Community Organizing for Social Justice: Building Community Safe Spaces

Community Safety is lacking in many parts of our region. Is that stranger safe? Am I being followed? Should I call the police? Where is my family? Is it safe for me to leave my home? These are all questions that many people in our community are asking themselves these days. But, community safety doesn’t entail the presence of law enforcement or more guns in the hands of more people.

Community safety is built on social trust. When I trust you and you trust me, we can develop an opportunity for  our social groups to share relationships with each other, and  then we can work towards common goals and actions.
Who are the people we can look to in our community to build social trust? Anybody and everybody. We start with an ask. “I need help.” And we answer with, “What do you need help with?” That’s it. It’s that simple.  Lately people in our community have needed help getting food to eat or paying rent. They have needed help getting a ride to the store or fixing a flat tire or filling a prescription. The community knows what the community needs. These are not big asks. And so we find a way to help, usually through a friendship or connection built with other folks in the community.  Time goes by and social trust builds. Eventually, the asks stop, but people keep showing up to meet, to eat, to talk, and work together. They show up because we’ve built social trust. And then, they reciprocate and help someone else that has an ask and needs a little help in our community.
Where does this all take place? In the community — at the library or the coffee shop or the church or in someone’s living room. There aren’t too many spaces these days for folks to meet (at no cost) to talk about community issues. Having a central geographic location always helps, but if someone wants to meet, we find a way to get them to our place of gathering, always. We find a way because we have commitment.
When we have built up our social trust through commitment and reciprocity and it is time for action, then we write letters to people in positions of power, we call politicians’ offices, we attend community meetings, and we build coalitions with organizations who advocate and educate around our shared issues. When we support the idea that “the community knows what the community needs,” we are able to respond and organize for social justice together. 
-Sarah Chivers, Board Member

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