Elle Roberts is a musician and freelance writer based in Indianapolis. She is the founder of shehive, a grassroots gender equity project. To contact her, email [email protected]
How long have you lived in Indy?
This August makes three years since I moved to Indianapolis. Before I came here, I never lived anywhere for more than a year since I earned my degree. I was living in my hometown for a while, trying to decide when and where to plant my roots. My choice came down to Chicago or Indianapolis, and the Circle City easily won me over. I lived in Clifton on the River for two years, Woodruff Place for one, and now I'm in Willard Park. I hope to one day buy a home on the Near Eastside and stay for the foreseeable future.
Why have you focused your career on the nonprofit sector?
What began, I think, as an immature belief in altruism that I've had to work hard to unlearn has evolved into a knowing sense of how I can best use my lived experience, developed skill set, and a passion to build and bolster the community I want to be an integral part of.
How did you find your current position?
shehive, the grassroots gender equity project I founded, was birthed on the Near Eastside two years ago at what was once known as Tin Comet Coffee on East 10th Street. Most of my work centered on issues of gender, sexuality, race and class started where I wanted to plant my roots. Since starting women317, the flagship program of shehive, the performance and visual art show featuring all local women artists, I've built relationships with friends, neighbors and community leaders on the Near Eastside and throughout the city. Those connections led me to a position as the Community Engagement Coordinator of House Life Project in the St. Clair Place neighborhood, as the Communications Specialist at the Indiana office of American Friends Service Committee, and as a contractor for VOICES, a youth poetry nonprofit. I wear a lot of hats.
What would you say to another young professional considering a nonprofit job?
1. Know who you are and what impact on the city you'd like to make.
2. Be sure you get more out of your job as a young professional than you invest.
3. Bring your unique perspective on your lived experience to the table and make sure you make space for others who are distinctly different from you.
If you could learn a brand new skill, what would it be?
Should I be presented with the opportunity, I'd learn the basics of sound engineering, producing music and radio, and graphic design. These are all skills I'll need in the near future and intend to either teach myself and use my network to exchange and barter resources.
If you were an inanimate object, what would you be and why?
I would be an old fashioned tea kettle because I love making loose leaf tea in them and they are useful for many years beyond manufactured shelf life. I hope my work has the same longevity and impact.
What do you hope to accomplish that you haven't yet?
I want to be an established writer. My long term goal is to travel the world and write several books about feminist theory, the oxymoron that is intersectional feminism, and black liberation. bell hooks and Audre Lorde are two people whose work I look to as I create my path.
Share a little-known treasure of Indianapolis with us.
My favorite place in Indianapolis is Tea's Me Café off 22nd and Delaware. It's not a coffee shop, but specifically a tea shop and café with early morning hours. Most folks I know have never been there, know it exists, or know it is a black-owned business right in the middle of Indy.
Most important question: What's your favorite thing about summer in Indy?
I have a love-hate relationship with the unpredictable nature that is Midwestern weather. But one thing I've loved about Indy summer seasons after spending my formative years in Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland is the transition from spring to a fairly mild summer compared to other places I've called home. I love the smells of plants growing in the blossoming urban gardens and I love every restaurant and event venue with outdoor space to enjoy the beautiful weather during the summer months.
Want to support Elle's work?
- meetups: informal, gender neutral gatherings to discuss reading material related to gender, sexuality, race, and class
- buzzwords: interactive workshops for women to explore gender issues in pop culture
- women317: a quasi quarterly visual and performance art show featuring local women artists