Re-Imagining Community

My proclivity for reimagining community as the site of connectedness, imaginative expansion, and reaffirmation of our beings typically thrusts me into the very isolation I am attempting to flee because we have been lured into accepting community as the locale of superficial similarities.

Community is the unseen thread that binds us together. As we share in our suffering, as we disclose our frustrations, as we resist reductive reasoning, as we work toward dismantling systems of subjugation, as we reimagine alternative ways of living, as we protect ourselves against psychological assaults, as we stand in solidarity, as we champion connectedness, as we decolonize our minds, as we challenge injustice, as we reject recycled myths, as we brainstorm solutions, as we laugh in unison, as we affirm each other, and express the wholeness of our beings we move closer to creating a loving community that is transcendent…that is incapable of destruction.

Before we ever step foot in communities as advocates and organizers, we have to reimagine the purpose of community. We have to consider which communities we belong to, examine whether we feel like a true member of these communities, and explore what is preventing us from feeling that deep sense of connectedness to others. We have to be willing to ask ourselves what we would like to see more or less of in order to actualize our visions of rebuilding tight-knit communities, and we must be willing to make substantial contributions in the form of time and energy to realize these visions. If you truly feel connected to the communities in which you belong, what encourages that connectedness? What factors consistently promote connection and support? What foundational values bind you to one another? It is through this reflection and interrogation that we can begin to understand how to create a new standard of community that delves beneath superficial similarities.

While it is true that we are born into communities, form communities, join communities, thrive in communities, and embrace the need for community, we sometimes fail to participate in communion. If community is the unseen thread that binds us together, communion is the needle purposely weaving together our souls creating a binding effect. In Communion: The Female Search for Love, bell hooks speaks candidly about the importance of women unabashedly sharing our personal stories. The transformative power of sharing should not be overlooked. As we begin to open ourselves up, we bond through the rebellious and courageous act of sharing. Openly discussing our lived experiences is a rebellious act because we are taught to withhold our truths, to disguise our truths, to stick to small talk, to suck it up, to mask any semblance of pain, racial injustice, or disappointment we encounter. But who does that serve?  It keeps us in a cycle of silence where uplifting stories remain unheard even as we yearn to know that someone else understands exactly what it’s like to walk ten miles in our shoes. In The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander stresses the importance of dialogue stating that “…dialogue, a conversation that fosters a critical consciousness [is a] key prerequisite to effective social action.”

We cannot effect change in our communities if we are unwilling to converse and undergo metamorphosis ourselves.