People of Color in Politic and Law Club pull seats up to table

Tihani Mitchell (she/her), Giada Langhan (she/her), and Summer Wong (she/her) stand outside of Strand Agricultural Hall at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, May 19.
Tihani Mitchell (she/her), Giada Langhan (she/her), and Summer Wong (she/her) stand outside of Strand Agricultural Hall at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, May 19.
Jules Wood

Summer Wong looked around her political science classes and realized most people there did not look like her. Although her conversations were always beneficial no matter who they were with, she often felt safer to open up about her experiences with other people of color.

Over the summer, she questioned how she could be the change for herself and for others who might share similar feelings.

In the fall, she looked over the club application while applying to register the People of Color in Politics and Law Club. It asked her, “Does your club fulfill an unmet need on campus?” She thought so.

Tihani Mitchell agreed and said, “We don’t have a space to talk about these hardships and the political things we face in our everyday lives.”

Although they both knew the answer to the form’s questions was yes, Summer was reassured of her instinct when Oregon State University officially agreed to sanction the People of Color in Politics and Law Club.

Although the club is barely a school-year old, Wong and her officers have worked diligently to create events that help students of color grow in their abilities both inside and out of the classroom.

The club tries to host meetings in as many cultural centers as possible to create a comfortable environment for people of all backgrounds.

Through these events, the members learn “how to get a seat at the table where we are not normally represented,” said Giada Langhan, club treasurer. “I am Black identifying and there is a very, very, very low percentage of Black women who are lawyers, so the fact that we have this opportunity to open up doors for communities that don’t normally get those opportunities is really special.”

They have hosted resume and LSAT form-building workshops. Additionally, they have hosted guest speakers like Scott Vignos, OSU vice president and chief diversity officer, Robert Thompson, a professor at OSU and board member of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter and District Attorney John Haroldson.

“Indigenous people have to be political. There is no other way to go about it. Our entire being and existence is a political sphere. Everything that involves our identities is political, so for Summer to have created this space for us, as POC, to come in and talk about these issues really shows me the light at the end of the tunnel,” Mitchell said, as a native of Hawai’i.

Even though Wong is the president, she has grown from the club.

“Being part of this has given me a lot more confidence to go out and do things, to try things and I feel like I have gotten a lot more involved here on campus this year through that confidence,” Wong said. “It just gives you the support and community to go out there and try different things and see if they work for you.”

Mitchell agreed and said the club has “given us a lot of the confidence to branch out.” She has recently started Ka’ikena Hawai’i, or in English; The Hawaiian Experience, through the Hawaiian Civic Club.

They host events to help connect the native people of Hawai’i and other Pacific Islanders to each other and their cultures. In addition, they spread awareness about their culture and the hardships they face.

Now that it is an election year, Wong says they have had workshops about the Oregon primaries and how to vote. Langhan says many of the club members are volunteering in the community.

She and fellow officer Donovan Morales have reached out to the League of Women Voters in Corvallis, helping run their events at the Corvallis Public Library.

Wong continues to create leadership opportunities within the club, making space for the other four of the eight officers: Evania Balmes, Maia Barnes, Jordyn Farris and Leah Wright.

“Now you can go into political science classes and know one or two faces and be able to sit with them and have different discussions than you might otherwise,” Wong said.

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