Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
These lines appear in an ancient poem that opens the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, but they might as well serve as a preface for just about any present day conversation in the church about faithful neighborhood presence, community development, and social entrepreneurship.
I don’t always remember that “there is nothing new under the sun,” but my friend Reesheda Graham-Washington, meanwhile, seems to carry our her work of community transformation with such an awareness. And not just awareness. But also gratitude!
In Episode 22 of the RePLACING CHURCH Podcast, Reesheda, who is the Executive Director of Communities First Association and is launching a transformational experience cafe and creative space called L!VE Cafe (which you can support here!), spoke about the lessons learned from a legacy of “community development” passed down from people like her Great Grandmother, celebrated in black neighborhoods like the one her husband grew up in, and carried out of Africa in the bowels of slave ships by her resilient ancestors.
What a legacy indeed, and we all have so much to learn from it!
The non/pre-institutionalized version of “Asset Based Community Development” words that her Great-Grandmother said to her:
“People here already know what they need; somebody need to ask us.”
On the annual block party in the neighborhood her husband, Darrel, grew up in:
“They still have a block club celebration at the end of the summer… and 40 years of people who no longer live on that block show up for that block party… because of how deeply rooted what his grandmother did in block club, and their grandparents did in block club. Many of the folks who own those homes on that block have passed away and their children still come back to that same block to be in community together on that day.”
What a she learned about her heritage on a few visits to the Congo:
“Being there and seeing that showed me something about who I was… that not everything that was a part of African-ism was wrenched from our hearts and our hands through the process of slavery, and that a lot of the innovation, ingenuity, asset-based, deal-with-what-you-got-in-your-hands stuff is innately a part of who we are as a people. And how do we maximize that on our own behalf?”
Check out Episode 22 of the RePLACING CHURCH Podcast as Reesheda Graham-Washington joins me to talk about returning to the neighborhood she grew up in, learning “Asset Based Community Development” from the innate practices of her Great-Grandmother and African ancestors, social entrepreneurship risks and funding, her latest venture (L!VE Cafe), and the one thing she wants the church to hear from her as a black woman.
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