It’s us. Your awkward, but bordering on endearing, leaders of The Audre Lorde Project! After many community conversations, strategic planning sessions, and intentional collective decision-making processes, we, Cleopatra [Jach] & Maxwell, are excited to announce that we will officially be moving forward as ALP’s executive leadership!
So first things first, let’s address something. The last year and a half has been ROUGH COOKIES. We have moved through hard staff transitions and silenced narratives of our struggles. But, we have been able to ground in abundance and have found so much stability and consistency in how our membership shows up when we are at less than best. We are so grateful for the patience, investment, and belief that our staff, membership, and stakeholders have generously given us. It’s more important to us now than ever that our community members know their voice is valued and we will be working to make sure that is known interpersonally as well as institutionally.
In this moment of transition, we want to practice radical candor; we thought the best way to introduce ourselves would be to use a facilitator’s best friend, RANDOM CHECK-IN QUESTIONS THAT PEOPLE GO WAY TOO DEEP IN.
BUT WAIT! First...Who are y'all even?
Cleopatra/Jach: Yerrrr! My name is Cleopatra Acquaye and I also go by Jach for short (I mix and match Cleopatra and Jach so feel free to use either one, but I DO NOT GO BY CLEO). My pronouns are She, Her, and Sir. I’ve been a member of the Audre Lorde Project since 2012 when I randomly walked into the 3rd annual Bed-Stuy Pride and just never left…! My trajectory was a very unintentional and fated one as I came into the organization while fighting an internalized lack of self-worth. When I was hired in December of 2014, I entered the first part of my journey defeating impostor syndrome and managing my daily anxiety and depression. Most places would not give you space to invite those things into your work, but one of the first things that the Executive Director at the time, Cara Page, asked me to do was make a wellness plan allowing me to bring as much of my whole self as I could.
Maxwell: My name is Maxwell Scales, and I am a silly banana (editor's note: Cleopatra wrote that). My pronouns are He, Him, His. I've been doing fundraising and resource organizing for about 12 years. I’ve been a donor/sometime member at ALP since around 2015 - I attended a grassroots fundraising training that former Grassroots Fundraising and Communications Coordinator Alok facilitated and it really changed the way I viewed my work. After that, I started working upstairs at ALP’s neighbor org, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and popping in at ALP once in awhile to help with random tasks or bother Cleopatra. I joined staff last year and now I am Jach’s hype person/background dancer/karaoke partner.
NEXT! What is your superhero hero alias and what power will you use during the restoration period?
Maxwell: Soft Pretzel. I will be flexible but solid. Soft on the inside? Full of fiber.
Cleopatra: My name would be Outer Limits, and I will use the power of reaching out to the universe to bring in all of the hidden leadership and talents stowed away in the outer-boroughs to join The Audre Lorde Project. This definitely means coalition building, base building, and mass building...this will be no easy feat!
Do you like pina coladas? And getting caught in the rain?
Cleopatra: I love getting caught in the rain, but I can’t properly digest pina coladas :-(
Maxwell: Yes, you should give me pina coladas. I spend too much time/money on my hair to get it wet.
If you were a tree, what would you grow, and what would nourish you?
Cleopatra: At this point, I would probably grow space heaters since everyone on staff seems to be cold like ALL THE TIME. The best way to nourish a Jach tree would be to pour a Matcha lemonade at its roots. Mmmm!
Max: This question makes me feel bad about how much paper I waste by printing everything all the time. I would grow blankets, snuggies, and scarves for everyone in the office so that they won’t use all the space heaters that Cleopatra has grown. I run very warm. I would be nourished by ice water, cool overcast days, and reality dating competition shows (as a viewer).
What would be your role in community after liberation?
Cleopatra: Town Jester or Blacksmith. Boom. Done.
Maxwell: Beer brewer. More likely probably some kind of revolutionary accountant. Always follow your boring dreams.
What song best describes the transition into these roles? What song best describes your motivation in this role?
Cleopatra: My transition might be inspired by “Survivor” lmao and I mean that in the LEAST dramatic way possible. My motivation is definitely inspired by “Maneater” and I mean that in the MOST dramatic way possible.
Maxwell: I’m overthinking this cause I mostly listen to comedy podcasts. Let’s just say “Here Comes a Thought” from Steven Universe and “Non-Stop” from Hamilton.
How will you be celebrating this moment in ALP?
Cleopatra: I love intimate & genuine conversation spaces, and I HATE small talk (mostly because I’m just bad at it). I’m open to 1:1 convos to just be with people in their context and environment, and I NEVER say no to free tea (and bacon!). More than anything, I want the staff we work with to feel wanted, appreciated, and valued by the community, so celebration looks like making space for us to get to know each other.
Maxwell: At our Eff You, Gentrification Party in January! Also, by raising money, finishing our annual audit, sending out donor correspondence, etc. I am open to taking breaks to get tea with people and all the nice things Jach said.
Thanks for reading! And now we have some check-in questions for you that we’d love to hear:
- How can/do we collectively support Black TGNC leadership?
- When you think of Black liberation, what is the first song that comes to mind?
- What movie best represents your community organizing values?
- What is the first step to achieving radical imagination?
We’d love to hear your answers to the questions above or any of the ones we answered! You can send them to us at email@example.com or hit us up on social media, @audrelorde on twitter and @audrelordeproject on Facebook and Instagram.
Want to learn more about us and our vision for ALP? You can check out this conversation between the two of us. Interested in our structure and decision-making? Read this blog post we wrote about how we got to this decision.
Overall, we’re asking our community to take a leap of faith, be loudly curious about our strategies, and make sure we’re not only the leaders ALP needs, but also deserves.
Stay Black, and if you can’t, stay hydrated,
Cleopatra/Jach and Maxwell
Audre Lorde Project Co-Directors