Benaroya Hall has never sounded so cozy and raucous with the laughter of performers and families, with the low thrum of a variety of drums reverberating through the walls of the building. At the start of the program, the performers for Movimiento Afrolatino Seattle (MÁS)’s Ancestral Whispers danced and sang their way up the staircase and foyer, leading the enraptured audience into the performance hall and inviting everyone into the warm community celebration.
MÁS Ancestral Whispers: Of Land and Sea, took place December 1, 2023, and it was the first opportunity since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for so many MÁS artistic collaborators to connect. Not only did the event showcase a range of traditional music and dance from 9 Central and South American regions, unifying the Afrodiasporic communities, MÁS was successful in creating a space for connection, healing, and remembrance of AfroLatine presence and lineages here in greater Seattle.
We are delighted to celebrate this huge milestone with our partner!
An event that was possible through the Seattle Symphony community stages fund, this was the first ticketed event that MÁS had put on. It was important to the organizers that they created a system where members of the community could attend without having to pay. Through a sponsorship program, they were able to achieve exactly that. “This is part of our healing with money. How to move in ways that we can ask for what we deserve, what has been stolen, and lean into reclaiming for Black and Indigenous residents here in Seattle and beyond.”
This thoughtfulness in how they move as an organization is a theme that came up many times during my conversation with Meg, who is part of RVC’s 2022-2024 Community Impact Fellowship cohort.
Stills from the video produced by Stories to Feel for the Beacon Hill Small Business Pregones event, co-hosted by Beacon Business Alliance and MÁS.
If you’ve been following our work, you may already be familiar with Movimiento Afrolatino Seattle (MÁS)’s mission. Created by Afrolatino communities and artists that appreciate Afrolatino arts and culture coming together to preserve and sustain this rich cultural heritage, MÁS’s programs range from cultural performances to youth programing, seasonal workshops, and conversational panels that support ancestral connection and healing for members of the AfroLatine community and strengthen identities that oppressive systems try to erase (“MÁS Conversaciones para MÁS Orgullo”).
“There is this need for connection, especially here where the community of AfroLatinos is not huge and it’s also super dispersed.”
Meg, who will be graduating with the rest of the cohort in June 2024, has been serving the organization as the Development Coordinator through the 2-year fellowship.
Meg came to know of RVC through Pathwaves WA where they had been supporting a program that highlights the skills, labor, and heart of BIPOC women in early childhood policy. It wasn’t until after Meg applied that they saw MÁS was going to be one of the orgs.
Having connected with Milvia Berenice Pacheco Salvatierra, Executive Director of MÁS, during a project to understand how people who are doing community work personally experienced the pandemic as leaders in the community, Meg immediately felt an alignment with Milvia based on their interactions during the interview process. “I just thought she was amazing, and loved what I’d learned about MÁS.”
During the Fellowship onboarding process, Meg was interviewed for multiple organizations, but was eventually matched up with MÁS. “I was really glad about that…and I still am! It felt like fate drew me to MÁS the year leading up to my placement.”
When they joined, Meg dove right in and started helping with some of the board development work, thinking about the structure, organizational goals, community roles, and working with Milvia to develop the fundraising committee that they call the ‘MÁS abundance committee.’ And then we also designed and implemented collective budgeting for the whole org as well. So we did all that in the first four months [of the fellowship].”
If this sounds like a lot of work…it is. And definitely too much for one Executive Director to hold. “When I joined, there were different people contracted, different people on committees to give life to MÁS…but really, Milvia was the one there every day, and like, holding the structure. It was so clear that that was…way too much.”
Happily, Milvia and Meg make for a great team. “We got along naturally; we balance each other in a lot of ways.”
“I felt like there was this circular kind of thing that was happening between us where Milvia was encouraging me to step into these roles of leading different things. And then I was encouraging her by creating structural and organizational supports to ease the day-to-day workflow.”
Meg shared how the two of them in a team also relied on each other as sounding boards, to really evaluate the different resources they were being given around how to develop a nonprofit, as well as encouraging each other. In a lot of the ways that they interact with the nonprofit system, such as development work, Meg and Milvia found they were on the same page about moving away from “how things are done.” They were aligned in doing work in an authentic way that was true to what the MÁS community already wanted to do; a way that was less transactional and took the time that was needed.
“We were both really open to dreaming and doing the work in a way that feels less like we’re alone.”
And Meg also encouraged and supported Milvia to rest. If you’ve been following us for a while, you know that RVC is all about sustainable leadership, which is a particularly acute need for BIPOC leaders in executive positions. Meg shared, “If we can’t, or don’t think we deserve to be cared for…or if we don’t actively care for ourselves…how are we going to care for others?”
Meg applied to a Black joy & wellness grant in 2022 through a participatory process, asking everyone Black at MÁS for their views and visions on Black joy and wellness, what it means to them, and how it could be materialized. They then submitted these responses in the grant application. This resulted in the organization’s ability to provide $1000 to everyone Black within MÁS, with the rest of the grant supporting Milvia’s sabbatical this past summer.
There is a lot of alignment within MÁS for responsibilities and decision-making to be collective. Having committees for programming, communications, fundraising, and doing collective budgeting together is all part of their realization of a sustainable future for their organization that is responsive to the Afrodiasporic communities’ evolving needs.
“I do know that the structures that I’m part of putting into place are centered around highlighting the Black voices in it better within MÁS. Making things more circular, flattening and sharing power. That’s kind of what MÁS is…it’s not just an organization. It’s the community and healing space for convening AfroLatinos and for Indigenous descendants who have an interest in and connection to cultural art, dance, and music.”
Milvia performing at the Ancestral Whispers event.