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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Flying in the community

Dr. Carlos
A few days ago I had the pleasure of attending a conference at Wake Forest University titled Rethinking Community. Not only did I attend, my co-worker and I presented. That was huge for me. I had never presented scholarly research to other scholars/practitioners. Interestingly the conference was composed mostly of members from the Wake Forest University-Winston Salem community.

Let me pause here to say that Wake Forest University and Wake Forest are not the same thing and are not in the same place. Yeah, I was confused and I confused other people.
Wake Forest University is in Winston-Salem. Wake Forest is in well, Wake Forest.

Not that you got that, let me continue. We were very fortunate to be among those who are questioning what community is, what is the university's role in the community, and what is community. We were involved in deep thought provoking conversations.

Ibtihaj Muhammad and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
We heard from Dr. John Carlos, one of the members of the 1968 Olympic track team who raised his fist in the air on the podium; Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, a basketball player who did not stand for the national athem in 1996; and Ibtihaj Muhammad , the first African American Muslim woman to win a medal in the 2016 Olympics in fencing. They are part of the community called activists and more aptly human. They are some of the people whose backs I stand on as I propel my way.  

That is what community is all about. The melding of unique ideas, distinctive actions, and people all of the common good of us all.

After our presentation we were told that we are now a part of the Wake Forest University community. We shared our collection thoughts on what we contributed to our community and hopefully provided insights on how they could implement similar actions into theirs.

We took back with us a richer sense of the academic community and potential initiatives on ways to contribute more to our own communities. I say communities because ours are very multicontextual. We have the wider social media community, the school community, the local community, our community of people outside of our immediate space, and now the Wake Forest University community.

We left (or maybe I should only speak for me). I left empowered. Empowered because I was invited into a space and was given the opportunity to use my voice. In that same space others not only heard my voice, but amplified it. I entered a space full of raw conversations about race, gender, class, socialism, politics, and many other topics often too hot to touch without ripping one's own skin off.

It was where I needed to be. It pulled me out of my safe environment and charged me with putting into action my time, talents, gifts, and money.

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