Sunday, June 8, 2014

What is a Community?

com·mu·ni·ty
kəˈmyo͞onitē/
noun
noun: community; plural noun: communities
  1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
    "Rhode Island's Japanese community"

  2.     a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
    "the sense of community that organized religion can provide"
     
     
     
    As a community worker, activist, or whatever label there is to describe the work being done, I wrestle with what is "community".  We are all a part of various types of communities: religious, neighborhood, racial, sexual orientation, frat/sororities etc.   I will admit to being the most critical of my community labeled as African American.  Because I'm solution based in my thinking and life, this is my expectation for this community I'm a part of because of my genetic make up, social experiences, and shared history.  The expectation is no different than from other community I'm involved with in my life.  I want to move and live in the Solution. 

    One of the most important actions one can take to bring about change and/or being solution driven is getting involved.  What are you doing to address the issue?  Something I learned in being a part of the HIV/AIDS community  now and particularly in the 90's is that every person counts in the cause.  I recall senior women baking cakes and cookies and bringing them to the center for the clients.  One volunteer knitted beautiful blankets for the clients and she gave me one that I still have with me.  Some can write checks.  Others cared for our dying clients.  It was the community that help to save lives for some and helped others die with dignity.  Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.    We know that as a community of African American men, women, and youth there is a long history of standing together and fighting together.  There was a community.  I'm not going to say that there aren't those who still stand together and try to look at the current needs of this community and bring about a solution based response to a number of issues and disparities.  We are here. We are trying.  We are really trying. 

     What are some of the issues and solutions?
    The amazing and yet sad thing about community work is there are just as many who are in this work for ego and praise.  This prevents successful partnership and collaboration if you're more worried about the placement of your logo on the flyer than the work to be done.  Getting "credit" and getting the shine for doing good comes organically. It comes.  At the end of the day, its about outcomes. What needs to be addressed? How will we address it? Who will help us address it? What is the time frame?  What resources do we have?  Ego has no place.  We all need to learn when to step up and just as importantly, to step back.  

    Another issue is that we only want to work with people who are our friends or family regardless of their work ethic.  This is frustrating.  Of course we should support our friends and family who have businesses who can do great work.  We harm ourselves when we don't hold each other accountable for our outputs and deliverables.   We also do each other a disservice when we don't pay each other for our worth and work.  Nothing wrong with a "hook up" here and there but shouldn't be an expectation.  For anyone to be successful at any task, accountability is necessary.  It should be given in a spirit of love and received the same way. We need to reach outside our circles of comfort and partner with those who are hard working.  Every one doesn't have to be your friend to be your partner in a cause. 

    Lastly,  those involved get to complain.  Too many complaining voices but so few who are involved. Its annoying.  Its troublesome.  I hear African Americans talk about how we collectively have a "crab in a barrel" mentality.  Ok, let's change it.   Let's move in a direction so this isn't just our way or reputation. We all have a place.  Sometimes is just making sure there are baked goods at the agency down the street or writing a check because you can.   Be a doer.  Change only comes with intentional action and movement.  I believe that we have ancestral memory.  History tells us we have always been together and we can't afford to break apart now not now, not ever.  
     
     
     



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