Community, it’s more than a word!

Commune. Communal. Community. Words that all share something in common; the coming together of humans. What a powerful idea: community. Within our specific communities we find our seat at a shared table. Communities serve a multitude of purposes. They are a safe space, a home, a sense of belonging. The individuals that comprise these groups evolve into our community and at times our families.

Community. It’s more than a word. It is continuous, ancient, powerful and welcoming. It is old while it is new. Communities are ever evolving and shifting. Adapting to the needs of those who find solace among them. Communities change as new members enter, bringing with them new ideas and perspectives.

Communities are both constructed and found. There is a sense of nature at work within certain communities. As if we are born with compasses, which help us navigate to our found families. These communities have long been there, waiting for us, knowing one day we would come when we were ready. But it must be said that many of them, especially those on the margins of society, thrive only through the emotional and physical labour of others. It’s through the work of individuals who have previously set up organisations, charities, bookshops, cafes, writers’ groups, and much more, that such communities can be found.

We find communities in different spaces dependent on shared characteristics. We find community among others who support the same ‘fitbaw’ team. We build communities with those who live on the same side of the proverbial railroad tracks. We discover new ones when we learn to be our real selves. We gravitate to others when we are floating in an uncertain sea and need to find home. Together we weather the storm until we find a shore to call our own. We make new spaces, new families, new circles of understanding.

There exists a sensation that is hard to explain. It’s felt when among fellow community members. It’s that feeling of not having to explain yourself. Not having to offer definitions or labels, or verbalise your anger, or apologise for your unbridled elation. There is an unspoken understanding that permeates among your collective. Being authentic, fiercely honest and free can only happen when you feel at ease with those around you. It’s not having to out yourself; it’s not having to explain why a microaggression is a ‘microaggression.’ It’s not having to define your identity in a world that lives by black and white, binary silos.

Lately, I have been reflecting on the communities I exist within. More and more I become aware of the comfort and motivation my communities bring me. As I transition from my twenties into my thirties, I have longed to explore why I need these communities. Survival, dear readers, it is to survive. I am a queer, Latinx, immigrant living in a city and country that are not the ones I was born into (but are ones I gravitated to, places I found). I have built a home here. And in doing so, I have found comfort in the communities around me. Whether it is sharing experiences of microaggressions with friends or performing an explicitly queer poem with an audience of fellow queer folk or seeking the help of a friendly bookseller in a radical bookshop while trying to find an elusive novel, these places and spaces and moments are my community. They are my buoy in a storm. They are my home. They are my found family.

Throughout my adult life, I have learned to find community. With each new passing year, I have understood more and more the need for friendship and kinship. A poet (and dear friend) recently shared with me the idea:

‘Joy can be radical’.

I have pondered that idea a lot in the past few weeks. Learning to lean into joy more and more. There is much darkness in the world. There is so much inequality and injustice. We must stand up against this all. We must find the strength to do so. It’s my hope that with the support of my found communities, I will have the energy to help fight against those who want to strip away the right for people to live an authentic, happy and free existence. It is the sheer joy I find in my queer, colourful, diverse communities that spur me on towards radical change. Coming together with my kindred siblings is my most radical expression of joy. I feel at home in this space and place; this radical, joyous community of mine.

Pop art painting of two connected people by Keith Haring.
Pop art painting of two connected people by Keith Haring.
Untitled 1986, Keith Haring

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