A “Diamond in the Rough:” M.I.S.S. offers sisterhood to women of color

(From left to right: M.I.S.S. eBoard memembers Renae Austrie, Priscilla Portugal-Moreno, Luisanna Castillo, Kenetra Hinkins, Amari Veale and Danielle Butler. Photo by Tessa Jilson.)

After finishing another meal alone, FSU freshman Katelyn Moniz walked back to her room feeling completely isolated.

On her way out of McCarthy, she came across Junior Luisanna Castillo who was promoting a campus club called M.I.S.S. Moniz immediately was welcomed into the “sisterhood” with a sign of her pen and a promise to attend.

“I felt like it would be a good experience for me, as I did not feel like I had friends,” said Moniz.

Senior and eBoard member Priscilla Portugal-Moreno said when she began her freshman year at FSU, she saw a divide among minority groups, particularly women. She recalled a time when she would walk into the Dining Commons and feel as though people would act a certain way based on her looks and with whom she hung out.

Portugal-Moreno said, “A lot of the cliques are based off of who you know or who others think you know. So, creating a group like M.I.S.S. creates a safe space where you can actually get to know a person, and not judge them by what you see or what you’ve heard. Because a lot of the time that’s what divides us.”

M.I.S.S. stands for Motivation. Intersectionality. Solidarity. Sisterhood. M.I.S.S. is a club in which students can break away from the culture of selective association and be themselves. President of M.I.S.S., Amari Veale, a junior, said the point is to “get people to understand and appreciate everyone’s beauty.”

M.I.S.S. is not just a group exclusively for women of color – it’s a different type of group in which people are encouraged to celebrate each other and themselves. Women of color are specifically celebrated since they are always forgotten, Veale said. 

“We didn’t find a group where women of color were represented on campus,” Veale said. “Initially the club is a voice for women of color and for allies who want to educate themselves on women of color, their culture and impressions.”

M.I.S.S. also teaches club members about self-confidence, said Veale. They have Sisterhood Development Mondays, which are dedicated to getting to know fellow members on a deeper level. For those in the club who aren’t necessarily heard all the time, it helps them open up and build off of other people’s energy. The club is like a sisterhood since it is a space where students leave all negativity at the door, lift each other up and are united.

“It’s for the extroverts and introverts. Every different type of person is catered to – many branches, one tree,” said Veale.

M.I.S.S. also promotes career and self-growth by giving club members what they need, such as mentorships from different women in power and networking skills.

Senior eBoard member Danielle Butler said, “The girls really host the events. Half of our meetings this semester have been member-led discussions.”

Veale said, “The girls run the collaborations. They’re doing what they want with it and we’re just the voice for them on a higher level.”

Since M.I.S.S. is a brand-new club, it won’t become official until next semester, Veale said. Until then, members have planned future gatherings such as One Love trainings, which teaches them how to stop abusive relationships, movie nights featuring actors of color in lead roles, homework nights and events such as Queer Brown Playground.

The club has come a long way since it started, said Veale. Club founders started working last semester and into the summer to make the club official. Someone started M.I.S.S. beforehand, but it really got nowhere until eBoard members Veale, Portugal-Moreno, Butler, Castillo, senior Kenetra Hinkins and junior Renae Austrie took over, according to club members.

They all clicked with a common goal in mind – to make the club successful and accommodate all members’ needs.

“It’s one of those things where you kind of find a diamond in the rough because someone else couldn’t really shine it up,” said Hinkins.

Veale said, “Someone else started it, but we made the words mean something. We made this into something people want to be a part of.”

Members said they feel M.I.S.S. is a club where they can be themselves. They have people to laugh and cry with, but most importantly they have others to fall back on.

Portugal-Moreno said, “This is my safe space. This is where I can be me.”

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