Collaboration and community aren’t just buzzwords for me, they’ve truly saved my life.
I grew up poor on the tiny island of Grenada. At some point in my life that may have embarrassed me but now I’m able to see the lessons it was meant to teach me and strengthen me for the purpose God has for my life.
Growing up poor you understand the power of community, your survival depends on it.
My family’s house was at the top of hill. On a plot of land that was rumored to be owned by my grandmother (turns out that wasn’t the case.) It was a wooden and cement house, with 5 rooms a veranda and an accompanying out house. The kitchen was cement and added on later in my life by my mother. It was painted green and you could see it from the bottom of the hill. Often my grandfather would stay at the bottom of the hill and wave to us, and all the kids would go running down the (shoes optional) to greet him.
In the back of my house one of my uncles had a tiny house and two houses over another uncle had a house. There were a few neighbors close by that were not family but that didn’t matter much. We were a community and that community raised me.
The day my mother left to come make a better life in the U.S. I cried and cried. I don’t ever remember crying that much. It may have been too much for my grandmother to bear because it was a neighbor who took me, bathe me, combed my hair and rocked me to sleep over her knees. Something I would never forget.
I remember going to our neighbors to ask for a cup of sugar or rice. This was a regular occurrence in my childhood and when someone showed up to our door asking for a cup of sugar you gave because you were aware that it could easily be you tomorrow.
It wasn’t just my close neighbors though. It was the lady living at the bottom of the hill that took me to her Church on Sundays, and allowed my grandmother to sell at her booth in the market. It was the guy a few house over that allowed us to get running water from his supply. It was the older ladies that would give me snacks or 25 cents to buy candy.
When we wanted to have our own water supply, my grandmother gathered everyone to discuss how we could do it together and how everyone could contribute. After everyone agreed to the terms we got a pipe and for a long time everyone shared that water supply.
When we weren’t able to pay our electricity bill, the adults figured out a way to run a temporary line of electricity from one house to another. When having a personal television in each home wasn’t yet a reality, the adults all gathered in one house to watch the Young and the Restless.
My grandmother would send me to the local shop with notes that read,
‘Good afternoon Ms. Glory,
Can you please trust me:
I will send payment by month’s end.’
I would often be ashamed to carry those notes but it was the kindness of shop owners that kept my family going.
Today, it’s easy for me to trace my passion for the work I’m doing with Creative Smart Girl to the collaborative nature of the community I grew up in.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t always roses and good times. There were definitely rough times but I those only serve as a lesson in the fact that communities can bounce back from difficulties, but more on that at another time.
Community collaboration is the most important and powerful strategy creatives and small biz owners can use to grow their brand and have optimal impact.
This is particularly necessary for black women. According to Forbes, ‘for most minority women, the problem isn’t entrepreneurial appetite or the often-preached go-getter mentality; it’s sufficient financial and social capital resources to lean on.’
We have the drive, we have the passion but individually we lack resources. What about collectively? Can we share our respective rice, sugar, and water supply? Can we trust each other with small favors? Can we be mutually beneficial to each other? Call me naive , but I believe we can.
We may not have the resources of others but understanding the power of a collaborative community is our difference maker. A collaborative community will save your life, it will nourish you, it will comfort you, it will feed you, and most importantly it will shape your worldview.