Digging for Community

When I was in middle school I had a squad. Four girls, one block, summer time walks, fall sleepovers, and winter dances at everyone’s respective schools. In high school I had a clique. The Black girls in my class, matching jerseys and shared study halls to vent about our shared struggles. In college I had my homies. Friendship built on childhood memories and a desire to do well in the world. In my 20's I shaped a village. These are still my road and prayer warriors, my intention setters, my knuck if you buck circle, my accountability partners, my alibis, my secret keepers and truth tellers. There are people who have been in every space and there are those who have joined and left along the way. I have always been obsessed with these groups. How do you get them? How do you keep them? How do you describe their invaluable addition to your existence? As I have traveled this path I have also traveled an academic one, longing to put theory to my existence and explain my reality and that of those connected to me. What I have found, now in my 30s, is I am looking for Beloved Community. 

Made popular by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in speeches like Justice without Violence, this is not a new concept. In fact, one of King’s mentors Dr. Howard Thurman spent much of his life talking and writing about Beloved Community. bell hooks speaks about Beloved Community often and though I never heard her utter the phrase, Maya Angelou has never described anything else. As I read, listened, and researched it is Beloved Community that many of us want and also what many of us struggle to provide for those around us.  Beloved Community is the feeling of the crew with matching outfits, attitudes, and loyalty that we are nostalgic about in the spaces where we live, work, and play. 

Beloved Community is the idea that we are all in practice to appreciate those around us and in that practice comes reflection, redemption, and restoration. When I called that Timeout a few weeks ago it was to acknowledge the struggle we all feel and the need to push toward something where we acknowledge, support, and heal collectively through our individual struggles. That, my friends, is Beloved Community. 

Our journey to appreciation is one where we are able to move through preconceived notions, assumptions, and misinformation that breed disdain or tolerance to a place where we see and value every existence with which we come in contact. To be clear, this does not mean that we must interact with everyone nor does it mean we are standing arm in arm singing and swaying. It does mean that we must look at how we interact with ourselves and how we challenge each other in practices such: Love, Reconciliation, Struggling with Fear, Embracing Conflict, Seeing Redeeming Qualities, and Forgiveness. 

This is where the digging happens. We all have a lot to learn and unlearn. There is so much love and joy covered, buried even, with our decisions of complacency and willful ignorance. Exploring the aforementioned practices of Beloved Community will uncover challenges and strength we may have never considered. It may allow us to think about our communities differently, more positively, and with radical openness. Next month I will offer reading, watching, and thoughts to explore Embracing Conflict and Forgiveness in hopes that this exploration of Beloved Community can propel us into 2019.

In the meantime, what is your vision of community? What is your role in achieving it? Where should others be held to a standard?

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Let the digging begin!