BY GABBY RAYMOND ’20
The introduction of the Mi Gente floor will mark the third Living Learning Comminity (LLC) which welcomes students of Lantinx descent. This floor will join two floors opened in the fall of 2017: Mosaic floor, which welcomed all people of color (POC), and the Shirley Chisholm floor, which was specifically for students of the African diaspora.
While it might seem counterintuitive to have floors only for students of color in an institution dedicated to diversity, its residents feel it is important to have their own space in a predominantly white college.
Sydney Jacobs Allen ’18, a resident of the Shirley Chisholm floor, said, “When I come back to my room at the end of the day it feels like home — there are times when all the doors in the hall are open, music is playing and it smells like incense; it really is like living with your sisters.”
Mentorship is also a large component of creating community on the Shirley Chisholm floor. “I think because [Mount Holyoke] is a predominantly white college, it was a struggle to connect with a similar background,” said Amirah Winston ’21, “but now I have another family, with at least five people I can go to for help at anytime.”
At the opening event for the Shirley Chisholm floor the residents were split into different groups where they wrote down semester goals that other group members would help them achieve. “We are celebrating each other and more importantly we are helping each other achieve our goals,” said Journey Martin ’21. Martin attended an international high school in China where most students where white or Asian, and hoped the Shirley Chisholm floor would be a place were she could celebrate blackness in a community instead of in isolation. By being surrounded by other people in the African diaspora, Martin has “not only found [her] best friends, but a community of people that respects each other.”
Comfort was one of the reasons Melissa Peréz ’18 applied to start the Mosaic floor, open to all students of color. “A lot of people know each other in these communities, and to be able to reach out to [people] whenever, because we are all committed to the same goals has been an amazing experience,” said Peréz. Her goal was to create a residential area where cross-cultural engagement encouraged community members to feel comfort able in their own space. Peréz feels that providing a space where people of color can feel secure will promote acceptance beyond the Mosaic floor. “The community itself decides what they want the community to look like and how they meet their goals — the mosaic floor next year will embrace the goals in a different way in order to help students of color find a sense of community.”
The Mosaic floors’ Community Advisor, Alondra Reyes ’18 said that “being able to see yourself reflected in others,” was important to creating a sense of belonging. “On the LGBTQ floor (where she was a CA last year), it was mostly white people, and the intersectionality, and non-acknowledgment of that was difficult,” said Reyes.
While the mosaic floor inherently brings diversity, Reyes says that, “the term POC can obscure the way anti-blackness or anti-ingenuity plays a role in the POC community. The ultimate goal is to create communities where everyone is accepted. The Latinx floor next year is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Sara Sarmiento ’21, one of the students who submitted the proposal for the Mi Gente floor, felt similarly to Reyes. “I wanted to create a space [at MHC] where latinx students could feel like they belong. [From] the food we eat, the music we listen to [and] the people we admire,” she said, “I hope residents will be able to share these common links with other Latinx students on campus and thereby improve their success in college.”