Mixed-income communities combine unity and diversity. Too often, unity seems easier when everyone has the same background, the same living situation, the same ways of celebrating or communicating. But we know that homogeneous unity can be a false unity; sometimes it’s mostly comfort in the status quo.
At FCS, we want to go beyond that comfortable unity and do the hard work of weaving community fabric from diverse threads. We want to see what a community of many different parts looks like when it comes together. In my role as Neighborhood Engagement Coordinator, I get to help build that togetherness by connecting with partners, neighbors, and helping to see what we can do together out of relationship.
Even as I pursue this dream of unity in diversity, it’s rare to get a moment where it feels like we’ve achieved it (partially because community is always a process). But one of these rare moments came upon me a few weeks ago, and I saw our community speak as one body.
Last year, FCS helped South Atlanta create a Master Plan for the neighborhood, which the city adopted. The plan incorporated neighbors’ desires for how the neighborhood will develop. Since the city adopted it, the plan stipulates the boundaries for how change will happen in the neighborhood. It’s a huge step towards honoring our historic neighbors’ wishes for their home, and it helps to make sure everyone in the community benefits from future development.
The plan took a lot of time to make. Painstakingly, it gathered input from community members. Still, at one meeting discussing the plan, a person from the community, newer to the conversation, voiced concerns and questions.
Lovingly, the other members of the community received the concerns. As soon as the man spoke, numerous people replied, “Brother, we hear you.” The room of South Atlanta residents, representing a wide variety of backgrounds, listened and received the neighbor’s words. After listening, giving information, and further conversation, the members of the room took a breath.
One woman spoke, “we are one in this, and we are at peace with this decision.” Around the room, neighbors nodded affirmingly. I was stunned. When she spoke, scriptures talking about the body of Christ coming together flooded my mind. Rarely have I seen such a moment of health. A diverse room received dissent, worked through it, and forged unity out for the benefit of the larger community.
That moment proved it to me; diverse communities can exist together. At FCS, we have always believed that truth. I am so grateful to have seen it with my own eyes. Unity sets the foundation of what kind of community we are, the community we will be. I love our foundation is relationship. Changes can come and try and rock our foundation in Historic South Atlanta, but we are already grounded in unity.