inequity.

The YWOC officers agree that the foremost goal of the club is to offer students of color a comfortable place to talk about shared experiences and current events. Having a safe environment to thoroughly discuss matters such as race, gender and intersectionality are important to both members and club officers. Mariam Sirage (I), president of YWOC, explains, “A lot of what we do is we pick people’s brains when it comes to certain concepts like race.”

In March, the club facilitated multiple events including a Spirit Week for Women’s History Month and a food drive for St. Mary’s Food Pantry, which is a member agency of the Greater Boston Food Bank. The Spirit Week included themes such as Pajama Day, Pink Wednesday and Throwback Thursday — all of which were meant to boost school spirit and promote the club’s message regarding inclusion and participation.

YWOC runs other events such as a book club at the first meeting of every month, a study block once a month and a social mixer involving other clubs at the end of every month.

Often seen partnering with BLS Black Leaders Aspiring for Change and Knowledge, BLS Talented and Gifted Latinos and BLS Young Men of Color, the club focuses its attention on working with diverse culture clubs to unify the school community in a comfortable environment. In the past, they have collaborated on yearly events such as the Kwanzaa celebration and the Black History Month spirit events. There, interactive activities like Kahoots and dance contests take place.

In addition to in-person events, YWOC’s Instagram page has a new series of teacher spotlights, which invites female educators of color at BLS to speak on their career, role in the school and experience as a woman of color. So far, BLS history teacher Ms. Cheralyn Pinchem and BLS biology teacher Ms. Paula Guzman have participated in this series. During Black History Month, their account also held raffles for members to win self-care baskets.

The club also provides the opportunity for upperclassmen to give advice and words of encouragement to younger students. Vice President Ebony Offre (I) says, “If I were in seventh grade and I knew someone in 12th grade, I would look up to them. That’s what this club is, too: to help younger kids get situated here.”

Like most clubs at BLS, YWOC has an all-upperclassman board, with the majority being seniors. This provides them with both the opportunity to offer advice and encouragement to the younger students, but also poses questions concerning the future of the club, especially with the change in leadership.

Despite the club being relatively new, officers like Offre hope that YWOC will become deeply ingrained at BLS, where there is always community engagement and involvement.

YWOC member Deborah Desir (III) concludes, “Going to BLS, especially as a person of color, is a scary thing. When I first came to BLS, I was one of two Black girls in my homeroom, so it was just really nice seeing more people that do look like me.”