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What is Your Community?

What is Your Community? Is it your neighborhood, a club or organization, your friends, like-minded people, your church, your political party, your favorite hangouts, your city, country, world? Or is it just the feeling of connection you have with some or all of these things? Is your community built on relationships, a sense of place, a sense of sharing, or simply a grounding in who you are in the midst of it all?

I'm participating in an art and literature project for the Biennial of the Americas, in cooperation with PlatteForum and the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, Colorado. My project is called "Homes Within, Communities Without." All this month, I'm considering the question: what is my community? Please ponder this idea with me. You're invited to share your answers at the Girls Trek Too blog. I'm eager to read your thoughts.
http://girlstrektoo.com/blog/?p=119

Comments

Carri Pence's picture

What an interesting thought,

What an interesting thought, where you place importance on the vagueness of the word community. Community to me is everything you spoke of except for political party. I have worked on so many political campaigns, from local to national, and I worked with some amazing people that brought inspiration to me but the democratic party as a whole doesn't represent to me what a community is, even though I belong to it. Maybe because it is to big, or maybe it is because my wants are not supported by politicians actions. I am not anti government, though I sound like it, but I just feel like to have a sense of community you need to feel supported by others in that community.

Cara Lopez Lee's picture

Vagueness vs. Specificity

I meant the question to be open-ended, rather than vague. For my project, by month's end I'll create two digital stories: one in which I explore how I experience and create community, and one in which a young homeless woman explores how she experiences and creates community. I know there are many aspects to community. I'm just inviting people to share ideas on whatever aspect they'd like. I expect to hone in on specifics as I progress through my own exploration.

In my blog post today, I focused on the idea that, for me, community begins at home. http://girlstrektoo.com/blog/?p=119 Indeed, there are many kinds of communities, I would just like to hear about some aspect of how you experience, create, and express community in your life. It's like the writing prompt of "Land" or "Holding Hands," the direction to take is up to you.

Political parties don't feel like communities to me either, though I suppose it's possible to find a community within a party. I just threw that out there as an idea someone might glom onto. Perhaps I should have left it even more vague, so that people wouldn't have any preconceived notions, just that one word: community.

Community. OK, go!

Carri Pence's picture

How exciting! Your work,

How exciting! Your work, through your passion and new ideas, seems so interesting. Community is such a vague question but has such a specific answer to all, and I am so happy that you are placing importance on the value of this definition. Personally, I have felt that the definition of community has changed since I was little. This maybe because with confidence and security I have felt that my community expands as the years go on. My community as a child consisted solely of my family. As I blossomed into high school my community began to include my friends and school. And now I find my community is my work, the neighborhood in which I live in, and those who even support me and my ideas through PulseWire.

Thanks for getting me to think,
Carri Pence

Cara Lopez Lee's picture

Connection

Thanks for your thoughts, Carri.

These ideas are helping me with my project. My sense of community has shifted over time in much the way you describe. Certainly what we engage in on PulseWire is another form of community. Primarily, all my communities are about connection.

Thanks for connecting with me,
Cara

jadefrank's picture

Community

PulseWire has been my community for the past two years. Because it's a place where I feel supported, connected and loved. It's a place where I can learn, share and collaborate and where even though I don't know each individual person on a up close and personal level, I feel connected to them through our desire to be part of a global movement.

Matilda Moyo said it best,
"Logging onto Worldpulse is like visiting my sister’s house, where I can kick off my shoes, let my hair down and just be myself. Here, I can express my feelings, concerns, hopes and aspirations without fear of reprisal, knowing someone has walked that path and can offer some valuable advice. I can pour out my heart to a listening ear, find a shoulder to lean on and receive support for my dreams."

As someone who has moved around a lot, especially in the past 10 years, it has been difficult for me to find a physically close community. I worked at a coffee shop here in Portland that is in my neighborhood, and that is probably the closest I have come to that sense. Most all my regular customers lived in the neighborhood too and it was a lively gathering place for this community to get together on a daily basis over coffee and share life's celebrations, tragedies, weather woes, and plan neighborhood events like picnics, garage sales and helping each other out in general. However, I never felt like I quite "fit in" to that community as I live in an apartment on the edge of a wealthier part of town... and I was just the "barista" that played a service role in their community.

As a bike commuter in a world of cars, I belong to the local "community" of bicyclists. We often look out for each other on the roads, stand up to rude drivers together, chat at intersections, smile in passing, unite for improving bike lanes and laws in the city. There's even a volunteer bike repair guy who hangs out along my route and offers free advice and repairs several days a week.

And then there's my family - who although now spread apart, are my ultimate community of love and support. And that extends to all my uncles, aunts, cousins and now the new generation of second-cousins.

Thanks for bringing up this great topic of conversation! I look forward to hearing what other women in the PulseWire community have to say about this idea.

In friendship,
Jade

Cara Lopez Lee's picture

Online Community

I, too, treasure this online community of women, Jade, as well as a few other online communities I've joined. I know that some people believe that the Internet is interfering with the formation of more personal, face-to-face, live connections. But I haven't found that to be the case. It has only added a new way for me to find my tribe, those people whose thoughts and ideas reflect, challenge, or enhance my own. I still make community where I live, as well as on these forums. Creating community is about finding connections, in whatever way makes sense for us.

I bike to as many of the places I go as feasible. If the weather isn't inclement and the round-trip is 10 miles or less, I feel I have no excuse not to bike. I, too, find it connects me to community: not only other cyclists, but also to the place where I live.

Like many people, as a child and even a young adult, I often felt that I didn't belong. But that wasn't the problem. I just had to have confidence that if I spent enough time being myself, without fear of the consequences, the people I belonged with would find me, or I would find them. And we have, indeed, found each other.

olutosin's picture

Online Family House

This is interesting, one of the positive or advantage of technology is our online community, I find it quite hard to believe that I am not Jade's friend or that I have never touched her before, I always believe that Janice is so close to me because I receive her feed back faster that the neighbor next to my house, I have live in this neighborhood for past three years now and I have not entered any house on the Close! Everyone has a mighty wall called fence here in FESTACT, I have never entered the next house to us and there is no demarcation except a wall, if I want to eavesdrop, I can lay my ear on the wall and listen to their fights and quarrel which is almost once a week but as close as we are i have never entered the compound as well as my children too. which is unlike the normal Nigerian community. I so much trust Jensine Larsen that I think i feel i know what she can do or she can never engaged in, yet I have never seen her before. i will tell someone to come back tomorrow, I will discuss with Ma Starland or JAP21, and by the following day, i will have the solution to the problem.

This online community makes me feel so comfortable that sometimes, I just smilingly appreciate technology not considering all its other negative implications.

Then my little family too.....always there for me....event eh extended family members....gone are the days when the African proverbs says.....there are no extended families but neighbors...with the stranger danger propagation...I fear if generations to come will ever enjoy god relationship with their neighbors but with their online family..... computer games....and mobile phones.....

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

Cara Lopez Lee's picture

Online and Face-to-Face

I too feel this strange connect online versus disconnect with my neighbors, Olutosin.

There is no guarantee that the people who live next door to me will share my philosophies or values, but I can reach out online to those places where I'm most likely to find those who do share my values, or at least my desire for communication.

Some may think that our focus on online community can be a detriment to our physical community. But I have found that they can enhanced each other. Many of the people I connect with online I would not have found otherwise, and our connection is no less important just because we have no physical contact. In fact, if more people from disparate cultures around the world reached out to understand each other, we might have less conflict... and not all of us can afford to travel. Online is the way we do that.

Meanwhile, I often connect online with friends who I do see in person, but whom I can visit more often online. Our online communications strengthen our understanding of each other, so that we sometimes have more to share and discuss when we do get together.

As for the neighbors, I don't think I would connect with them more or better, by giving up my online community. Certainly balance is called for. I do say hello, ask how my neighbors are, and keep my property tidy and quiet so that my neighbors and I can live in harmony. We do connect through the flowers we plant, the smiles we share, and the knowledge that if one of us had an emergency the other would help. That is another important aspect of community.

To praise one thing is not to damn another. I think you and I are doing pretty well at creating community right here.

Thanks for helping me process these ideas!
Cara

Sharese's picture

Cara!

You are always so wonderful about throwing ideas out there.

I feel that my community is women- women everywhere. Big women, little women, brown women, pale women, strong women, meek women, women who sing songs and beat drums, women who always know which fork is the salad fork and which the dinner fork. Women whose bodies move like trees in the breeze when the song "Bandy Bandy" by Zap Mama and E. Badu comes on. Women who wear Ankhs and honor the circle of life, women who fight for reproductive justice, even the conservative women who can't say the word "vagina". ALL WOMEN. They are my community, my sisters, my love and my life's breath. And this is why I tireless work to improve the exisitance of them- because it improves the existance of me, and the circles keeps moving around. We hold eachother up in order to support and strengthen ourself so that we can hold others up even stronger than before.

Thank you for this inspiration. It is one of the many reasons I send you love.

Love,

Sharese

Cara Lopez Lee's picture

Connecting through words

Sharese,

Did I mention before what a lovely writer you are? That's another community I connect with: fellow readers and writers. We know who we are by the words we love. Yours evoke such wonderful images. In some ways, what you describe is what brings me to this forum: the hope of connecting with a community of strong, world-aware, action-taking, open-minded, big-hearted women from a multiplicity of cultures.

I've been thinking about my garden as a community of plants, and I find a curious metaphor there. I nurture many flowers, yet I pull out weeds - plants that don't belong. Sometimes in my community I am the weed, and sometimes I am the destroyer of weeds. I wonder how we can be inclusive of all the people we find growing in our gardens, while still enjoying our right to create those special communities of favorite flowers with whom we most strongly connect. It's a constant challenge.

Thanks for connecting Sharese,
Cara

Rita Banerji's picture

My life long quest!

It is the question I have asked all my life! O dear God -- this has been my agony. But I think I have found my peace :) There was a post I made called 'belonging' http://www.worldpulse.com/node/21921

Rita Banerji
www.ritabanerji.com

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