BY STEPHANIE TYREE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE HUB
Like many of you, we at The Hub have spent the last few days watching the news of protests throughout the country as Americans have taken to the streets to demand structural change to the inequities and injustices rooted in our society.
The pictures and videos of these conflicts seem to get more shocking every day. It can seem a world away from our communities in West Virginia. Here, protests have been held in over a dozen communities across the state, but all took place peacefully without any violence – by protestors or police.
And while things have been largely peaceful here in West Virginia, we know as you do that organized resistance to injustice and inequities are part of the history of our state. In fact, this type of activity is at the very core of West Virginia’s history and our sense of place. We celebrate each year the bravery of miners who stood up for their rights a century ago. We are proud of our state’s stand during the Civil War, and that action is one of the first things we are taught as children about what made our state and who we are.
We find ourselves at this moment again in a time of sorrow and struggle overflowing into collective action throughout the country. We at The Hub stand with black, indigenous and communities of color who are standing up for their rights today and fighting for a better future for all of us. This advocacy for justice matters for our communities and it matters for our work in community development.
In order to build strong, vibrant communities that attract residents and visitors, we must be intentional about building places where everyone feels safe, no matter the color of their skin. Creating those kinds of places is about more than just publicly stating that “All Kinds Are Welcome”, though that statement is an important starting place. We must go beyond statements and stickers, and going beyond that is hard and long work that we can intentionally commit to, together.
Community development at its core is working to build places that are vibrant, welcoming and thriving. We believe that happens best when diverse leaders work together and find agreement and opportunity among a variety of opinions and perspectives. It is about listening, not silencing. Welcoming, not excluding.
But what does community development look like during times of crisis, fear, and grief? And what does community development look like in a moment where our most basic human needs (housing, food, employment, safety) are under threat?
It is clear to us that now, more than ever, we need to create spaces for West Virginian residents to take part in conversations about addressing urgent community needs and building paths to move forward. We need spaces for this dialogue to happen, and we need to offer support to move residents into action around the changes they would like to see and opportunities they would like to take advantage of for their communities.
We are committed at The Hub to do our part. These are the commitments our team is making today to move this work forward during the spring and summer months of 2020:
- We will host a series of virtual Community Conversation events about critical challenges and growth opportunities for West Virginia communities today. Tomorrow, we will send an invitation to everyone on our email list for the first 2 events in this series – click here to sign up for our list.
- We will publicly release some of the most impactful community building tools that we use in our own work so that others may benefit from the positive results we are seeing every day.
- We will ask for your input on the most critical challenges facing community development today, and will share out what we’re hearing on a regular basis with you. Click here to take our first 3 question survey on Urgent Community Development Needs.
Being on our email list, and opening our emails this spring and summer, is the best way to make sure you’re getting invitations to these events, access to the tools, and participating in the research.
In this moment, we also feel called upon to share about the hope we feel, even in this time of extreme challenge.
Every day through our work, we see that there remains a commitment throughout communities in West Virginia to rebuild our towns, redevelop our economies, and continue to strengthen the systems that bring us together and create the heart of community within and between us. A diverse and constantly growing cohort of community members – what we think of as leaders whether they call themselves that or not – are passionate about creating vibrant places and spaces that enable and cultivate those connections.
And community is at its heart connection.
It is critical that we come together now to continue to build those connections, support each other, and capture the momentum we came into this year with as we find our footing in our current reality, with all its myriad challenges.
We have the opportunity in this crisis to build new, creative strategies together to support our communities and each other. We believe that through the most challenging crisis can come creativity, growth and transformation.
If we respond to critical needs, act with urgency to support each other, continue to build connections and work strategically, we can bring about positive change and build up the communities of West Virginia, through our current crises and the ones we have yet to face, together.