what is community?

is it a room full of southern, christian conservative people in which i have nothing in common with but the experience of being Disabled?

the amazing women of color, queer folks, disabled folks, and allies i’ve met through links, comments, and emails?

the people who love me, but look down on me or don’t appreciate me (i.e. this weekend, the large number of people at a conference who called me “one of the youth here at the conference” instead of an active member who has been involved w/ this particular org for a long time)?

the handful of people who truly “get it”?

the person who dreams what revolution would look like with me on hotel notepads?

activists in far away states that i see and breathe in their presence only once or twice a year?

the people i work with?

the authors i read?

what are we calling community? i want– and NEED– to hear what you think.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “what is community?

  1. Molly

    Seems to me we should be talking about communities. Because if the only people in the room are the handful that already get it, that’s a great support group but not much of a movement. And if it’s a ballroom full of people who happen to be disabled but have nothing else in common, it’s not the place for advanced progressive discussion, but it’s a helluva bigger platform for starting something.

    I say, take allies where we can find ’em. Half my socially liberal (or radical) friends are fiscal conservatives, at least by Canadian standards. And they’re totally wrong, of course, but when they’re standing up for gay marriage, reproductive rights, and privacy, I can set that aside. I wouldn’t invite them to a No One Is Illegal rally, but they’re still part of an important community, and I’m not going to alienate them because they have stupid wrongheaded ideas about welfare and education funding vs. military budgets.

  2. To me community is a group of people I can count on for support in various ways, so it means some of the bloggers I regularly interact with, the parents I work with at my daughter’s school, The people in my hood that I know well enough and know my children, the people who have inspired me through their political histories and share their knowledge with me. It’s my aunts , cousins and me sitting around my grandma and her bed on Sundays. I think there are multiple communities we live in and interact in. Everyone else, are just people around

  3. I feel that community can be one,, a few, or many, and if the community is close enough, you can call them family. I’ve been blessed and spoiled being a member of ADAPT for over twenty years. Thinking about it, ADAPT is a community of communities. We are diverse in every way imaginable, and then some. Some of us are nondisabled. Some of us have a little bit of money. Some of us have PhDs and MDs, and some of us never spent a day in a classroom. Lots of us are women, and many of us are POC. Some of us are over 80, and some of us are under 10. Some of us are GLBT, and some of us are Wiccans, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, and Atheists. Some of us come from the big city, and some of us come from tiny towns. That’s the cool thing about ADAPT!

    Perhaps, some of you may be a tad impatient with me for always spouting on about ADAPT, but understand that I searched for community all of my life until I found them. I joined the peace and justice movement, but being a PWD and African-American, I really didn’t fit in. I joined women’s groups, but being a PWD, I really didn’t fit in. I joined some local GLBT groups, but once again, being a PWD, I really didin’t fit in. ADAPT was the only group where being an African-American agnostic Lesbian Nerd with multiple disabilities didn’t matter! What’s more, the ADAPT leadership saw potential in me that even I did not recognize, and so over the years, I became one of the national leaders in ADAPT.

    All my babbling aside, I think that community is one, a few, or a group of folks who not only share the same ideals, but who have an emotional bond with each other, and value each other’s presence within, participation in, and commitment to the community. The community has a vested interest in the well-being, empowerment, and personal growth of its members. It could be your place of worship, your hood, your school, a group of friends, or an organization you belong to.

    One more thing. Just because you belong to an organization or group does not mean that it is a community, and just because you belong to a community does not mean that it is YOUR community!

  4. I think I find community in a room full of people with bodies we are told are not supposed to exist.

    It’s broad – and I’ve said it before – but this gives me a huge range of identities to link to, and a huge range of people to learn from. Also, it makes me feel more comfortable than just staying in LGBT or queer circles where it’s not necessarily true that everyone understands their body at the level I need.

    I also think community can be disempowering. We can bein to think in a way that is so close-minded or one-issue-centric that we forget to engage all our possibilities. That doesn’t mean I don’t still want it, though, I’m just very very careful.

  5. thanks to you all for taking the time to write about what community means to you. this week has been rough and i’ve been asking myself why i am involved in what i am involved in (though i already know the answer.)

    mik, i’m so excited to see you commenting here! i really like what you said about not always staying in safe spaces and being ready to engage with others outside our direct community. a lot to think about there, i.e. why do we choose to connect w/ other communities? is it more than working on an issue and being a coalition? does it have to be?

    dread, i LOVE to hear you talk about ADAPT so please never stop (haha my favorite line of your comment is about being the african american agnostic lesbian nerd w/ multiple disabilities! you’re the best). thanks for agreeing to let me record your story this summer (yall didn’t know i’m getting ready to start youtubing on here!!).
    i really like your point about an org not being your community and am comforted by meeting another person who spent much time searching for their place in various movements and communities.

    mamita mala, you are amazing. all the time. 24/7. i never thought about looking at everyone else just being people around. i need to not focus so much energy on the people that are just around. can’t wait to see you in 2 weeks!!

    molly–great to see you here, thanks for stopping by. you’re so right about needing to have a conversation on what community means. a few months ago, we threw that question out to a bunch of young crips applying to a conference and instead of hearing “i belong to the disability community” or “i belong to the chinese american community” we got “i belong to the keyclub community” or nothing. this is a conversation that is so needed.

  6. sorry I’m late to the party, but I’ve been thinking about this ever since you posted it. Many times I feel as if I don’t belong anywhere – a WOC in a mostly white town, job, etc… but too assimilated (so they say) to fit in w/ POC… and so on through the identities of feminist/womanist, the gender continuum – all the false binaries of identity… I want to resist placing or being placed.

    I think there are many kinds of community, and that one of the healthiest things we (I) can do is to know who they are comprised of and where they are so that I can get to them when I need them… or they can get to me. I can’t give all my time to any one issue … but I feel like communities are often forced to falsely divide themselves. I want to breach the false divisions but at the same time know in reality, at least for now, I need to flit back and forth through all of them.

    Thanks again for this post, and for your amazing writing. I’ve been lurking for a long time.

  7. Like harrietsdaughter, I’m a bit late to the party.

    I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately, and the only thing I can come up with that is any that coherent is that: community is a group of people that make me feel that I’ve come home.

  8. When I think about a community, I definitely think about people who “get it”. And when I say that I don’t mean they have to “get it” in exactly the same way I do. In a lot of critical and radical movements, I think too often we dismiss people who aren’t as “far along” as we are in our radical thought. We oftentimes take a moral purity argument and pretend that we’re always perfect in our politics, even though we know we’re not. So, people “get it” in their own way and we’re all on a journey. When I think about where I was 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago, in terms of my involvement with queer, disability rights, anti-sexism, and anti-racism work, I can definitely say I’ve come a long way and still have a long way to go. And, I learned a lot from a community of people who took me in and were willing to let me struggle through things on my own without excluding me.

    So, in short, I think community is a group of people who “get it” and respect where other people are in their journey (but still continue to push and challenge people to go further.) I also think that safety is really important, because some groups may “get” a few issues (especially when it comes to multiple marginalized identities) but not get others and be hostile toward them.

    I love the other comments and the blog in general! Keep asking these provocative and hard questions!

    PS: I noticed that we’re both Tauruses and I am also from NC!

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