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What Does Community Mean to Me?

Justina Crawford, Program Officer

Electrical Box Public Art, Upstreet Cultural District, Pittsfield
Electrical Box Public Art, Upstreet Cultural District, Pittsfield

In November 2016, I relocated to the Greater Boston area from Dayton, OH just days after the Presidential election. As I reflect upon my first few days, months, and years in Boston, I was always asked “where do you live” or “where are you from?” Were people really this curious about my upbringing? Is there an initiation process in which I need to go through in order to be an official “Bostonian”?

After more than two years, I’m yet again reflecting upon these questions but most importantly, how so many of us yearn to belong to something – community. As an arts and culture professional who has worked in public spaces to increase access, well-being, and participation in the arts for “at-promise” communities, I continue to find different ways to engage with people who are unlike me to better understand community. As I continue to learn about the arts and culture landscape of the Commonwealth as a program officer of the Community Initiative, I too am curious about what community means to the individuals, organizations, leaders, neighbors, and cities that are found within and outside it. But before embarking upon this journey, I’d like to share what community means to me.

To me, community can be defined as the moments involving food that is shared amongst family and friends; its moments in our lives that become immortalized through lived arts & cultural experiences, and more importantly, the traditions that we create to preserve and connect us. It is a changing, impactful, and powerful entity that requires commitment.

Thus, community is a space where I can grow, reflect, and share experiences with others who may or may not be like me, but at the end of the day, am still a part of it in some way.

For me, it is essential to remember that as we live in a nation that is divided by its inequities, it is worthwhile for us to be open to engaging with new faces and becoming familiar with new communities. Through my role at Mass Cultural Council, I look forward to learning from locals about their communities in hopes of sharing them with you. But in the meantime, what does community mean to you?

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