Twenty-seven community advocates for inclusion and change from the Real Communities Partnership (RCP) and the Welcoming Communities Dialogues (WCD) groups gathered virtually from August 19 to 21 for their annual retreat. For those three days, the work centered around their response to a movie called “Why I Write,” a film about bettering one’s community through art and action, developed and produced by the Hearts and Minds Film Initiative and TELEDUCTION.
“We were excited to hear the community discussion around the movie and to discover what was familiar to retreat attendees, what was unfamiliar and what was a challenge for some,” said Malaika Geuka Wells, community organizing coordinator for Global Ubuntu, the organization that manages RCP and WCD.
During the retreat, people were asked to express their vision of what their community would look like within the next five years via art. Using supplies on hand, from paper to magazines to pictures, participants spoke through their art about their hopes and dreams for their communities in achieving the Welcoming Communities’ mission to pave the way toward an equitable and just society where people across race, ethnicity, culture, class, socioeconomic background, educational status, abilities, gender and religion are treated with dignity and respect.
The retreat was followed by three virtual workshops that helped participants understand the fundamental forces of the current economic and governance systems; envision a democratic and sustainable future; and strategize toward building a new solidarity economy, which is an economy that is created with people, instead of profit, in mind.
These workshops provided an introduction to Highlander’s Mapping Our Futures curriculum, which shares innovative strategies from across the globe that are advancing new economies and shifting the ways groups organize themselves, govern their work together, resist capitalism’s structurally designed inequities and transform people’s lives and conditions.
The workshops focused on Setting the Stage and Community Mapping; Capitalism and the Solidarity Economy; and Beautiful Solutions: Examples of Solidarity Economy.
Other plans for this Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) initiative included the second annual Welcoming Communities Dialogue Summit on Sept. 26. This year, it was held virtually and targeted social justice, disability and race. Woven throughout the discussions were restorative and healing dialogues led by the Mindfulness with Favor organization. “Our goal is to describe systems of injustice, root out and remove systemic issues, and supply the safe space to talk about it,” said Sumaya Karimi, the project organizing director for RCP and founder and director of Global Ubuntu.
Karimi also explained Global Ubuntu is working to move the focus from the project base of Real Communities where assistance was given to individuals to fit into their communities to a movement base via the Welcoming Community Movement Fund, adjusting communities to be welcoming and adaptive to all who already live there.
Currently, out of Georgia’s 159 counties, the Welcoming Communities Dialogue groups operate in 10 areas across the state. “We plan to expand the movement and to share best practices for others,” Karimi added. Through the lens of the Welcoming Community Movement Fund, the participants will build and sustain a movement where the culture shifts from one of hate, unfairness and dehumanization to one of love and belonging, where the principle of morality is practiced as the norm.
The Welcoming Community Dialogues initiative is part of the Real Communities Partnerships, funded by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities and managed by Global Ubuntu.