Undercover Intern: Up, Close, and Personal with QWOC Week Organizers

As is the case with most organizations, fans, supporters, and enthusiasts of QWOC+ Boston mainly get to experience the front-end of the organizing work — the endless fliers that are handed out at different events, the limitless Facebook posts and updates detailing future plans, etc.

Maybe you’re one of the readers of their weekly summer newsletter, or a past attendee of a thought-provoking Diversity Speaks discussion. Perhaps you’ve run into one of the organizers in passing – a panel, a party, a potlock? The fact is, however long you’ve known of QWOC+ Boston (and its organizers), many of you have only gotten to experience the sustained final outcome, a wide array of diverse events – which is great! It means they’re doing a great job. But, QWOC+ Boston isn’t just about cranking events and calling it a job well done; you’ll need to get to know the organizers to realize that there’s far more to it than that.

As the summer intern, I have a little bit more of an insider’s perspective. After all, I get to write the meeting minutes every week — Wednesdays, Emerson College Multicultural Center at 6:30. You should come! manage our social media profiles, and help create (and facilitate) the buzz around ideas and events and I love every minute of it. But the fact that I’m enjoying myself stems from something much deeper than my tasks and responsibilities; I get to be part of a group of really amazing and innovative women.

Personality Typing is the New HR

Did you know that QWOC+ Boston manages volunteers via personality typing? Every new organizer is sent a “motivational style” personality quiz, which lets the organizers know what motivates and demotivates you — it varies depending on if you’re a “Champion,” a “Director,” a “Chief,” a “Relater,” a “Visionary,” to name a few. Uniquely, this organization cares about the individual personalities of its volunteers and will adjust to them as reasonably as possible in order to create a truly inspiring, collaborative environment.

For instance, according to the quiz, I’m a “Chief” — I like special privileges and structuring my environment to my liking. I dislike perceived rigidity, inefficient systems and ineffective people. Well… I’ve been given a platform to host my own blog (special privilege) and Adaora generally lets me work wherever I can plug in a computer (structuring environment to my liking). And let’s not forget that I get to work with QWOC+ Boston — a group of practical and efficient idealists — which handles all the rest. I’m still here, and loving my job. So there’s a method to their madness. (Hey, wait a minute I want my free will back!)

Meet the QWOC+ Boston Organizers

When you first walk into a QWOC+ open meeting – and you’re on time – you’ll be greeted by three or four organizers and a few volunteers. Most likely, you’ll come in with a hesitant smile – you’ll be hoping you’re welcomed, hoping you get something out of this meeting, hoping that the members of QWOC+ — this organization you’ve come to love and admire enough to want to volunteer for – are actually human, in spite of all the work they do, and that you’ll be able to keep up.

Chances are you’ll be introduced to the other members present and conversations will begin around you. In fact, someone will take it upon themselves to actually include you. You’ll feel antsy, a little nervous – wondering when things will really begin.

The first person to greet you will most likely be Yari or Nathalie – the “relaters” of the group; the “people” persons. While Yari is far more “zen” than anyone in the group, both of them are the ones who don’t mind having long conversations with strangers – the kind of people who are eager to make you feel comfortable in potentially uncomfortable situations, like your first QWOC Week planning meeting, or being a newbie to a group of seasoned activists. (Clearly, I am still deeply entrenched in this stage.)

You’ll be put at ease awhile, though things won’t have quite begun, of course, because we’ll be waiting for someone — and that someone will most likely be Adaora: QWOC+ Boston Organizer extraordinaire. And when Adaora arrives, headphones-in-ears, hands most likely full with some type of take out – that’s when the fun begins.

Yes, planning meetings are actually fun. If it were Adaora’s way, we would be running down the agenda in as little time as possible, with clear and concise decisions about what needs to be done when and by whom. But, since no one ever listens to Adaora (her claim, not mine) we tend to get sidetracked — there’s laughing at each other, ranting about day jobs, singing (yes, “we are the world” almost happened one day), cheering on good weather, and well, planning more meetings of the social kind to foster team spirit.

Don’t get it twisted though – we do get shit done. Adaora’s driving project-management approach to planning our purple festival won’t let side-tracks last for long; her firm steering is complemented by every organizer’s enthusiasm and energy in dedication to QWOC+ and QWOC Week. But don’t picture us sitting around like business women drafting a million dollar deal (The truth is most of the time we’re trying to avoid anything that requires too much money, or time-consuming fuss).

Not surprisingly, most of our personality profiles will tell you that none of us are huge fans of strict or rigid work environments. We all like to be inspired, challenged, and recognized for our hard work and it’s evident in the way we work together. So here’s the final word: If you’re neither laughing nor feeling very productive, you must’ve found your way to the wrong meeting. Overly formal ways of interacting have no place here; bureaucracy takes a back seat to pushing the envelope via new ideas, getting to know each other as people, and appreciating each other as leaders.

QWOC+ Boston’s Family of Personalities

If you couldn’t guess, Adaora’s motivational style is the “Champion” – task oriented, with eyes on the prize. She refers to herself as an afrofeminist warrior woman – and that description, in my opinion, is actually an understatement. She’s the type of person whose respect you aim for.

Then there’s Tikesha – easily the warmest person you’ll ever meet. Tikesha will be the first to make you laugh with her no-bs-no-mess attitude (handy at the door during events!) and her constant lobbying for a masquerade ball. She’s the “Director” – give her a green light, then consider it done by the next meeting. Ana is the most low-key of the group; she generally doesn’t talk much during the meetings. But, if you happen to pay attention to the agenda, you’ll see she’s got her hands in everything. Quiet, yet not to be overlooked – she’s “the visionary.”

See, when I say that personality is important to QWOC+ Boston, I’m wrong. What I mean to say is that people are important to QWOC+. You’re not just an organizer or a volunteer; an activist or a party-goer; a Champion or a Director, even. You’re a person and they’re interested in who you are and what you have to say – even if it’s to refute claims of Lady Gaga’s brilliance. Sure, during the meetings, we have things to get done and we try to stay focused. But before that, after that, even amongst that, what’s most important is you. Or, all of us, really. All the queer women of color in Boston and those who care about us (+). Our name says it all.

When I applied to be an intern for QWOC+ Boston, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. How could I have known that one of the organizers (*cough* Yari) owned every season of Sailor Moon, the one cartoon show I’ve loved since elementary school? How could I have anticipated meeting several women who readily refer themselves as my “aunts” and buy me food on a weekly basis?

You know, I really love surprises – as long as they don’t disappoint me. And this surprise is greater than anything I could’ve hoped for this summer. So, when I send out those five million and one e-mail blasts and attack your Facebook and Twitter inboxes with endless pleas to join our organizing efforts and attend meetings – it’s not just because that’s part of my job. It’s because I genuinely want you to be there. We genuinely want you to be there. We want to meet you, we want to hear what you have to say, we want you to experience what we get to experience almost every day; fun, inspiration, support, community, and family.

  • http://www.zarachiron.com/ Zara Chiron

    “But before that, after that, even amongst that, what’s most important is you. Or, all of us, really. All the queer women of color in Boston and those who care about us (+). Our name says it all.”

    Thank you Miss Erika! That statement sums up the heart of what QWOC+ Boston is all about! One big, involved, colorful family! 🙂

  • APinto

    …. Awww… Auntie Ana thinks you are dope! Go Erika!

  • Tikesha

    This is so GREAT!!! You got us all. Your writing is amazing. Keep up the good work, and you know we love you ERIKA!!!

  • Rosalind

    I just recently found out about QWOC Boston and am looking forward to attending one of the meetings in the future. Since it will be my first time attending, I'm not sure if I will have much to offer other than introducing myself. I will just look forward to meeting new people and learing more about the organization and how I can help. You all sound like a great group of women.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/spectraspeaks Spectra

      Hi Rosalind! We'd love to have you! We love newcomers 🙂

      There are several ways to help QWOC+ Boston — you can volunteer per-event (once), or as an organizer (right now, for QWOC Week). It depends on how much time you have available / your interests. We'll certainly love to meet you in person at some point. Please subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated (under contact us). See you soon.

      • Rosalind

        Thank you Spectra! I feel like family already.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/spectraspeaks Spectra

    Erika, this hilarious snapshot of what it's like to be a part of QWOC+ Boston really made my Friday (sorry if I didn't mention it and am just commenting). It's been such a pleasure to have you this summer — I love that you're a Chief! lol — and I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say that your posts and voice are an invaluable contribution to the work we're doing. We're thrilled you picked us!

    ps – the part about me walking in with headphones holding takeout was hilarious! I didn't realize that's how you see me lol. I always forget to eat dinner on "QWOC+" days and then I run late and have to grab something. haha!