On Community, Solidarity & The Passing of Greatness
“Make up a story... For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don't tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief's wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear's caul.”
This week has seen the passing of iconic writer Toni Morrison. The quote above comes from when she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 and it’s one of my favourites, though there are many. Despite her writings on race, freedom and oppression, I think this is the most inspiring because it goes beyond all of the isms, schisms and other things that divide us and instead speaks to the very essence of us. It asks us to tell our own story, in our own words and in our own way, without fear and this is a message we can take into all areas of our lives. Today however, I’m going to be talking about community and solidarity. Telling our own stories, our own truths, giving our own perspectives, warts and all can be the first steps in building a meaningful community, acting as a beacon to others.
And what will your story be? And how will it be different to the next persons? Questions we all must face, scared of our differences and yet closer than we might imagine. How many are put off telling their story because they fear they have nothing to say (a real fear and one many writers, myself included have faced). I think it was Stephen King who once said of writing fiction, something along the lines of all of the stories have already been written, or at least the general plots have. Take the love story for example; there’ll be romance, but usually with some conflict; sometimes the ending will be happy and sometimes the ending will be sad, but either way a romance is a romance is a romance. And the same is true of all the other genres. But what keeps people coming back? What makes us want to explore other stories even though we may already have an inkling of how they end? Well the answer’s in the details. We want to know the ins and outs. We become invested in the person or the characters and want to see what happens to the individual. And it’s this that makes what YOU have to say important, it’s what makes your story special and unique and worth listening to, the very fact that it is yours.
‘‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’’
So what does this mean when it comes to community building and forging solidarity links? Quite simply it means that you must be willing to take action of some sort. The time for such is now. And if there’s nothing happening in your neighbourhood or town, then you must be willing to step forward, to create the narrative you want to see. It may be scary but you must try and you might well be surprised with the outcome.
Last weekend I hosted my first ever foraging walk in the town where I live. I’ve been interested in foraging for years, self taught, teaching myself how to identify the plants that grew where I lived, a skill developed ( and continuing to) over the years. Anyway, after being out one day with friends, just casually pointing out the names of the wildflowers we passed, one of them remarked how they’d love to learn and wished there was somewhere they could. That got me to thinking and a few weeks later, there I was, heading nervously to the meeting place I’d advertised. Walking there, I wondered whether I’d be walking solo, or whether there’d only be my sister and friend for support, but as I strode across the car park I saw a lone figure waiting. As I joined her ( a lady who it turns out lives only the next neighbourhood away from me and who had just so happened to have lived in the south of Italy for some years, where such practises are a way of life) and we chatted, others threaded their way towards us until there was a nice group of around ten people.
Now you might not think ten is a lot, but the event had stirred up more interest than I’d ever imagined it would, with others contacting me afterwards asking me to hold another walk because they hadn’t been able to make this one.
The people who came were diverse but all lovely and despite our differences I think everyone was surprised at how well we got on, learning from one another and enjoying each other’s company in a glorious location on a warm summer morning, and to me this is the very beginning of forging meaningful community and links with others who you might not have previously known.
And all of this came about because I decided to host an event. So this is what I mean when I say about creating the narratives you want to see. Use your own unique perspective to share your insights with others. This is writing the book you want to read, this is embodying the change you want to see and making it a reality, as small a step as it might be, it is still the first, and the first step is the most important because from this small stumbling step, surer ones will follow and along the way you will forge links and community with others and together we will all grow stronger.
“The function of freedom is to free someone else.”
~ Toni Morrison
My name is Emma Kathryn, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, vodou and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the sticks with my family where I read tarot, practice witchcraft and drink copious amounts of coffee.
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