It takes community

Published 10:21 pm Friday, February 2, 2018

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

Riddle me this: “What is large enough to pack a football stadium but cannot without you in the center?”

It is likely that your mind is on football this weekend. So, here’s a hint, the answer to the riddle has more to do with fellowship than it does sportsmanship. However, fellowship is related to the Super Bowl. Gatherings, both large and small, take place this Sunday because of American football. Whether you’re a fan of the game or the halftime show, this mutual association with the game creates a unique environment for food, fraternity and family.

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Speaking of family, do you remember the national uproar over the bilingual singing of “America the Beautiful” in Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl ad last year? I got chills as I listened, and I still do when I play it again on YouTube. The ending message of the commercial simply stated, “Together is Beautiful.”

The backlash after the commercial aired was far from beautiful. Several critics were appalled that this anthem was sung in any language other than English. I wondered how these critics see the environment around them. Do they only recognize the people that look like them? If so, their affiliations are likely small and limited. How unfortunate for them.

The history of our nation has dark periods when our associations with each other are intentionally limited. Past laws were enforced that prevented partnership, mutual collaboration and even marriage. You do not have to look very far for evidence of this. I drove down East Washington Street earlier this week to find the remains of Phoenix Bank of Nansemond. In the 1920s, black farmers and businessmen could not establish loans with white-owned banks. Therefore, the blacks in this city opened a two-story building to serve members of the growing black commerce and agricultural community. The hardship of the Great Depression led to the bank closing in 1931. Today, there are interests in the bank’s revival as a city museum for African-American history. Men were working there when I passed by. The building has been called “a symbol of the hope of a community.” (March 5, 2005, Suffolk News-Herald).

Phoenix Bank of Nansemond developed out of a need for a place of belonging and support. Building community is creating support systems that assist you to live. Your community starts with you. Community is the business of fellowship; it is the work you do to make friendly associations with others. Our purpose manifests in the fruit of our relationships. We are reproductive beings. We shape people. You create what you cultivate. Organizations, such as the Special Olympics, exists because of this very notion of releasing the God-given something in you that is meant to enlarge territory. Unity happens when the YOU knits to the WE.

In the past, there were laws that limited your community. Those laws also limited your ability to expand. In the present, the measure of your community is proportional to your mindset. If you think small, your environment is small. Your capacity to grow the fellowship with others determines how well you create a supportive space in your heart and mind for them to reside. To gather is beautiful.

Did you figure the answer to the riddle? C-O-M-M-U-N-I-T-Y. It can be large enough to pack a football stadium but not without “U” in the center. Words sometimes stand alone with a definition.

QuaWanna is an adjunct professor of Nonprofit Leadership and Management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes