Community activism has to be a passion and is definitely not something for the faint at heart. One must be an advocate for families, a social worker, a life coach, the person on the block who watches out for their neighbors. This work builds character, but most of us doing it didn’t realize that our past and present experiences is exactly what we need to do the work well.
This is a part of being a Village.
The tenacity that people like us are made of doesn’t come from education. I thought I started this work as a simple parent. I thought I was a mom just doing what I was supposed to, just taking care of my family and others whom I now call family.
Then came a few major life-changing events. My son was robbed and shot standing at a bus stop. I kept working. I needed to work through the hurt and helping others helped me.
I got divorced after years of a terrible marriage, I kept working. My brother who was a my protector in life suddenly died. In that same day my mother who lived with me due to illness was diagnosed with cancer. I worked through it.
I worked through my daughter being bullied, challenging leaders to understand that bullying hurts. I’d been in her shoes most of my childhood.
Then, the one person who always had my back, who was my rock, my confidant, my anchor, died. God called mom home after years of pain and suffering and I worked through it.
One day at work I saw a childhood friend whom I had searched for during my brother’s death. I wanted her to know he had passed. She walked up to our community food drive and I lost it. I, the strong person of the group lost it. While working through it, I lost it.
My fellow partners embraced me. They knew exactly what to say in that moment. They held my hand and my heart and helped me through it all.
These are just a few life moments that have happened while learning to be a community partner to parents.
The most important thing that I have learned in the midst of this work is that I need the community more than they need me. They actually keep me focused. The strangest things happen in doing this work. I am blessed to cross paths with people who are experiencing some of the same things I have. It helps me to know that my experiences were meant to help someone else. Then there are moments when I am going through more life issues and someone comes along and they are able to help me.
I’ve had plenty of those people, plenty of those moments, when someone just understood my needs. It was as if they were strategically places there to remind me that It will get better.
This is not a post meant to replace therapy or negate the need to address trauma from a professional standpoint. I have no degree in psychology but what I do have is experience and the knowledge to know that we need one another.
Self-care is a large part of the work as well. We must know when to pause, reflect, unplug and regain strength. Sometimes we do that alone, other times with one another.
As community organizers, parents, advocates, or the lil’ old lady who sits on porches watching out for all our kids, we need one another. We need to be partners in making our communities whole.
The old African proverb says, “it takes a village to raise a WHOLE child.” “Whole” means a child who has support in all areas of life. Who are you in our villages? Do you realize that you are needed? Come flawed: just do the work. Come hurting: just do the work. Take time to heal yourself but remember we still have work to do.
I hope that I never forget to do the work but I will always remember that I need others too. I will take breaks and breathe and heal to be whole, but I will always DO THE WORK.