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Comadre Circles and Barbershop Conversations offer helping hand

Comadre Circles is a discussion-based support group aimed at helping Latina women.
Photo: Erica Barillari· The Sentry

Kinship and support among CU Denver students

The Center for Identity and Inclusion (CII) has several programs that aim to involve students and get them engaged with the campus and their peers. The office offers diverse meetings with the recurring Comadre Circles, Split Stories, and the addition of Barbershop Conversations.

The description per the CII website states, “Barbershop Conversations is a space for male-identified students of color attending CU Denver. The purpose of this space is to provide support for social and cultural issues, identity development, and educational and career goals.”

Comadre Circles and Split Stories are similar discussion-based support groups in purpose but cater to different audiences. Comadre Circles is intended for Latina identifying individuals, while Split Stories are intended for “self-identify and/or are identified as Biracial, Multiracial, Mixed Heritage, ‘Other’ or any other self-identifying term society uses when it comes to race, culture, or ethnicity.”

When it comes to these discussion-based peer support groups, students can expect lunch and a facilitator to be present.

Dianna L. Cordero MA, LPC, NCC is the facilitator for the Comadre Circles and is a proudly identifying Puerto Rican. Using topics gathered by the attendees, the discussion usually follows one of the chosen topics with some initial questions. “I’ll prompt the discussion, steer it, but mostly I’d like for students to guide it themselves,” Cordero said.

CU Denver senior and PAL Carla Rivera Matos has been attending Comadre Circles since spring 2016. “Being part of this community meant having a comfortable space to share experiences that I knew all those women had in common with me, but it also meant learning how our experiences differed,” Rivera Matos said. “There isn’t a definition as to what a self-identified Latina has to be; many of us spoke Spanish, but there were others that didn’t, and we welcomed it and celebrated it. Comadre Circles holds a special place in my heart as the first place that made me feel part of the CU Denver community.”

In the past, there was Compadre Circles, which was targeted at Latino males but was discontinued due to low attendance. Barbershop Conversations was then created with the same goal but for the larger audience of all men of color.

Erlanger A. Turner Ph.D., in his article for The Huffington Post, discussed African-American males and common barriers to them seeking mental health services. One claim being “studies also show that Black men often are socialized or grow up in homes where masculinity is emphasized and men are not encouraged to talk about their feelings or emotions.” Providing a safe space in which other men of color are the support system could be what helps de-stigmatize vulnerability, as Cordero commented that “it validates your experience” to be in these groups.

CII Monthly Programming: 

Asian American Pacific Island Issue: Oct. 23, 2:00–3:00 p.m., Auraria Library Discovery Wall

Barbershop Conversations: second Tuesday of every month, 12:30–1:30 p.m., Student Commons #2000

Comadre Circles: first Thursday of every month, 12:30–1:45 p.m., Student Commons #2000

Food For Thought: third Wednesday of every month, 12:30–1:45 p.m., Student Commons #2000

Split Stories: second Monday of every month, 11–12:15 p.m., Student Commons #2000

Lunch with Director of Health Advising Center, Dr. Ferguson: Nov. 28, 11:30–1:00 p.m., Student Commons #1401

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