My name is Zenaida and I am a queer artist from Georgia. I have had the privilege to serve on QVS staff as the Recruitment Coordinator since fall of 2017 after my Fellowship year in Boston. This past September I stepped into the role of Director of Equity and Empowerment in addition to my recruitment work.
Over the last few years when I’ve been recruiting, I tell QVS-curious young people that this is a service year where we are not feeding into a savior narrative but rather looking inward. Fellows are serving themselves, collaborating in community, and learning how to be held in our incredibly complicated, troubled, and Spirit-filled world. This is a year of personal transformation where you learn how to care for yourself while being in community, feeling (and falling) into the gravity of collective liberation.
This work is spirit led for me because it is relational. The divine is revealed through transformation, and that broader liberation story that organizers around the world (and our ancestors and ancient teachers) have been fighting towards is in practice at Quaker Voluntary Service.
For me, being pro liberation and pro freedom means being pro pleasure, means encouraging laughter in staff meetings or moments of silence held for Friends that are struggling. It means doing the hard work of truth telling and raucous raising. It means being in deeper relationship with boundaries and honoring our collective “no” to bigotry, racism, xenophobia, transphobia, sexism, homophobia, ableism, fatphobia, and all things white supremacy culture. It means leaving the door cracked for imperfection, grief, and sadness to join us.
Equity in Practice
At QVS and in this new role, I hope to be rooted in love and creative thinking, and to center our most marginalized community members — individuals who are too often left out of the room. I hope to offer support and resources for Fellows, staff and every part of our community!
Some of the ways that I see we’re embodying these values at QVS right now include:
- Providing opportunities for Fellows to caucus with others that hold similar identities through Zoom across our five city programs;
- Offering one-on-one support to BIPOC Fellows, knowing that the systems QVS operates in and with are rooted in white supremacy, and thus having more support makes this work more possible;
- Updating curriculum and programming during the year to equip Fellows with tools to address the current national context; and
- Helping Coordinators create equity programming that is relevant to issues or concerns coming up in the house.
I want to be of use in ways that are rooted in the Quaker Way. For me, that means continuing to share resources for attending protests, offer antiviral plant medicine for healing and wellness, and hold worship with attention to police violence or gentrification or immigration.
Looking forward, our equity goals at Quaker Voluntary Service include:
- All Fellows being able to walk away with the tools needed to be social justice accomplices for life;
- Fellows who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC*), transgender and nonbinary, and hold marginalized identities feeling more resourced in managing a world that was not designed for them;
- City Coordinators and staff having resources and support to care for themselves while empowering Fellows to grow and stretch in their understanding of equity issues; and
- Our larger Quaker community to be partners, witnesses, and agents for change in our collective work.
I dream of a world in which QVS and our site placement partners are no longer needed because the services we provide are already met: people who want to be housed are housed, humans are healing our relationship with the environment, schools are radical and well-funded environments for learning through play, and young people make positive contributions to their communities without needing a container for it. I dream of a world where young adults can be held by their chosen and given families around a fire. I dream of a world where the non-profit industrial complex does not exist, and all communities everywhere have community agreements and meal rotations like in our QVS houses.
Until then we push on. Until then we must move intentionally through the world, creating the futures we want to live in, getting into arguments and carving pumpkins, and waiting for a message during living-room-worship along the way.
*We use BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) because it is important that Black and Indigenous peoples be explicitly named because the experiences of those communities are uniquely different from other folks of color.
Compelled to contribute to the work of building an equitable world? Pledge your support and help us equip young adults for whole lives rooted in Spirit-led social change.