I recently attended a town hall led by historian Brenda Tindal of Levine Museum of the New South. She eloquently proposed that inherent in our recent social uprising was a fundamental misunderstanding of the community largely shaped by the narrative we encountered to make a home.
If you were a fresh-faced college graduate, you tend of think of your new city as a place of opportunity, growth, and progress.
A single mom, the native-born community member may consider ease of highway access, the proximity of value priced groceries, and the location of the nearest babysitter as priorities. A 30- something banker carefully considers the prestige of a selected zip code, the “grade” of a local school, and the proximity of the closest Starbucks.
No matter where you are coming from, a narrative of what defines community emerges based on what you need, want and can access. The images included in this post were generated during a session with young scholars tasked with identifying the most common narratives associated with Charlotte, NC. Without hesitation, they rattled off a list that is at first glance contradictory.
How can a place be known as both outspoken and reserved? How can one city be known for both great schools and terrible? The only clear agreement was that the city was racist and segregated. 100%.
For many communities, the questions of narratives are intimately related to the history and purposeful policy shaping housing, education and overall access.Sure, your narrative is true, valid and right. But someone else, sitting in their own home also has a true perspective- even if it defines community through the exact opposite perspective.
We don’t have to agree with it, but this resistance to recognizing multiple narratives is playing out in insidious and divisive ways across our country. How can your institution literally be a part of building community? How can you as an individual take small steps to seek community?
Share your thoughts with me!