activist, executive coach, philanthropist, connector and currently serving as the Emerging Nonprofit Leadership Accelerator (ENLA) Program Co-Director…
not least, that these are the qualities of strong, effective leadership AND SOME BEAUTIFUL OUTCOMES!
Last February – during Black History Month – I was struck by Daquetta’s Facebook postings. Each day, she spotlighted a different Black community member – and their special, specific talents and contributions…
When Daquetta and I sat down to talk, my first question to her was, “What motivated you to do this?” Each posting clearly took a lot of thought and no doubt, time and research.
“I simply needed to celebrate Black people by giving them their flowers for their contributions while living, ” Daquetta told me. “I feel privileged to know these folks. Everyone should…as well as contribute to their work, talents and movements!”
I learned that leadership for Daquetta means walking in another’s shoes…or at least, truly reflecting on what a person may be feeling or experiencing. “When I served as Executive Director at YWCA of the Greater Capital Region,” Daquetta told me, “I asked myself, ‘How do we like our homes to feel?’ YWCA-GCR is home to the women that live there…and a permanent one for some residents (one resident had lived there close to 40 years when I was there).”
This led to the goal of beautifying the women’s living space…and a tremendous community collaboration! After all, as Daquetta explained to me, ‘Our environment has a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves and how we behave.’ We submitted a grant to the Community Foundation of the Greater Capital Region and reached tout o my alma mater, Sage Colleges; many students helped with painting, throwing out the old, heavy SRO furniture. We partnered with a local architect and an alternative school. We asked the women about their preferences. ‘What color curtains do you prefer?’ What kinds of images would you like to see painted throughout the building/your home? And we listened! And acted on the women’s requests.”
When first starting at YWCA-GCR, Daquetta was asked for her input on a long-held policy that the residents could also work at YWCA-GCR. “And I thought,” Daquetta explained, “What better way to acknowledge the women’s strengths and talents…teach them new skills and ultimately, empower them!”
“In fact, some of the incredible changes made under my leadership came from the women that lived there. We were having a lot of crises at one point – a lot of incident reports. I realized that these crises were occurring every month after our pest control agency came in.
I decided to seek feedback from the women. I organized three town mtgs at three different times; I wanted to be as inclusive as possible. What I learned was that the pest control treatment was not helping the problem; it still was not even 80% under control.
We ended up going with a different company, who listened to our concerns and suggestions…AND was willing to implement a different system that ultimately worked. It had been taking up a lot of my time and staff’s time…And then it stopped! No more complaints, no more issues.”
Clearly, the OPEN DOOR POLICY that Daquetta implemented, flexibility in regard to bringing a child to work or making sure that the team felt supported (including outside of work!) all made a difference. “But it has been my personal lived experience that has also made me lead the way I lead – when it comes to leading teams and serving people!”
“While I have had advantages in my life – education, training, great mentors – I also know what it’s like to be homeless; I know what it’s like to be a victim of domestic violence; I know what it’s like to finally summon up the courage to ask for help, only to feel devalued or not treated with respect.”
“As a leader, I am committed to share and listen. I am equally committed to act. So when I symbolically gave the flowers to each Black community member during last year’s Black History Month, it was equally as important for me to take action in support of my Black brothers and sisters…whether doing business with these enterprises, giving a donation, amplifying their work, making connections or outreaching to potential donors/customers on behalf of these organizations/Black – Owned businesses.”
And I will never forget – as I read through Daquetta’s Facebook postings last February – some of the responses by spotlighted community members…
“Thank you Daquetta Jones for the recognition of love and honor. It’s a fact that black men are often stereotyped (in a way that does not recognize our accomplishments!)…I thank you again for this recognition on my birthday of all days. I sincerely thank you!” (Jamil Hood, Founding proprietor of #HoodsHouseOfHoops, a nonprofit, designed to provide outreach and guidance to inner city youth in low-income communities)
“Daquetta!!! I did not expect this on my birthday!!! I love you so much and I thank you for making space for me to flourish…!” (Jayana LaFountaine, Troy-based portrait photographer and documentarian www.jaylafotos.com, devoted to preserving legacy and bringing joy to families/friends of all colors, shapes and sizes…)
“I’m literally blown away and for once speechless. I truly appreciate and am inspired by Daquetta Jones!” (Tabitha Wilson, City of Albany School District board member, who works for NYS OTDA and lives by this motto: “If service is beneath you, then leadership is beyond you.” ).
I can’t help but wonder about the ongoing impact on individuals of this recognition…I know for myself, I would feel empowered and energized to keep going in spite of challenges that arose!