What is the point of a “virtual community” built around the ideas of people who served to build the changes that transformed our country during the 50s and 60s?
Can we build a new beloved community around the ideas, inspiration and actions of the original Beloved Community? That’s the question I am seeking to answer.
The origin of this idea comes from two separate experiences separated in time by 11 years. The first was my experience of Katrina, the second was the election of 2016.
With the first, I was confronted with the reality of Kanye West’s statement that “GeorgeBush doesn’t care about black people…” as I watched from my escape pod in rural North Carolina while friends and neighbors struggled in the toxic soup, on the I10 freeway overpass and in the Superdome (where I nearly ended up myself. For a month after the storm, I managed an email server that was being used by people who had been randomly dispersed throughout the country and were trying to use the email list I was helping to maintain from afar as a way of re-connecting with missing friends and family.
After we were able to return to the devastated city, a friend drafted me into a new group being formed by church people seeking to help New Orleans churches to rebuild and thereby provide a hub for safety and nurturance as their communities began the long haul of restoring hearth an home. In Churches Supporting Churches I met Reverend Dwight Webster of Christian Unity Baptist Church and Dr. C.T. Vivian who had worked side by side with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Along with a number of pastors from New Orleans and beyond we naded together to raise consciousness and raise funds for the churches of New Orleans. As we traveled together around the country and sat around long tables in The Crescent City, we came to be close friends and brothers. In the years since I have told many people that I believe Dr. Vivian to be the most beautiful human being I have ever met.
During our work and our travels together I got to know Dwight and C.T. and I began to experience a fundamental transformation of my mind and heart that opened me in ways I could never have imagined in my life previously and which I really wouldn’t begin to fully grasp the full impact of for another decade.
That decade encompassed the eight years of President Obama and the subsequent rise (or re-rise) of publically, and loudly, expressed abject racism and hatred.
By the night of November 9, 2016 I was in a state of shock.
When I spoke to my daughter on the afternoon of election day I did what everyone I knew was doing, and everyone I watched on TV was saying, “Trump is not going to win!”
But my daughter responded with, “But what if he does?”
The question set me back on my heels (as my daughter often does), but I rallied and made a confession that would soon come back to haunt me (or free me), “It will make me change my life.”
What I mean by that was, it would change my priorities and concerns so radically about what I do every day for work, what I do for art, and how I spend my time. What I meant was that I saw on the near distant horizon a period of potential darkness and absolutely necessary personal response. For me, the prediction of friends who said that an election of Donald Trump would potentially create a galvanized response, and that they were therefore looking forward to it, was coming true. I was awakening to the fact that such a political sea change would usher in a long needed movement for new change and it was going to require a change in me.
The Beloved Community Online and the film project that it supports is the direct outgrowth of these two fragments of my life: my experiences post-Katrina and post 11/9, and it carries with it the reality of what feels to me like an emergency situation.
It is my initial attempt at fulfilling the promise I made to my kid at the dawning of this new and potentially terrifying age.