Last night I had two missions. One was to take my nephew to the hospital to visit his friend. The second mission was to attend the Langston/Seattle Public Library event Seattle Reads: The Turner House a conversation with author Angela Flournoy and Seattle artists Inye Wokoma facilitated by Vivian Phillips. Inye, Vivian and myself are all on the Board of Directors for Langston.
During the conversation Vivian asked the question to Angela and Inye, “How do you create community?” This question made me say, hmmmm…. As they were answering the question, I kind of veered off in my head thinking about what I considered to be my community and how was it formed.
Growing up in North Carolina, I feel as though I was born into my community. Everything was ready upon my arrival and all I had to do was fall in wherever I could. After leaving North Carolina and going to college in Delaware. Again I felt that my community was already in place and all I had to do was join in. In reflecting on moving to Seattle, I now see that I did have to build my community. It wasn’t easy at first, I had to find a church, a hair dresser, got a job, figured out what my purpose was in life and worked through which friends were like family and which ones where just friends or associates. In going through all of that I believe I found my community.
In reflecting on Vivian’s question, “How do you create community?” During my first mission, last night I also experienced the community that my 15-year-old nephew has become a part of. He’s only been in Seattle for a little over a year and last night I had a chance to experience first hand his community. It was a beautiful thing to see. I say beautiful because with young Black men a lot of people like to focus on the negative. But last night was anything but that.
When we arrived at the hospital their where already four other young Black men and one adult Black male visiting my nephew’s friend. It was just wonderful seeing the support that this young man and his family have from the young men. And I’m proud that my nephew is a part of it. I was so inspired by the young men that when we were leaving the hospital, I told my nephew that he has selected a great group of people to call friends. I don’t know why this young man and his family are facing this medical challenge in his young life. But I’m thankful that it showed me how building/creating your community when you move to a place where your community isn’t a given contributes to who you are or may grow up to be.
In my work as an arts administrator and as an artist I often reference my/our community, but last night allowed me to reflect on what building community actually means.
How have you created/built your community?