Community is a many splendid thing. The people around you and who you align and surround yourself by shape and mold a community. Not all communities are imbued with the foundational principles like the community of Ndugu and Nzinga! The African Rites of Passage Program I am apart of has taught me the true meaning of community, which is to be consistent and ever-present. I know that no matter what I have a group of individuals who are committed to seeing me grow: emotionally, physically, and spiritually! I cannot say the same for my community in terms of my geographical area. I live in the storied and celebrated community of Harlem, New York. I am surrounded by the best and worst of what the city has to offer in terms of neighbors and the everyday things that one deals with living in society.
I have never felt connected to my community of Harlem other than being proud of the musical talents and the history that the community comprised. I do not know most of my neighbors and that is not to say that I am not cordial with them, I just do not feel the connection that I think one should feel when living in a community. When I am with my brothers and sisters in the community of Ndugu and Nzinga I feel nurtured, cared for, and loved! I cannot recall how many times I have literally been hungry and there was no way to feed my family or myself. Ndugu and Nzinga have brought be groceries and even paid cellphone bills all because they were committed to the idea of community and what it should provide for the people that make up the community. A major component of community is the idea of reciprocity! If someone does something for you, you should find a way to be of service to that person or help another in the honor of the person who helped you.
This idea is generally lost in western society because it is all about “me, myself, and I.” Capitalism dictates that you get as much as you can while you can and leaves little to no regard for who one might be screwing over just to get and stay at the top. This is just a fundamental lack of humility.
When we are living in community reciprocity is its cornerstone because nothing can be harvested properly in terms of gaining the fruits of community when all we do is take without taking the time to give back or pay things forward. I do not see much of this in practice in society, even though in theory we all claim to believe in those ideals. Community is the reason Black folks have survived as long as they have through the middle passage and in America! Fictive kinships were a way of creating community and filling in the gaps of family that Blacks often had during the times of slavery. If we can recognize the power of community and how it is integral to our collective survival, the more conscious we will be in creating and maintaining communities be it Afrocentric or otherwise!