Grease Rag Friend Amy Brugh asked me to contribute to her Listening to Community Project. She has asked a diverse group of people to answer some questions about what it means to listen to community. I was honored to be asked!
There will be more perspectives added, so visit Amy Brugh Consulting on Facebook if you'd like to follow along.
Listening to Community
L. Kling, they, them, theirs pronouns
I have been organizing with GreaseRag.org for eight years, working at the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition for three years, and part of the Minneapolis community for thirteen years. I spend my time facilitating spaces where people are invited to feel safe, where people commit to resisting oppression, and where people can reflect and be introspective together. I'm especially interested in facilitating spaces for BIPOC+ WTF* folks in an effort to reclaim space from cis white male privilege. I love complexity and intersections.
*BIPOC+ means Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Grease Rag is using the "+" to include folks who have an "it's complicated" relationship with their race.
WTF means women, trans, femme. More about this on Grease Rag's FAQ page, but in short, it means anyone who does not benefit from cis male privilege.
What does listening to community mean to you?
"Listening to community" is easy, and complicated.
The easy part is listening. Listening to hear, and listening and affirming someone's experience takes time, intention, and some skills. But it is not rocket science!
The hard part can be defining community, and creating space where people feel comfortable talking, and feel they are being heard. Is how you define community in line with how a community defines itself? If not, you have a problem! Within the community, there will be subcommunities and identities that add to the complexity of the larger group. That is natural and good! But are you creating space for everyone to speak?
Space can be physical- can someone with a mobility device or vision impairment participate? Space can be a feeling- does it feel hostile or unwelcoming? Space can be structural- Is there a process in place so that dominant voices don't take over the conversation?
Listening to community is also hard to do without community expertise. If you are not from a community, you need to connect with that community to have them drive what "listening" and "sharing" look like. Because it can be very different between communities! Assuming that you know the best way to communicate with a group of people is an oppressive behavior. A behavior where dominant culture assumes their experience is universal, which has the effect of erasing non-dominant culture.
How would you like to be listened to?
I have written a lot on how I would like to be listened to. It starts with how I would like to be asked to participate in a conversation. Every conversation should be consensual, and I should be allowed to set boundaries for what is to be discussed. I need the opportunity to say no. I want my time to be honored, and sometimes this means being monetarily compensated. But not always! Sometimes my time being honored looks like me getting credit for my words, and sometimes it means doing a skill trade so that I can grow as I offer my input. Read More