Students of the Womxn of Color Collective at Berkeley Law had an opportunity to speak their truths and tell their stories during their annual night of monologues this year. The two-day event, “Our Monologues,” provided women at the school an opportunity to have their voices heard.
Pooja Shivaprasad, who is entering her final year of law school, took to the stage to speak about her identity as a South Asian woman, being a first-generation Indian in the U.S., and her struggle with feeling a sense of home and belonging. This was her second time performing at the event.
“It was such an incredible experience and I really felt that I had found my people – my community by going through that,” Shivaprasad recalled, speaking about her first monologue performance in 2019. She wanted to help recreate that experience for other women of color law students, so, in 2020, she directed the show in addition to performing in it.
The Womxn of Color Collective (WOCC) holds the “Our Monologues” event every spring. This year, there were two shows and 13 performers. Leading up to the event, Shivaprasad helped participating students prepare and perfect their monologues. Part of WOCC’s budget for the event covered community building events, rehearsals, creative writing workshops and studio equipment for the show.
The student group, which provides a space and a community for women of color law students, was able to receive $1,000 in support for the event through the Bank of the West Student Organization Grant Program.
The grant program started two years ago as a way for Bank of the West, one of UC Berkeley’s campus partners, to connect with students. It seeks to support registered student organizations that promote women’s empowerment, financial literacy and sustainability – three values that align with the bank’s mission at both the corporate and branch levels.
“By tapping into student-led or student supported initiatives, they are sharing in the learning and educational impact that students have on campus,” explained Deepak Sharma of UC Berkeley’s LEAD Center, which administers the grants alongside Bank of the West. “By engaging with students and offering educational opportunities, resources and funding,” he added, “they are able to supplement the university's resources to help meet its mission of education and student development.”
“Their success at UC Berkeley is guided by the success of our students,” Sharma said. The grant helped pay for production costs related to the WOCC’s show, allowing them to allocate other resources to year-round community building initiatives. Shivaprasad thinks that these kinds of communities and events are needed in every school. “There are not very many women of color in these spaces, especially in higher education,” she said. “The Womxn of Color Collective has been the most important part of my law school experience.”
Law school, though rewarding, is a difficult and stressful experience, Shivaprasad said. Many of the cases students learn about in class touch on situations that may be traumatic to read, including case studies made at the expense of marginalized people and groups. The students who identify with these groups “need extra coping mechanisms,” she said. “(We’re here) to provide an outlet for those students.”
Other student organizations awarded grants this year through the program include: Berkeley Women in Business, Undergraduate Women in Economics at Berkeley, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative Undergraduate, Invention Corps of Berkeley, TedXBerkeley, Financial Literacy and Economic Justice Conference. Total awards amounted to $20,000 in value.
UC Berkeley registered student organizations in good standing are eligible to apply for a grant. Applications open at the start of the fall semester and are usually accepted until the beginning of October.