Carving Space for the Collective

TraNecia Sylvester (l) and Lindsay Pluger
TraNecia Sylvester (l) and Lindsay Pluger (photo by Trista McGovern)

As women of color, we often find ourselves striving to get through our daily lives with our dignity, humanity, sense of joy, and meaning. Juggling through a world that celebrates and reject us, that amplifies and degrades us, and one that uses and needs us. I’ve often been told to manage the stress and negativity that comes with these dualities by carving out space for myself.

When I first moved to the Twin Cities, I needed space. Untethered, I waded through a sea of uncertainty, of anxiety, of unanchoredness. Attempting to carve a space for just myself only deepened the sense of loneliness I was experiencing. How could I learn to heal and do good work in my community?

It was during that year that I stumbled on LOCUS, an organization that connects people of color and Indigenous communities. It exists to make sense of the ways in which we and our communities are evolving, and to share resources and opportunities for equitable advancement and collective energy. It hosts dialogues, events, and an online community that connects to leadership and employment opportunities.

The leadership team at the helm of this organization consists entirely of women and non-binary people of color; volunteering time to help carve out space for themselves and others. Two of the LOCUS board members are Lindsay Pluger and TraNeicia Sylvester.

Identity-Driven Leadership
Pluger’s identity rests not only in her nonprofit professional experiences, but in her transracial adoptee status. She hasn’t always been comfortable sharing her authentic self in either of her identities. “Having a community where I can grow and create those spaces for myself and others has been one of the best ways for me to stay true to my values.”

She felt compelled to do the work of LOCUS. “Having a space where I can acknowledge and celebrate my identities, along with other people and their identities, through various conversations and action-driven community work is what keeps me connected.”

Pluger engages with communities of color on both an international and local level. “The concept of identity-driven leadership always sticks out to me when I think about my work with LOCUS.”

Standing Out for Single Mothers
Sylvester describes LOCUS as “a community collective that bridges the gap for people of color in the workforce, educational spaces, and leadership.”

As a single woman, she wanted to be part of leading an organization that could help connect more women of color to opportunities. She especially wanted to help single parents sustain their families with opportunities that would normally not be offered to them. “I educated myself and I did what I needed to do to get into the entrepreneurial route.”

Sylvester recognizes that mothers, and women of color, tend to be marginalized because of bias about what they are capable of accomplishing.

“I represent a population of women, not just of color, but single mothers who are constantly overlooked and have economically been taken advantage of when it comes to invalidating our work experience,” says Sylvester. “Being part of LOCUS as a leader will bring light to other women who cannot take advantage of leadership roles because of the roles they play at home.”

Having experienced trauma in the healthcare system during the birth of her daughter, she also is motivated to open up conversations about health care neglect, community health engagement, and prenatal care.

The Backbone

Thet-Htar Thet (photo by Trista McGovern and Glynnis Forsberg)

There is something immensely vulnerable and powerful about the existence of an organization such as LOCUS. The backbone relies on women and non-binary people of color coming into power. It provides a glimpse into a world where carving out space for the collective is equally as critical as it is for the individual.

Sometimes carving space for the collective means to let others we trust hold space for us. Struggling in isolation can leave us drowning.

All of us need someone to help us navigate moments of uncertainty, anxiety, and unanchoredness. When we allow others to show us what healing, leadership, and community can look like, that is when we can take a step closer to internalizing it for ourselves.

Thet-Htar Thet is on the LOCUS leadership team. She current works as a College Possible Coach at Highland Park High School.