By Marian O’Connor

A new collective of students and staff met to share hopes and fears for the future while enjoying each other’s company, conversation and, of course, a chocolate fountain last Thursday, Jan. 25.

The event, “A Community Gathering: A Space to Empower LGBTIQQ People of Color,” was host to a few dozen students and staff. Members of the new group have decided to call themselves the Queer and Questioning People of Color (QQPoC), a collective dedicated to the enrichment of the colored community of queers on campus.

The group hopes that it can start to bridge the gap between two different aspects of a person’s identity: their race or culture and their sexual orientation. Members of the group also hope that the collaboration between staff and students will help to encourage students to make use of abundant resources that UC Santa Cruz has to offer.

Robert Imada, the program coordinator for the Asian American/Pacific Islander Resource Center, is one of the staff members and coordinators of the new group. Imada said that QQPoC was formed as a result of conversations between staff at the four ethnic resource centers, GLBTI and the Women’s Center about the lack of resources for queer students of color.

“They’re looking toward us as staff for resources and outlets to find and develop their identities,” Imada said.

Rosie Cabrera, the coordinator of the Chicano/Latino Resource Center on campus, hopes that the collective will continue to provide a space for open discourse about issues relating to race, culture, sexual orientation and identity.

“My hope is that we host receptions every quarter so that we can create community and excitement about programming,” Cabrera said.

Students and allies that attended the event found it empowering and optimistic. Jonathan Gomez, a fourth-year sociology student at UCSC, believes that organizing events that bring people of different backgrounds together is a step in the right direction.

“I think that there are many boundaries that need to be crossed to bring together the community at UCSC,” Gomez said. “It can’t be in a place with hierarchy, and [QQPoC] isn’t a place like that.”

Abel Murillo, internal chair of The Network, a queer student organization on campus, feels that there is a large disconnect between the racialized and queer groups on campus, creating potential problems for the QQPoC in the future.

“I think the organizations that do exist on campus can be obstacles that the [QQPoC] might face in the future,” Murillo said.

“There are so many histories and so many cultures that really complicate sexuality and sex and gender,” Murillo continued. “I think if you look at the queer movement historically, you can see that it’s a white movement. I think it’s easy to be queer, and that it’s easy to distinguish your sexuality, but it’s a whole different ballpark to distinguish other aspects of your identity.”

Murillo is quick to point out that his statement should not downplay someone’s coming to terms with his/her sexuality, but he does feel that when a movement is created based on sexual orientation, it is easy to dismiss the other factors that go into the formation of personal identity.

Murillo believes that each community has its own cultural problems, and that trying to bridge the gap between conflicting ideologies is a huge task.

According to Murillo, “I think its best and easier if those groups on campus, within their own spaces, open up a dialogue about the specific issues surrounding those communities.”