Earlier this week, Dominic Bradley spoke to our community about self-care. One of the quotes Dominic shared with us was a statement from Karla Robinson, “You are either creating community or destroying it.” Founder of Beta Gamma Chi, Khyle Wooten, reflected on that quote and composed the following reflection for members and our community at large.
Brothers, any time I get to greet or speak with you is an opportunity I don’t take for granted. I’ll start this reflection by reaffirming just how loved and valuable you are. It costs me absolutely nothing to boast of your brilliance, strength, resilience, character, and all the unique abilities you bring to Beta Gamma Chi. I simply love this fraternity because this community does the work of defining and redefining...well...community. Among us, there are many lived experiences, working definitions, and, perhaps, more questions than answers as it relates to a community’s purpose and/or function. None of these, however, have stopped Beta from being its best. In fact, these elements have made and will continue to make us stronger. For the purpose of this reflection, I’ll be sharing pieces of my community worldview from the premise of Ubuntu, the African indigenous humanist principle that translates to “I am because you are.”
Right at the start of my Ph.D. program, I found myself utterly confused because my lived experiences weren’t lining up with my espoused ethic (thank you, Dr. Melva Sampson!). While I have come to firmly believe that no one makes it out here in the world without help, my recollection of coming-of-age and early adulthood experiences were loaded with opportunities to embody self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and “I’m all I got.” Was I going to be loyal to one principle or the other? My answer is not absolute because I am unlearning plenty in order to be (healthily) fortified in self-love/self-esteem/self-care and make those necessary *transfers to several communities. What I can say is that I have experienced the power of community by actively finding my people and being open to my people finding their way to me. I started this new chapter of my life by physically separating myself from the community I worked so long to build. The fear of being in a new place with a myriad of things to figure out on my own welled up in me. Therefore, the story/message that I sent out into the world was “It’s just me. I’m all alone. I did this to myself. No one is going to help or rescue me.” I told myself a disaster story and my reality demonstrated it thought by thought.
Every season of our lives provides an opportunity for us to find our people. Typically, our families serve as our first introduction to how communities behave and impart meaning to us. While our formative family experiences create a spectrum of positive and negative value on their own, we, sooner or later, come into the power of choosing/discovering our communities. Our passions, callings, hobbies, trauma, victories, setbacks, decisions, and natural ways of beings draw people to us and prompt us to find others like (and maybe different) from us. Through the lens of history, we can see how oppression, ignorance, targeted violence, and reckless use of power have brought communities together and driven them apart. Considering this, I often wonder what would happen if we approached building community from a place of wholeness. Every turn in my life has rightly needed a village of people to see, lift, challenge, and charge me...Khyle; black, queer, artsy, academic, afraid, curious, daring, spiritual, sexual, possible, impossible, uncertain, and one who is learning to unashamedly love the space he takes up.
Here’s what I know because of what Ubuntu has taught me: I NEED YOU! I SEE YOU! I AM YOU! I WILL HOLD YOU AS YOU HOLD ME! I WILL LIFT YOU AS YOU LIFT ME! I AM HERE FOR YOU AS YOU ARE HERE FOR ME! I WILL CHALLENGE YOU AS YOU CHALLENGE ME! Whenever I get it wrong, correct me. Whatever we are lacking, the community will provide. Whenever you are afraid, the community will call you by name to remind of who you are. When you are lacking the courage to show up for your life, the community will remind you of the purpose you came here with and urge you to do it scared (thank you again, Dr. Sampson!). Whenever I achieve, we achieve. Whatever grieves one of us grieves all of us. Everyone is part of the whole and the spirit of the whole is with every part. Tragedy or triumph isn’t powerful enough variables to warrant community; necessity is, though. When we feed each other, all of us are fed. When we challenge each other, we all grow. When we put our resources together, we have more than enough. When we all show up, we are all seen. I am because you are!
Stop telling disaster stories about yourself. Despite whatever reality is present for you, you are not alone. Beta is long. Beta is large. Beta is deep. Beta is spacious. Beta is available. Beta is here. Beta is now. Use your letters to find, keep, and love on your people; this process never ends.
Take what resonates with you and leave the rest.
I love you all.
*(make a) transfer - the effect that a learning task has on the learning of another task. If having learned the first task facilitates learning the second task, it is called a positive transfer; if learning the first task interferes with learning the second task, then it is called a negative transfer. Learning or teaching for transfer considers how easily we can relate one concept to another (Clifford K. Madsen, Teaching/Discipline).