4 The power of collective action
The global COVID-19 pandemic which began in 2020 has highlighted the importance and value of local community groups and of people working together to provide self-help and support when times are hard. This has been the case in societies across the world in times of crises or in response to political or social needs. There are likely to be community groups in your area you can be part of to make a difference around the issues that matter to you locally.
As you learned in Session 1 however, your relationship with your community can be complex. Communities can provide a sense of belonging, solidarity and protection and they can also label you or place limitations or expectations upon you. Yet, as you heard in William’s story in Session 2 your role in your community is not fixed. It can change as you change and grow and you can also expand what community or communities you belong to and even forge new communities to help you with your goals.
In William’s case, for example, he used education and self-reflection during his time in prison, to understand the social and political context he had grown up in and to clarify his values and how he wanted to make change happen positively. But he found upon his release that the community he had left as a boy had not changed. As he explained:
‘We were still living separately; we were still worshipping separately; we were still employed separately; we were still housed separately; we were still socialising separately…’
The community he had left was also not welcoming to him because of his past. So he forged new communities based around his interests and values. For example, he moved to a mixed (PUL and CNR) community and educated his children in an integrated school. He nurtured connections with people who shared similar views, including other Loyalists who were involved in community conflict transformation, and later set up a community group to do this kind of work based in the Shankill community.
If you have a clear sense of your core values you will find it easier to find your own voice within your community or communities.