At its most basic level, a community is simply defined as a unified body of individuals. Anyone can be part of a community and, in fact, everyone is part of some community. But the power of community doesn’t arise from its mere existence: it’s created through shared values and consistent acts.
Recently, BC Law’s Black Alumni Network (BAN) provided amazing sweaters to students in the BAN mentor program. The creative sweaters happily surprised many students, but the impact didn’t come from the sweater’s creative afro-centric stitching. Rather, the impact arose from the thoughtful, intentional consideration of BAN members.
Matthew Bowser, BC Law Class of 2022 and President of the Criminal Law Society, shared the common feeling that students felt when they received the sweater:
All it takes is two. Two other brown faces in a white room. Two other faces like mine, and I don’t feel alone. Sometimes those other faces are partners, senators, congresswomen, generals, or professors. Sometimes they’re chefs, janitors, mailmen, coaches. Sometimes it’s more. Sometimes it’s none. But when they’re there, the nod is always the same. The universal sign for acknowledging that no matter where we’re from, no matter what stories we write with our lives, we and our families have many of the same chapters.
It’s more than just the sweater. It’s knowing that there’s a community in which you don’t have to qualify your existence or the things you say. Where you don’t have to use specific posture, language, and inflection. Where you don’t have to explain the context of how you feel because we live that context every day. And it’s knowing that there are villages still raising us children, knowing we’ll do the same one day.
That’s what the sweaters meant to me. That’s what it meant to have Arianne Waldron talk to me on the street and for five minutes, I didn’t need to cover.
We all yearn for the feeling that Matthew described–human connection. It’s the same feeling as when I walk into my childhood church and hear a familiar gospel hymn or when I bite into food as I sit around my grandmother’s dining room table on a Sunday afternoon. A deep sense of comfort and unconditional support. Although to most people it might just look like a thoughtful gift, to us, it was a symbol of that unconditional support and love.