To the beautiful being who has recently (0-5 years) engaged with Black/Brown culture through Street/Club Dances (SCD) and desires to deepen their involvement through service. To the one who has gotten their life taking classes, involving themselves in events, and eating Ramen post-jams. To the guests of the community who desire to be strong stewards of the culture. To the ones who want to give back. HOLD UP, waaait! *Nate Dogg voice*
Please consider the offerings within this blog series, Tips to Acclimate and Acculturate, before you use your good intentions to serve the community. Through the series I’m sharing three learning lessons that have empowered me to unapologetically and lovingly exchange with members in the SCD community.
Context for my offering: I am someone who has never lived in any geographical community beyond blood-family for more than four years. I am a Black/Brown cis-male guest to the NYC/NJ SCD community for five years. My experience tells me that good intentions from new communal members often don’t create positive impact. And, I have experienced how my well intentioned services have rubbed SCD community members the wrong way. With this experience do I write words of encouragement that would have helped me move more thoughtfully five years ago. Lastly, I want to recognize that these thoughts are conjured from a multiplicity of sources. However, I centralize Aurelien Guichard, Cebo Carr, Shinobu Carr in this moment because they graciously took time to interview with me about their respective creations— Versd and Next Generation NY Studios— for the sake of this blog.
Offering #1: You are a valuable member of the community. We all are. So drive slow, homie, and understand how holistically wealthy we are as you create your individual service/product to serve “a need”.
“For everything that’s new it has to take the time it needs to see what people want out of it.”- Aurelien Guichard
The community needs you, your strengths, and your gifts both on-and-off the dance floor. Each individual committed to this community is a necessary component to the dynamic greatness we envision. One great challenge that newer members in the community pose, though, is that we often create products/services (P/S) before the community has had ample time to get to know us and vice versa.
What does “ample time” mean? Is a year, three, six, twelve years ample time? I think the answer is as diverse as members in the community; which can be extremely overwhelming. It can encourage us to shutdown, not manifest anything, and leave the community void of our creativity. The overwhelmance can also encourage us to have a dismissive mentality and hastily come to our own conclusions without council. I encourage us not to do either.
Instead, I offer a patient studious approach. Be a student of each individual in the community. Understand their perspective and allow your own to be informed by it all. This is a life long process that requires us to slowww...dowwwn and take...our...time. Hastiness can often lead to messiness.
“Divide and conquer is a very real thing. It is what’s being used now (when people say) ‘the app’ versus ‘the studio’ versus ‘the teachers’. There’s no separation between any of it and there’s a need for all of it”- Cebo Carr
No matter our intentions, when we move hastily and/or without dialogue we may unintentionally create, what Cebo calls, a “divide and conquer” situation. Our failure to execute due diligence leaves substantial room for deeper community members to misinterpret our good intentions with selfish ones. This makes sense to me as we create P/S to fill a perceived need. However, there may be work already being done to fulfill that same need that we miss in our haste.* Where we could have used our resources to uplift a deeper community member’s P/S, we unintentionally create an impact of division, opposition, and competition by quickly manifesting our own idea.
I want to encourage us— the self-work to affirm our individuality, silence our ego, and centralize our communal needs before and/or while creating a our individual P/S is super difficult. It’s nothing short of a life-long growth process. Shinobu, a Street/Club Dance practitioner for over 25 years, expressed how she still desires to improve her intra-communal communication to improve Next Generation NY Studios. “I feel like I should’ve spoken up more in the process (of creating the studio) and I should have talked to our peers more in this creation and asked for more guidance and worked with them because, although our goal is to elevate the community, I know many peers feel like this is not (yet) the community’s place... (so) we are far from our goal.”
Shinobu’s words shake me as she reveals the depth of patience and dialogue that is required for us to live like there’s no separation between us; even as we manifest different services and products. Shinobu shows that it is a challenge for the most humble in our community, and thus holds a high level of difficulty. Yet, I refuse to believe it is an impenetrable challenge. Like a top quality dance move, this spiritual challenge requires deep, repetitious, training in love and humility. As we show that love and humility by moving slow and dialoguing with community members, another challenge arises. Namely, when is the right time to serve the community with our product/service? Truly, only you can answer that. What I love about this community is that they/we will test-the-mess out of you to make sure that what you say and what you do are in synchronization for the long haul. KRS-One in the 40 years of Hip-hop said that in order to be Hip- hop you must claim, “I am Hip-hop.” You can do that on day 1 or day 10,000. The difference between the two is that your “I am Hip-hop” roots in day 10,000 are significantly deeper than day 1. Thus, when the community comes to challenge (which they/we inevitably will), you’re prepared to clearly and articulately show your roots. For me, I invite the communal challenge because I know it reveals the depth of work behind my commitment to the community. Can you say the same?
* I have experienced moments where I tried to dialogue with others to fulfill a need, but they don’t want to involve me. And, so, I create my own from there. I leave room in this offering for individual circumstances and for loving discernment to be used in those situations.
** I want to be clear that moving more slowly is not some one-size-fits-all remedy. Even when we move slowly, people are likely going to have something negative to say. We can only do our best to love and honor this community and culture by doing significant research as we’re creating.