This week I am using art I created in my “Progress Not Perfection” art series to explore:
- What is community development?
- How does community development connect to racial justice?
I understand community development to be a process where people work together toward shared goals and racial justice as fairness for all people across all social systems.
Learning about community development and racial justice is something I have been doing for close to 30 years. This learning has happened through completing university degrees, working at different jobs, doing research projects, having 1:1 conversations, listening to podcasts, reading books and articles, and having great teachers. My learning has crossed through the many intersections of my life: as a wife/mother, as a community developer, and as an artist.
My learning hasn’t just stayed in one area of my life because I am a whole person, and I bring my values and beliefs across every circle of my life. I think of my individual values and beliefs being linked to community development and racial justice through the term “community capacity building”.
What is community capacity building?
One way to think about community capacity building are as changes that happen in how I think about myself and others. Capacity building happens when my values, beliefs, and assumptions shift. An example of capacity building is when I become aware of the biases and prejudices I have toward people who are different than me.
The images from Progress Not Perfection that illustrates this are from Day 38 (Spirit) and Day 97 (Love). The image Spirit shows that what happens inside my head moves outward from me and into the world. The image Love is me; my head thrown back, arms open wide, and what is in my heart explodes outwards. What my head and my heart believe touches other people through my actions. This is true even if I am unaware of what I believe.
I used to think that racism only happened through extreme actions of hatred by people who are white supremacists or the KKK. When this was my belief I didn’t see that I could also do racist things. I didn’t think I could be racist because I thought “I’m a good person with good intentions and I try to do good things”.
But I have internalized negative beliefs about black, indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) from a lifetime of messages about white superiority. And sometimes these internalized beliefs come out in my actions. And when that happens I behave in racist ways.
Growing my capacity to look at myself, and challenging what I believe to be true about racism, is a step towards racial justice. It is a step towards fairness for all people. It’s an act of community development because of the intersectionality in my life. Because I carry my beliefs through all the roles I take on, and how I work with other people toward common goals.
Tomorrow I will share a second way of looking at “community capacity building” and more art to illustrate this concept. Stay tuned 🙂
My thinking about capacity building has been directly influenced by the work of Ken Wilbur and the Integral Model. For more information check out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_theory_(Ken_Wilber)