Social Justice and Equity Centers Celebrate and Support Vast Range of Identities

May 23, 2022

The President’s Fund for Excellence and Innovation was established at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) through the generous donation of philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott.

Among the seven team projects at BMCC selected to receive funding from the President’s Fund is one that will pilot the Social Justice and Equity Centers (SJEC) to provide Social Justice Programs, a Pride Center, Multicultural Center and Women’s Resource Center. The programs will be located in Room S-340 at BMCC’s 199 Chambers Street campus.

“Creating a Pride Center and Multicultural Center alongside our already-existing Women’s Resource Center will strengthen student access to campus-wide supportand resources they might not be aware of,” says Tammie Velasquez, Manager of the BMCC Women’s Resource Center and Project Lead for the SJEC. “I’m hoping it will be a home a place of refuge, celebration and empowerment for everybody to gain a better understanding of their identities, at BMCC.”

“The Centers will provide support and programming for and about Black, lndigenous and students of color (BIPOC) as well as women, queer, undocumented and minoritized students, as well as allies,” she says.

“The Centers will provide programming for the BMCC community on how to be a better ally to students, how to support diversity and better understand power and privilege.”

Also, being under one roof “will enable the Centers to collaborate and honor intersectionalities of identity that our students experience,” says Project Lead Velasquez.Other groups involved in the development of SJEC include the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions Bridge Initiative, which BMCC is part of, in partnership with Hunter College, CUNY.

In addition, the Student Success and Outreach Office at BMCC, headed by Tiffany James, is in conversations about a potential UnDocuAlly (Documented All) Training which could be offered as a partnership between the SJEC and SSO.

Other partners might emerge as the Centers develop, says Project Lead Velasquez, as they develop activities such as an affinity and dialogue series, cultural celebrations, UnDocuAlly training, speaker series and continue to offer SafeZone Trainings.

“The SJEC will be the hub, a place for students focused on their social identity,” says Project Lead Velasquez. “We will provide more social justice programming than we are currently seeing on campus. We will offer reactive programming in response to global crises such as the invasion of Ukraine, as well as provide a home-away-from-home for students who are marginalized, and their allies.

“The SJEC will also contribute to BMCC’s Heritage month celebrations, as well as national awareness months that are not at this time recognized at the College in an institutionalized way, “such as breast cancer awareness and awareness of Southwest Asian and North African populations — so we will be making sure we address and recognize these populations, and events like Coming Out Day, Trans Awareness Day and other opportunities to celebrate how diverse our campus truly is.”

The overall goal, she says, is for every student “to feel seen and celebrated and heard, while also finding a place of support.”

Alongside creating community for historically underrepresented students, “The SJEC will educate the campus as a whole across all identities,” Velasquez says. “All students can learn about their identities, how it impacts their lived experiences, and allyship. Acknowledging and understanding these complexities contributes towards a positive campus culture.”

The BMCC Pride Center, Multicultural Center, Women’s Resource Center and Social Justice Programs relate to many of the college’s Strategic Goals including Strategic Goal 5: Strengthen our Culture of Care for Students, Faculty and Staff.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Seven BMCC projects receive funding from the President’s Fund for Excellence and Innovation, created through a generous donation by philanthropist MacKenzie Scott
  • One of these projects will create a group of Social Justice and Equity Centers (SJEC) to provide Social Justice Programs, a Pride Center and Multicultural Center to work with the Women’s Resource Center
  • The Centers will celebrate students’ identities, contribute to Heritage months, provide training for ally groups and more

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