Communities of Care: What do we mean by community, anyway? – A roundtable discussion
Building movements implies building community. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. popularised the term ‘beloved community’: a community in which everyone is cared for, absent of poverty, hunger, and hate. In his essay Deep Adaptation, Jim Bendell talks of the need for communities committed to ‘working together to do what’s helpful’ while societies collapse in the wake of the seismic shifts humanity is facing, in particular climate change.
The word ‘Community’ is everywhere and used with ease. Building community has become a go-to solution to our collective challenges, from climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, or the ‘loneliness epidemic’. A word used to bind a group of people with common experiences together, in reality, a community is as complex and nuanced as the people who make it. An incomplete, facile or romanticised understanding of what a community is and how it affects the lives of people in diverse societies can lead to the detriment of many well-intended community efforts.
So what does it really mean to build a community of care? Is it a place, an organisation? Or is it a feeling or a set of relationships? What does it take to build a community and hold it together? What does it mean to be a community member? And what can you do when your community doesn’t see eye to eye?
On Tuesday 26th April 2022 at 16:00 BST, Global Environments Network held a discussion about what it means to build communities of care. The featured panelists are individuals working to revive, build or maintain their own communities, both virtually and in-person, in close and more dispersed contexts.
Nessie (GEN, ICCA Consortium)
Nessie is a Spiritual Ecologist with a focus on agroecology, food sovereignty, health and land connection within both the UK and abroad. She has worked in Indonesia, India, Japan and within Europe on local and Indigenous communities’ rights to land for growing food and the preservation of traditional artistic and cultural practices. She has a degree in Archaeology and the Study of Religions with Hindi from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Nessie is creator of The Milking Parlour: an ongoing artistic discourse and set of performances exploring our human relationship to food and agriculture’s impact on biodiversity and climate change. She is an Associate Fellow of St Ethelburga’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation and trained at the Embody Lab in Embodied Social Justice. Her current work centers around uncovering tools for personal resilience and ecological grief tending. She co-produced the Grief Toolkit: Embodiment tools and rituals to support grief work in community.
Karen Larbi (POC in Nature)
Karen Larbi is a social change trainer, facilitator, writer, Movement Chaplain-in-training and public speaker. An aspiring ecowomanist, she is the Founder of POC In Nature, an online platform dedicated to helping people of colour explore the healing power of nature, environmental justice and land-honouring ancestral traditions, and is an England Advisory Committee Member at the RSPB. Karen is also a recovery and mental health advocate, and provides consultancy and experiential training on power and privilege, supporting access to nature for under-represented groups, mental health and intersectionality. She is passionate about exploring social justice, spirituality, recovery and ecology.
Shristee Bajpai (Global Tapestry of Alternatives)
Shrishtee Bajpai is a researcher-activist from India. She works with Kalpavriksh-environment action group on themes of environmental justice, social justice, systemic alternatives, direct/radical democracy, traditional governance systems, and rights of nature. She helps in coordinating the Vikalp Sangam process (Alternatives Confluences) in India and is a core team member of Global Tapestry of Alternatives. She serves on the executive committee of Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and is a fellow at the Post-Growth Institute, US. Shrishtee loves birding, writing, photography, and walks to unknown paths.
Maymana Arefin (Fungi Futures & Misery Collective)
Maymana Arefin (she/they) is a community gardener, forager and spoken word poet based in south London. Their work connects the mycelial threads between the mind/body, re-imagining an unjust world and the politics of hope. In 2020, Maymana founded @fungi.futures, a space to map radical alternative futures guided by their love for our fungal ancestors. Maymana was awarded the Best Dissertation Prize at UCL for her MSc research on how mycorrhizal networks can be used as a metaphor for mutual aid. She is strongly committed to justice and believes that the starting point to realising this, is to prioritise care. She is currently co-facilitating ‘Misery Medicines: Plant Magic’, a year long programme of monthly herbalism walks with Misery Party for QTIBPOC (queer, trans and intersex black people and people of colour).