Standing in your truth, in the power of your word, worth and work takes an unbelievable amount of courage—but it also takes a village to get there.
It takes a village to raise a child—but it also takes a village to nurture and care for the well-being of adults in our community. No one person is an island. No one person has gotten somewhere on the strength of their own merits alone—no matter how much we shout the praises of independence.
When I think of the word “networking,” I think of seedy businessmen with flashy business cards, standing around during a happy hour mixer—all in an attempt to pry and procure some kind of information from you or looking at whatever assets or skills you may have to offer that can help them better their own lot. In my early days as an underground emcee, I spent many a night being amongst the crowd of rappers, managers, DJ’s and hanger-ons, business cards and CDs in hand, looking to exchange contact info for the chance to be featured in a magazine, to be the guest verse on a record, or to be noticed by a label's A&R. The environment never sat well with me, mainly because I knew that the means to the end meant having to not only rub elbows, but also to be around people who sometimes didn't share the same values that I did. I didn’t want to discuss life, love, art or anything else with these people over coffee. These were people—and, at times, myself included—looking for a way to climb whichever ladder deemed necessary to get from point A to point B.
It wouldn’t be until later when I really began the search for a higher calling and purpose that I realized that “networking” wasn’t for me. I didn’t need someone to help my brand, but I needed people that would feed my spirit. And for me, it became less about networking and more about village building—this idea that we build a community of people in our industries whose values align with our own. For me, it became centered around finding like-minded people who I could chill with at a concert or a museum, and also potentially work with on creative projects. When I think of collectives like Wu-Tang Clan, Native Tongues, or the Soulquarians, I think of a community of individuals who shared a purpose not only surrounding their work, but also in their embodied energies. In this way, the community feeds each other, all in an effort to lift each other up, organically.
As adults, who are coming out of and processing emotionally and physically (and not to mention spiritually) a global pandemic, we are still adjusting not only to a new idea surrounding how we communicate and find communion, but also to how we negotiate the spaces of family and friendship. For a lot of us, we have to redefine the structure surrounding how we come together. What I call my “community” is a hodgepodge of those in surrounding neighborhoods and of those who are thousands of miles away but are tied to me through the long arms of social media. This village I’ve built is intrinsic to my well-being and spiritual and mental health. It means that I don’t have to go to my partner, my parents or siblings for all of my needs. The support becomes a communal, a never ending cycle of love.
We can’t do this alone. We were never meant to. As parents and guardians, we are told endlessly how much a village is needed to rear children. But it doesn’t just start and stop with the youth in our circles. As adults, we too need the attention, the love and support of each other. It takes a village to raise a child; it also takes a villager to love a human.