One of the most overused words is “Community.” So much that a community itself becomes overused. I used to roll my eyes everytime someone would say “Your community could really use you Black.” There was a time where I felt I wasn’t part of Richmond’s community, though I worked so hard to make Richmond part of everything I do. I was “Drawing crowds. Building a crowd of Hip Hop artists. Activists. Entrepreneurs. Movers and shakers. People who didn’t feel accepted. People like me.” That’s the thing about being a MC though, you move crowds.
The funny thing about crowds though is that despite the electricity and excitement that they bring, they are not a community. Sure a community can be a crowd, or crowded, but a crowd is different. Why? Because a crowd, no matter how big the size, still excludes certain members of the community. A crowd, also often does not serve the community. Crowds tend to agree. Crowds tend to be unified by division. That’s the boundary, the border, the bottom line.
“Where you from?”
I’ve learned after all my years of "representing Richmond," from stages and the airwaves to classrooms and webpages, that communities aren’t where you’re from. Communities are where your heart is at. They are expressed through your values. Even if seems like sometimes they don't care about each other. They’re bigger than just the collective tastes, vocabulary, followers, friends, accents, or access. Sometimes you have to leave your community in order to realize that you have been part of one all along. That’s why I believe people who leave Richmond to “move onto bigger and better things” tend to come back. They miss their community. They miss home. Victory is hollow without love, even if you love to hate it here. It's the people here that bring people back. Its the people here that make here "here." So like I said: I didn’t know I was part of this community until I saw how much this community was a part of me.
I think a lot of us were reminded, with what we’ve seen this past 18 months be it through the lens of protest, or the collective voice and ire of social media, that we are all part of a community. This community. Not just a race, not just a political party, not just a crowd. We were forced to engage each other. In public spaces, in private conversations. It was either that or lose our identities, freedom, for some even their lives. That’s why when spelled the word community starts out the same as communication. That’s also why it ends with unity. We don’t all have to agree though. That’s not unity.
Unity is value. It’s valuing each other. It’s valuing the chance to speak. It’s valuing the chance to listen. Its hearing each other out. It’s a conversation. Now more than ever, your community needs your voice. This community. It needs your art, it needs your creativity, your vulnerabilities. It needs you as you are, right now. Young, old, white, black; whatever tone you've been blessed with as the exterior of the vessel that is your unique consciousness. Your individuality. Your imperfection. We need you, even if you feel like you don't need us. That's one of the best parts about communities. Even when you think we've forgotten about you or you feel that you have moved on, life will find a funny way to remind you that when you find your back against the wall it's not the wall that's got your back, its us. So don’t be afraid to join yours. Chances are you’ll find out the one thing we all have in common, is that we are all different.
And that’s ok.