Our RVC Block Party has been postponed to September 8th, 2024!

Ask Me Anything: Juan Manuel Flores Jr. (he/him), Operations Support Program Manager

What drew you to RVC?

I was looking for a place that resonated with who I am and where I was in life – a space that already existed in the way that I like to exist. People often try to make jobs that fit, like, what they want, and it doesn’t work. 

I just went through a big transition from an organization and was off for some time, and I think it was a lot of time for me to reflect about my career and why I had done the work I did: to create spaces and places – that I felt I didn’t have – that are really rooted in joy and healing. But now I’m in a different phase in my life where I have those things. 

So coming across this position at RVC, I saw our communities are looking for the same things I’m looking for: spaces for healing and joy, happiness and support. And I could take this opportunity to be someone who takes on the things that are harder or more complicated so that they get to focus on the stuff that they love. Or, with areas they don’t have experience in, I can be a partner in their growth.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

It’s the relationship building! I’ve learned all these systems…but I like the movement away from transactional to transformational relationships. I love the opportunity to partner with these organizations so we build together with them – to transform what they’re doing to something sustainable so that at some point they don’t need us. 

What does being rooted in community mean to you? 

For me, I think it’s about listening and learning and honoring that every individual is important in the community. I think what I’ve learned over the last few years is the importance of moving past working with just the people that are easily accessible; understanding that even within a community, there’s a spectrum of folks that exist. How do you create conditions that allow each and every one of them to be heard? Especially folks who are often left forgotten or “hard to work with”? So yeah, for me, that “being rooted” part means honoring every single part of a community.

What is your vision for the future? 

My long term vision is to start something that allows people to co-create community centers in their area. Understanding that each community has different needs, and different wants and goals, whether that’s like sports, or cooking and gathering. So what does it mean to engage a community from the beginning, create something that they want and get away from the “one-size-fits-all”?

I want to gain those skills to go into a community I don’t know, to be able to look for funders, organize, hold discussion groups, and bring folks together. Share about how to build towards sustainability through things like grants, or how to be free from rising rent prices through purchasing land and re-using it for the community. I’ve done a lot of this work, but it was on top of doing everything else – for instance, as a program director. So I’m excited that this position gives me the opportunity to hyper-focus and deepen a small set of skills. 

I don’t know if long-term means five years or 50 years, but, yeah, that’s what I envision.

Tell me about something outside of work!

My family lives up north, and, during the pandemic, I actually moved back up north to be near them and so I spend a lot of time with them. I found this to be an opportunity to deepen those relationships.

I’m the oldest of four. So it was a different opportunity to, like, come back as an adult to then spend time with my adult siblings and build up these friendships. So I’m really close to my family and each of my siblings are, like, my best friends. 

I just appreciate the lessons about what it means to exist as a different person in relationship to my family [upon return], and I think it gave my family permission to exist in new ways, too; like, my dad is different from the person I knew growing up to who he is now. Allowing ourselves to be complex and having these different identities…I appreciate that. 

What is a theme song of your life?

It’s an older song. It’s called No Limit by 2 Unlimited. I was born in Southern California; my family is Mexican, specifically Chicano, and we listened to a lot of these style songs. Coming across this music again, I was happy I was reintroduced to it! So many people of color made electronica songs in the 90s that didn’t get the time of day. 

Who inspires you?

My family really inspires me. For instance, the way they’ve supported me during this break from work; I’m inspired by my family’s ability to show up. That’s where I get who I am. Even when things are hard, I show up for my community and my friends. My family gives so much, and, having experienced that, it really grounded me and is why I do what I do. It makes me feel like I’m on the right path.

Favorite local business?

I talked about being into anime and spooky things. There’s a spot called “MyMyToyStore” down the street from my house. It’s a Black-owned local toy store. It gives light to the idea that our communities are a spectrum! Nerds of color exist! That’s why I really like that spot.

Any closing remarks ? 

I’m excited by the people I get to work with at RVC, and the personalities on the team that I’ve never had a chance to work with before! People who love anime the way that I do, and we can nerd out together. ☺️

Author