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welcome to the party

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the women of small victories

The people started to cram the dance floor at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel at around 9:30 p.m. On a normal Friday night, 9:30 p.m. would be too early for a Brown partygoer. There is still plenty of pregaming to do at that time, and people are only about an hour removed from their dinner. After that, Friday nights are notorious for students drinking in their dorms and then mindlessly wandering around campus looking for a good time in each corner, often not finding it. But on this cold January night, people shuttle downtown early to get a spot on the Lupo’s dance floor. No, there isn’t a concert legend or major-label act playing, but a lineup chock-full of Brown talent. Alternative funk-rock band Clyde Lawrence, Brown dance group Impulse, DJs Alexander Norocea, Meena Maf, Vinny Vibe, and DJ Hank and rapper DAP are all slated to fill the four-and-a-half hour event. This is “Small Victories: Carnival.”

To pull together so many acts and coordinate them at a venue as large as Lupo’s takes a lot of moving parts. Small Victories is responsible for all of these parts. Founded by Brown alum Alexander “Roach” Norocea, the group is mostly staffed by Brown students. The one-man hustle of Norocea has grown to include an executive board, whose composition differs in a variety of ways from Norocea. This evolution was completely necessary, since Norocea graduated from Brown last spring and now works 12-hour days for Barclays in New York City and Chicago. Norocea maintains his status as CEO of Small Victories, but you’d be hard pressed to find him humping Red Bulls from Pawtucket and peddling them to club owners. After all, he’s graduated.

The buck still stops at Norocea, but his executive team has become more important than ever. Small Victories events like “Carnival” lean on a team composed of students who run in a myriad of social circles, including two women who have settled nicely into leadership roles.

When I arrive at Lupo’s, Tatiana Gaspar is the first person I see. She is calmly going over the VIP list with a member of the Lupo’s security team, and her long blonde hair and black cocktail dress juxtapose nicely with the security guard’s gelled spikes and black leather gloves. She is organized and unfazed, coordinating details with ease. She demonstrates a knack for the soft skills that are required to operate within the somewhat nefarious world of nightclubs.

Norocea, Gaspar’s boyfriend, is energetic and spontaneous, speaking off the cuff and relying on memory or his phone as a reference with club managers. Gaspar is more calculated and calm, carrying a pink folder with all the necessary documents, though both have a knack for speaking the same language as the nightclub managers who manage the event. Gaspar isn’t intimidated at all by what’s required of her. She speaks sharply and confidently, unlike her boyfriend Norocea, whose nervousness makes his words sporadic but endearing. Gaspar looks like a pro in the position, even though a year ago she was relatively out of the picture. For the most part, Norocea tended to keep his personal and business life separated. “Tati had the function of first being my girlfriend,” said Norocea in regards to his view of Gaspar’s role and motivation, “but she really ended up liking the business. At first there was a little bit of resistance.”

“I had the girlfriend position of everything,” Gaspar said, unsatisfied with the position. “But I really wanted to be involved … I feel like I’ve already been a part of this.” It wasn’t until she proved her organizational mettle at Small Victories’ Halloween event at Ultra Nightclub in fall of 2014 that Norocea and the Small Victories management team began to take notice. After that, more established members of the team felt that Gaspar could be trusted.

“She was in after doing a lot of work for that event, but she’d been working hard behind the scenes before that. It just wasn’t obvious to the team,” Small Victories member Enejda Senko said. And because of her now more prominent role, the group has a family vibe, almost like a mom-and-pop party shop. A year ago, Norocea would have been tasked with everything Gaspar does now. On this night, he shows up half an hour before the doors open, only allowable by the grace of his girlfriend.

Senko shows up later in the night, donning blue and black for the night, and wears a soft grin on her face, knowing she is happy with the event, but like everyone else on the team, still nervous. She didn’t have any personal or extracurricular connection to Norocea prior to becoming involved with Small Victories. A pre-med student who drives an EMS truck in her spare time, Senko has no prior business experience, but is responsible for marketing and promoting Small Victories events. Her relationship to the group is one of passionate fan turned decision-maker. Senko was introduced to Small Victories like most Brown students—as a partygoer, originally at the Friday Night Finnegan’s events in 2012. “I started bringing a lot of friends because this is such a great event,” said Senko, “then (Norocea) asked me if I wanted to be a promoter.”

This was a job Senko took to immediately, “I noticed when I really started to get involved in the Small Victories, I had a knack for the business and promoting.” Senko believes that the lack of business experience helps the group—“I didn’t know anyone in the group … we all have a different role to play and different social circles to tap into.” Senko seems to typify the quintessential start-up employee, someone who found an organization she was passionate about and kept showing up to help. Along with Norocea, the executive board’s diverse set of skills and backgrounds allows for special nights like the “Carnival.”

“Carnival” is a smash—1,100 people show up to pack the house. Though the event is one that the executive board can look at proudly, SV has no plans on resting. “Carnival” may have catapulted Small Victories into a party establishment, but there are levels to partying. The famed event “Spring Weekend: After Dark” could solidify the party-promoting group as a Brown staple and put it into a category of its own, creating a long-running party establishment that has not yet been seen by this campus. Norocea is planning to perform along with Australian DJ Anna Lunoe, the first female DJ to perform at After Dark.

One thing that Small Victories has solidified is that the group makes no bones about sharing either the business or entertainment side of the platform with women. When asked about what this brings to Small Victories, Gaspar tells me, “Diversity of thought.” The group relies heavily on the work of Gaspar and Senko to throw parties that people have fun at, and having multiple women on the executive team forces the group to think about things such as safety, alcohol consumption, and just an overall sense of how some women might feel at a Small Victories party. “I think we offer different perspectives but we also make the group more welcoming to other girls,” Senko says. Including women in leadership positions is not groundbreaking or revolutionary, but one could say that even in a college party promotion group, it could be considered a small victory.