First Week Reflections at MataHari

It’s been an exciting summer, to say the least.

During my first week I jumped right into action at MataHari, a Boston-based women’s social justice nonprofit organizing to end gender-based violence and exploitation.  The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights passed the Massachusetts Senate only a few weeks prior, and the Bill was on the slate for the MA House of Representatives the following week.  The excitement and energy in the office was huge.  MataHari had been organizing for the past four year with several other groups like the Massachusetts Domestic Workers’ Coalition on the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights to reach a vote in MA State congress.  Additionally, International Domestic Workers’ Day was the following Monday (June 16th) which added an extra layer of pressure to the big event.

In the midst of all the excitement, I began my work the Hacker in Residence Intern by developing a plan for MataHari’s new website, hoping for a timely launch near the prospective passage of the DWBoR.  I worked closely with my supervisor to discuss the essence of MataHari, the target audience, and other aspects necessary for developing a solid sitemap for a new website.  We both began to layout design suggestions as I looked into developing the requisite code for creating features to meet what we determined to be MataHari’s specific needs, a process during which I started to greatly improve my project planning skills, client communication skills, and technical (design and coding) skills – which are all part of my career and classroom goals I planned to hone this summer.  Perhaps the most invigorating part of this process, though, was talking with my supervisor Monique about what MataHari’s members (many of whom are domestic workers, caregivers, and women of color) were looking for in a site, what resources and information they wanted to see, and what their vision was for the organization.  One of the most enriching aspects of this work, and this internship in general, is just the ability to ask questions – of my supervisor, of other interns, and of community members – and to learn their thoughts on different social justice issues, such as the integration of community organizing, advocacy and legislation – and how they best see the intersectionality addressed in the realm of technology.

My enthusiasm and enrichment only grew the second week when we held the International Domestic Workers’ Day Celebration at the MataHari office.  As the interns and small staff prepared for the evening celebration, I began to learn a lot about our different working and communication styles – an aspect of having coworkers I hadn’t had to think so carefully about before.  It was a great learning experience, though, as throughout the late afternoon we started to communicate more effectively what we did and didn’t need in terms of instruction and organization.

I was in charge of the Karaoke, which according to my supervisor was to be the focal point of the celebration!  I was fairly nervous setting up the equipment and the technical details as I prepared to DJ in front of a crowded room of our sister organizations as well as community members and domestic workers whom I had not yet met!  As the other interns and I ushered folks into the room, I sat down and began to take requests.  Monique, our supervisor, told all the interns that as part of our “initiation” we had to sing!  While she said so jokingly, she did make the point that putting ourselves out there did help create a safer space for everyone to put themselves out there — and that “leadership” is, partially, reliant on demonstration, creating comfort for all other parties to step up and feel safe, and then stepping back as parties begin to feel confident in that space.

Karaoke was a true blast.  My fellow intern Chrystal and I sang the Spanglish version of “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and David Bisbal, and the room went wild.  MataHari members, caregivers, and children sprung up waving their hands back and forth, people sang along with us, and the energy among us was amazing.  Next, person by person and group by group people came up to me to request songs, and there was something beautiful about each performance.

While we were focused on celebrating International Domestic Workers’ Day and the passage of the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in Congress, we also laughed, danced and sang together as a community, and that was when I saw the real power in the work we do.

 

 

– Emmy Calloway, 2015

 

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