The Importance of Community Both in Past and Present by Matt Arrieta

The Black experience and struggle has evolved over many generations and continues to be a layered and complex issue. To gain a better understanding of where we are now as a society in relation to the black experience, I attended two programs. One of which was hosted by the University of San Diego, called “Black Present and Presence,” and the other was a recommendation by my professor, Dr Miller, titled “Way Out of No Way.” The key idea of “Black Present and Presence” was that while the white male is seen to be the default in modern society, black culture has played a massive role in influencing the culture we see around us, and the issue of cultural appropriation was also mentioned. The program also places a great emphasis on the importance of community for African Americans, as a means of supporting one another and having voices be heard. The core theme of “Way Out of No Way” is that there is, in fact, a way out of no way. What is meant by this is that African Americans have the willingness and determination to push through obstacles, despite how slim the outlook may appear to be. The program stresses the importance of the black experience throughout the years, and discusses how it has improved, changed, and evolved leading up to present time. While the two programs had different focuses and main ideas, they led the viewer to the same place, which was an understanding that while much progress has been made in regards to the Black Struggle, there is still much to be done. Another theme found in both programs was the importance of community in getting us to where we are now, as well as how important it continues to be.

In “Black Present and Presence,” the importance of community was stressed through the example of Black Twitter. Within the platform, one can find various different cliques or subcategories. Using various hashtags such as #BlackTwitter, #Blackexcellence, and so on, one can find themselves immersed in the subcategory that is Black Twitter. The platform has been utilized by the black community to get word out about injustices in society today, and for example was and continues to be used to speak up for victims of police brutality. Black Twitter is a more modernized way for black people from all corners of the globe to unite and share their experiences. One of the speakers at the program gave an example of how valuable Black Twitter can be, which was that a black woman’s work was being stolen and credited to someone else, someone who was white, and that she had no idea. Members of the black community realized what was happening and informed her of the issue. When she became aware, she was able to reconcile and solve this issue. Another thing I found fascinating was the mention by one of the speakers that Twitter CEO at the time, Jack Dorsey, issued a statement saying that Black Twitter’s engagement and connectedness significantly contributed to Twitter’s engagement and usage as a whole. Twitter, and other social media platforms, give African Americans the ability to express themselves and demand change in ways that were previously impossible. Social media has been repurposed to serve as a strong tool in continuing to strengthen the black community, and is valuable in continuing to create and demand change today.

The primary speaker on behalf of the “Way Out of No Way” program, Dr Mark Anthony Neal, reflected that community was important in the sense that seeing others succeed and pave their own way out of no way is inspiring. Dr Neal drew inspiration from the Dean of Duke University at the time, Karla Holloway, showing him that he too was capable of achieving black excellence. Dr Neal’s main point on the topic of community was the importance of uplift, which our text Freedom On My Mind by Deborah Gray White defines as, “the idea, especially popular among the elite, that black self-help, leadership, and autonomy were necessary to elevate the race as a whole” (246). Because of the sense of uplift and inspiration he drew from Karla Holloway, he created “Left of Black,” a podcast dedicated to connecting brilliant black minds with one another. Through this podcast, many ideas and connections have been made, and people of color who may have never otherwise met one another were able to connect in a meaningful way. Dr. Neal’s podcast is a perfect example of how valuable a community can be.

In “Way Out of No Way,” Dr Neal says, “We are left with the moment we are given, this moment is your moment.” Generations of African Americans have pushed along the Black Struggle movement, leading us to our present state. Today the African American community faces a new and evolved set of challenges. In the present moment, community is just as important as it was generations ago. Without a tightly woven community that has grown stronger and stronger with time, African Americans would be powerless to the issues that plague their daily lives today. As mentioned earlier, modern day issues brought up from both programs include the white male being the default, as well as the issue of cultural appropriation and a lack of credit being given where it is due. Another critical issue the African American community faces today is the issue of police brutality. In a research paper entitled “Racism and Police Brutality in America” by Cassandra Chaney and Ray V. Robertson, it is said that, “since the time that Africans were forcibly brought to America, they have been the victims of racist and discriminatory practices that have been spurred and/or substantiated by those who create and enforce the law.” The only remedy for these issues is for African Americans to raise their voices and act as one, as they have and continue to do. The black community is resilient, persistent, and demanding of change. Through their collective efforts, we can only hope to see these current issues fade away, for the black community to see more victories in their vigilant fight for freedom and true equality. Moreover, the black community lifts one another up, and illustrates time and time again to the rest of the world that they are equally capable of greatness, that they are equally capable of love, and that they are equally deserving of the rights and respect that everyone else has today.

As early on as the slave ships bound for America from the African Coast, community was vital in uniting Africans who were being stripped away from their homes and being sent to unknown shores. The realization that they were not in this alone, and that they had each other, was the first step in creating this sense of community. Slaves in the United States were initially separated by language barriers as well as cultural differences, and the remedy to this issue was the creation of Gullah, a language that blended aspects of various African dialects as well as some from English. African Americans began to blend their cultures into one as well. While still honoring their different heritages and cultural traditions, they found a way to combine these into one culture, African American culture. Although these individuals were taken from different villages, they ultimately united as one. As time progressed, a universal black collective consciousness was formed. This collective consciousness was the realization that it was their duty to advocate for their rights, and to never give up until they were achieved. Through community rebellions were formed, protests were organized, and rights were won, bit by bit. African Americans stuck together through their highs and lows, giving one another unconditional support and guidance. I strongly hold that the black community’s persistence and unitedness will eventually lead to true equality.

                                                                    Works Cited

Chaney, Cassandra, and Ray V. Robertson. “Racism and Police Brutality in America – Journal of African American Studies.” SpringerLink, Springer US, 12 Jan. 2013, 

Dr. Mark Anthony Neal. “Way Out of No Way.” John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University.

Dr. Channon Miller, Li Khalia, and V Dozier. “The Black Present and Presence.” University of San Diego.

White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2021.

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