The Accidental (Interim) Executive Director

I didn’t enter the organization with my eye towards the position I’m in. I was reluctant to be in the non-profit world to begin with and those who have read/followed me for years are familiar with my critiques of those in leadership positions in non-profits, especially in immigration non-profits. Those criticisms followed me when I accepted the interim executive position I have now been in for 8 months. I know there were (and probably still are) people who upon hearing the news or met me along the Los Angeles non-profit way who eyed me with suspicion. Most only knew me in this and other media spaces and my big, uncensored mouth. I know there are others who don’t think I have the chops for this type of work – because I wasn’t already an NPIC insider, because I wasn’t from Los Angeles, because of my (lack) of certain education credentials. My own partner has expressed his doubts and hearing these doubts hurt. Not because I don’t have my own self-doubts ( I think a little bit of self doubt within the NPIC is a good thing) but it hurts none the less.

I had heard that Executive Directing at a non-profit is a lonely job/position and I have felt that. I don’t know if being an ED at an org in NYC feels different, but the non-profit world in LA feels super cliquey and small with too much personal/professional lines crossing. Hell my own partner works at a non-profit that I engage with professionally. It’s messy messy messy and full of chisme/bochinche.

There is a special loneliness to being a woman of color Executive Director in the realm of immigrant worker rights, an area that has been dominated by men and cults of personality surrounding those men. In the immigrant worker context I’ve seen this play out in many ways. I’ve had my life choices of not always working for pay in movement spaces (i.e. working retail) used against me.  I’ve heard that I’m too young (at 38), too emotional, or someone to be careful around, perhaps because I’m don’t show the appropriate amount of deference and/or because of my public critique of baptized “champions” or “leaders”.

I don’t know how long I’ll be in my current position and I’m not too concerned about career longevity. Sadly (maybe) I never have been. I don’t have that kind of ambition. Whether it is a writer, an Executive Director, or even not without a title – I’ve been outspoken against injustice, about the realities of women of color in the face of state violence and the different ways that plays out for over 20 years. I don’t imagine that ending anytime soon whether I get paid for it or not. I will make mistakes but I will also try my best in my current role. I may have many haters but I also have many supporters. My real bosses are the workers I am lucky enough to work with/for daily not whatever the current popular, fundable narrative is and those chosen to carry that message. I know this is considered not being a team player but I was never the first chosen to be on any team anyway and I’m ok with that.

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