What is community? Is it the people you’re around? Is it the feeling you get when you’re around a certain group of people? Is is active or passive? Is there a definition or is it as abstract as anything else that is specific to each individual? What happens when you find yourself outside of a community and in turn, how do you make your way in?
Whenever I think of community outreach, these are the questions I have to ask myself. Yes, marketing and outreach are strategic but there’s also just this aspect of just being a human being trying to connect with someone else. It’s this sense of inviting someone in and in return, hoping to be let in as well. When I think of community and outreach, I go into it with a sense of just trying to get to know someone. I don’t particularly want anything from you other than to meet you, get to know you better. No one is oblivious. They can tell when you just want something from them or when you’re oozing with fakeness. No one wants to be networked. People do want to feel special and listened to. They do want relationships that gives just as much as it takes.
In doing community outreach, I want to challenge people to get to know one another. Not because we want something from one another. Not to network but simply just to be together. You’d be surprised how quickly you can befriend a stranger, the things you confide in them or feel safe around them. We live in a world where we are so scared of people, things or beliefs that are different than us. We meet it with rage, hostility and hatred yet we fail to realize that we are all more similar than we are different. We don’t actually fear that thing that we tell ourselves is scary or dangerous. What we actually fear is that we may like that person we’re told is a threat. We might resonate with an idea we were brainwashed to think is radical. We might actually be good at an activity we were told would emasculate us. But we must push past those fears. We must reach out. Reach out to converse with a stranger. Reach out of our comfort zone. Reach out to include or accept. Reach out for help or understanding. We just need to reach out. For ourselves. For each other. For that is building community. That’s why we use the term “building a community” not “maintaining a community”. The work is never done. So smile at a stranger. Ask someone to inform you about something you don’t know. Go to a different restaurant. Try a new activity. Realize that expanding your community broadens your perspective and helps you grow into a person you never thought you’d expect to be. Realize that you may find yourself with an ever-growing community of people that may all come together because of you.
So I hope you come out and see a show at Chicago Danztheatre or support our fundraisers. We work for and collaborate with people from all walks of life. We tell stories that people never thought they’d resonate with. We intermingle communities of all kinds from the CPS community, to the prison community, to the artist community and beyond. We truly believe that it is possible for us all to learn from one another. It’s possible to simply exist with one another, to listen, to be heard and to share. You are always welcome in the CDE community because it is a safe place. We are one community.
And as always, like our Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Facebook page or follow us on Instagram @danztheatre.