I woke up this morning to ride to a cafe to meet with Spectra who filled out my “Schedule an Interview” form. And, how could I have predicted, that over coffee and a laptop, I’d meet a writer, a founder, a shaker, and a true revolutionary spirit. Thank you Spectra, for sharing your words and your morning with me. I hope you all enjoy this tenth interview, as true as I could relay it. And so it is.
Birthdate: September 6th, 1981 (Virgo!)
Birth Country: Nigeria
Current Town: Boston
HSR: Good mooorrning! How was your run?
Spectra: Funny story… I actually didn’t make it.
HSR: Well, that’s already pretty funny.
Spectra: We’re doing the couch to 5K android app and we looked at it and saw that we had to run for 20 mins straight today, and hadn’t rested we ran two days straight already, so convinced ourselves we needed a day of rest.
HSR: I was up and early and went to the Outpost cafe to interview you, from East Flatbush, that was a good bike ride! By the way, do you usually speak in plurals when referring to yourself?
Spectra: (laughs) No. I was referring to me and my partner.
HSR: Oh, yes, I forget partnered people do that!
Spectra: No, no, no, I’m not one of those people. We have whole and separate lives outside of our running together every morning, I promise (laughs)
HSR: I’m kidding… My partner is sitting right in front of me, and we had a good laugh about it! How long have you and your partner been together?
Spectra: We decided it’s been 2 years because the story of how we met and fell in love is kinda complicated, with interruptions, mainly in the form of a relationship I needed to get out of, so we picked the date of our first kiss.
HSR: Wow, sounds like the cusp and center of your entire Saturn. From the previous relationship, how was that complicated? I ask because that could determine emotional issues, around sex, perhaps money? or the feeling of needing someone unncessarily
HSR: Still, since you are 29, your Saturn is likely in Libra (or cusping on scorpio) and Libra’s Saturn is all about “othering”… so it’s interesting that you started that time, (and this conversation) in “we”.
Spectra: That relationship was one of those on and off again types, really unhealthy, and I have definitely felt ‘othered’ for the past several years. My current, call her Ladyfriend.
HSR: And your current Ladyfriend, how does she complete or compliment you? How would your life be without her?
Spectra: It feels like a roller coaster of an explanation.
HSR: What does, her name, or her existence?
Spectra: How I feel about her.
HSR: And how is that?
Spectra: The ‘center’ she helps me feel.
HSR: Tell me about that central space.
Spectra: in my last relationship, we were together on and off for almost 4 years, and we began dating when I was 25 turning 26. It started off as my wanting my autonomy, space, not wanting to be tied down so quickly to someone I barely knew, or trusted. But I was younger, and I really dug her. I didn’t want to lose her, so I committed myself, but I wasn’t ready.
We finally broke up shortly after my 28th birthday
HSR: Oh, wow, so it’s a recent ending. Congratulations on finally centering. Seems it wasn’t like a band-aid rip, but a slow ejection.
Spectra: Thanks, yes, a slow, painful, laborous rebirth. I was relieved to finally be able to breathe and be with the woman I loved
HSR: And so, are you saying that now you no longer want to be autonomous? You prefer an “other” as unit? A pair? A couple? Two peas, one pod? How do you reconcile wanting autonomy and wanting love?
Spectra: Not necessarily. I just found someone who could let me FEEL like I can be myself, whole, complex, and me. I don’t feel suffocated, or like I have to conform to some invisible societal rule set about what it means to be ‘coupled’. We live and breathe together, separately, but also as a unit. I didn’t know that was possible until her.
HSR: So what I’m hearing is that your coupling merges, it seems, with community, not against community. Can you tell me how you two walk in the world together, and then, how you walk, alone?
Spectra: We have our home, and our own center, outside of community (which, honestly, feels like work 99% of the time, so I do need to keep it separate), but when we do walk through it, together, I feel supported in my work, and still seen as a person -Spectra: not as a +1, nor she either.
HSR: Community as work. That’s an interesting definition of the feeling of community.
So far, your feelings are:
love, center from your home life and partner,
and work and support from community.
Tell the good people what you do for work; what you do for your community.
I learned the term ‘community organizer’ a few years ago, and it feels like the closest definition to what I do. I’m the founding director of Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston), founded in August 2006, which is a grassroots effort to create safe spaces and increase visibility for LGBTQ ‘women’ of color and their friends/allies. We achieve this mainly by creating different kinds of spaces through which people can connect, across different interests, sub-cultures, identities etc. through socials, discussions, live performances, online blogs etc.
HSR: You create community.
Spectra: We’re turning five years old this year (and I can’t believe it)!
HSR: Is this your only fundable source of living? Or do you live like a NYer and have three jobs?
Spectra: Yes, and I’d like to think I work to nurture and sustain it as well. QWOC+ Boston is completely unfunded, and doesn’t sustain me financially at all.
HSR: That’s so unfortunate, because how awesome would it be to do this type of thing full-time, and with a pension, so that it could be sustainable?!
Spectra: Actually, it’s been more of a financial expense over the past five years because of how much I love it.
Though that would be nice, I don’t know, call me an idealist; I think communities sustain themselves. Organizations come and go, passionate activists come and go; there will always be someone who wants to do something to make it better for everyone else. I also used to work in corporate america in the software industry for the first 4 years of QWOC+, and then the recession happened. I got laid off of a job I really loved (software sales), and got thrust into this space where I had to think about what it is that I really wanted to do.
HSR: And so what do you do for money now, post-layoff?
Spectra: I produce events, and I write. Embracing my inner artist after ignoring her for years.
HSR: That sounds like heaven…
Spectra: It can be! When I don’t have bills to pay!
HSR: You seem to know a thing of two about purpose. Tell me about your path Spectra. What do you assume your path is, and how has Saturn affected your path?
Spectra: As a student of astrology and of other subjects that explore the human experience — our personalities and our relationships to the earth and each other — in alternative lenses, I believe that personal reflections resonate more deeply with others than achievements, and can be more helpful to them in navigating their own path.
When I was younger, I had a vision of where I needed to go. I’m originally from Nigeria, was there till I was 17 and I knew when I was 11, that I wanted to come to the states for school — all my friends were pipelining to Europe/UK, as most Nigerians do (it’s closer) but I, the first born of my family, knew for some reason that I needed to come here and based on all that’s happened in my life, I can’t imagine I would have ‘woken up’ in any other part of the world. I came to understand my love for women here. Where I had space to do so. In Nigeria I didn’t even know what lesbian meant! Growing up as Nigerian, I was surrounded by people of color, so didn’t identify racially here (still don’t). I’m still more comfortable/used to calling myself Nigerian/African, than Black, as it’s something I was only told to do when I got here.
HSR: I liked your point about race, which seems to resonate for people not from this country, to not perpetuate race politics, the american construct that is self-deprecating and imperialistic/imposing to other nations of color, to expect to adopt the same race politic.
Spectra: But still, I’ve experienced a heightened consciousness of race, and colonialism, and all the fucked up shit in the world. That has influenced my politics, my community organizing, my writing, so much that is part of who I am. As for path, I don’t think you ever ‘know’ your path, but you have to be ‘awake’ somehow. I was veering off mine till my saturn return. I was getting sucked into climbing the corproate ladder, making money in sales, and just when I was really starting to go off course, I got laid off and had to rethink my career track, and really “listen” to what it is that I wanted to do — had always wanted to do. I realized that I’d ignored my writing for years. My last relationship was also a part of that, she didn’t support my writing at all. I was becoming a shell of myself, some capitalist americanized version of me, so not cool.
HSR: But, how do you “listen”? Describe the ways in which one can be “awake” to this knowing.
Spectra: I talked to my best friend about feeling like something was ‘missing’, or that I had no direction and she recommended this book, “The Artist’s Way“.
HSR: I love when books enter the conversation!
Spectra: it changed my life! I actually didn’t finish it — I still need to. It’s a workbook. The point was to take you through chapters to help you open up yourself to your creativity (which everyone has). Part of the exercice was writing every day in your ‘morning pages’. So you would have to wake up, and before you turned on the computer, or checked facebook, or your phone or whatever, you would have to write, whatever came to mind, even if it’s “I don’t know why I’m writing this feels so stupid”. You would have to write everything down. Once I took this on as practice, the most amazing things happened… ideas popped out on the page that surprised me, unresolved feelings, anger, hope etc.
HSR: So, your writing was your path talking back to you? Would it be a stretch to say that it may have been spirit? Perhaps it’s the tool for the spirit communicating with you?
Spectra: Yes!! I’m not sure if it’s the same for everyone but I’m definitely someone who needs to write their feelings to feel them, to be aware of them. We all have different names for what drives us to make the decisions we do when we’re ‘awake’. Mine definitely speaks through my writing, always has. And so not writing for almost 5 years, meant that I was driving blind.
HSR: I like your use of ‘awake’ and the fact that these moments came to you in the morning, upon waking.
Spectra: Mmmm, yes. I love the morning. It’s why I wanted to speak to you on a sunday morning.
HSR: Well, the morning is almost ending, and I’d like you to end it in pride. Tell me, what do you look forward to and what are you happy to say goodbye to as you turn 30?
Spectra: Well, my late 20s were trying because I became a shell of myself, silent, muffled for the sake of appeasing others, in all parts of my life — family, relationships, work, community as I’ve been more in touch with myself, I’m really excited about 30 because I’m going to it really really loud. I feel complete, unfragmented, and whole. Because I’ve been listening. I know who I am, and I’m unapologetic about it. The rewards have been really affirming too.
HSR: Loud! I’ll bet. This week is an example, I’m assuming. Before we forget, can you give folks an idea of the magnitude of QWOC Week?
Spectra: A healthy relationship, where I can be myself and still feel connected/loved, respect from my community, and as a writer, taking risks… it feels great!
oh wow. yeah QWOC Week!
I can’t believe QWOC+ Boston is turning five year old and QWOC week is four years old. I don’t think (or know of) any other pride festival in the country that exclusively focuses on LGBTQI WOMEN of color there are black prides, prides in different cities that are for people of color etc. But the ones I know about are run and produced for and by men QPOC organizing in general tends to take on a more masculine shade and women get the short end of the stick, so QWOC Week is really important. I think women are beautiful, and brave, and trailblazing in so many ways that other parts of the LGBTQ community aren’t. And it’s a chance for us to celebrate who we are.
There are 10 different events happening back to back over the course of 7 days, all planned by volunteers who believe in the importance of celebrating women of color. I never would have imagined that when I hosted the first social 5 years ago, that my work would culiminate in this transformational week. I feel so humbled by it. And also so proud. It’s a great gift to be able to experience the impact of my work, at least in Boston, before I turn 30.
HSR: I was interviewed this week by a PhD student doing her dissertation on Black lesbians and she asked me to describe my hands, and how it lives in community. So this week, your hands will be greeting women? unpacking boxes? screwing mic stands? Cupping ice? Opening doors? Wiping your sweat? Covering your mouth from laughter? Stacking cards? Stapling papers? Clapping? In community… I would love to witness your hands Spectra:!
Spectra: I also hug a lot, so holding other people’s bodies.
HSR: We should end, but is there anything else that you’d like to say, to other women, currently experiencing, about to enter, or often reliving their Saturn?
Spectra: Saturn is tough love, but she really cares about you.You are going through everything you’re going through right now because she wants to make you so much stronger, and prepared to take on the next phase of your life.
Rise to the occasion. You can do it!
HSR: Thank Spectra:! This was an awesome beginning to a real good week! You are so powerful, and I’m excited to feel the reverberations of your power.
Spectra: Thank YOU! This was so nice, just talking this morning. I’m in such a good mood .
HSR: Thank you! And good luck this week.
Wish I could be there… but year 6, you’ll see me!