written by Tyler Jones
Community is a versatile word. In some cases, community can describe a number of different groups or gatherings of people, and a community can take many different forms. For example, City Year New Hampshire (CYNH) supports the Manchester community, but is also a community in and of itself. Because CYNH values the building of community, we intentionally create space in our busy schedules to spend time together through our monthly community meetings.
Each school team is responsible for one of these gatherings, which provide the opportunity for our whole site to come together and strengthen the bonds we share with one another. This happens in a variety of ways. Some corps members choose to share their life story with the rest of the group, while others will lead the site in an appreciation activity. Still others reach out to CYNH alumni and invite them to share a bit about themselves and how City Year has shaped their career.
Each meeting is unique due to both the corps members who lead them and the theme of the meetings. Our first meeting of this year was led by our Service Leaders and VISTAs, and it was about new beginnings. More specifically, it was about how we can build the Beloved Community here in our community. The Beloved Community was one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most compelling visions: a community where people from different walks of life realize that we are all interconnected and that our individual well-being is inextricably linked to the well-being of others. We believe so much in Dr. King’s vision that one of the rooms in our office space is named the Beloved Community (lovingly referred to as the BC.) To further demonstrate this commitment, our facilitators (our Service Leaders and VISTAs) created posters promoting a variety of social justice issues to display around the room during the meeting.
We also participated in an activity where we created bracelets by sharing beads and appreciating others before trading our bracelets while trading further appreciations. This activity was borrowed from electronic music culture, where participants would share bracelets with one another to symbolize peace, love, unity, and respect. By sharing the bracelets we so lovingly crafted together, we are resolving to carry a piece of another person with us as we move through our lives. This is but one way to demonstrate our profound interconnectedness.
Throughout the course of the community meeting, each person who presented shared what the Beloved Community, as well as our own City Year New Hampshire community, means to them. This meeting was a wonderful way to introduce our first-year corps members to the idea of a Beloved Community, and demonstrate how we are working to create it at our site and in Manchester. The Beloved Community is a work is progress, and although we may never see it reach completion, we strive to build it a little bit each day for the next generation.