Thursday, February 28, 2008

Community Building

I am coming into my own as a community builder as founder and moderator of Morningside Writers Group, organizer of past English/Spanish intercambio groups in the metro NYC area, and when I used to dance barefoot in Central Park with the West African drummers and dancers.

I didn't set out to be a community organizer. This role developed organically over time because I was a frustrated artist seeking others to workshop my fiction, screenplays, and most recently personal essays and memoir chapters.

I happened onto the outdoor roller-skating and inline skating rink when the disco and R&B music floated through the trees and over the lake in Central Park one hot summer afternoon. I was taken aback by the assortment of people seemingly stuck in a time warp, dancing, wiggling, and shaking their groove thing to music from my youth made popular in the movie Roll Bounce.

I found a new home away from home among the locals and tourists armed with camcorders; and for the hours spent, I was in a different world where nothing else mattered besides the bass and treble pouring from the speakers. The organizers were good-natured, spirited, and passionate about skating. They had t-shirts, took photos, and arranged other events throughout the season.

The community welcomed anyone with a pair of skates and a desire to congregate or temporarily escape from whatever ailed them just outside the park perimeter.

The West African drum and dance circle was a similar international community that was just as welcoming and escapist. I'd never seen anything like it before in Texas. I'd only seen or heard African drumming and dancing on PBS. There was a touring company years ago, Ipi Tombi, that I was unable to see, but knew they existed. Prior to the Central Park drum circle, the only other African dance I was familiar with was Alvin Ailey and Arthur Mitchell because of Black History Month.

Both communities subconsciously filtered into the foundation of Morningside. I wanted to create a group for various writing abilities and personality types. I wanted to create a modern-day interracial Harlem Renaissance.

The past five years have been instructive on what works in New York City. I don't know if the same would hold true in Houston, Chicago, or Los Angeles. Does it matter that New York is the understood literary capital? It shouldn't because successful writers live in other parts of the world. My goal moving forward is to create a thriving writing community of published fiction writers and produced playwrights and screenwriters.

1 comment:

Shelia said...

Great post Harlem Writer. It's always amazing to me how we find ourselves in positions thrust upon us and we have no clue how it happened.

How on earth have I been missing your blog? Writing is my first love. I've somehow gotten away from doing it as often as before, but continue to love it.

I'm so glad that you joined in the live blogging today, we had such a fun group. I'm already looking forward to the next final that may be of interest.

Take Care,~~Shelia