Strangers

I got very troublesome news from back home last night concerning 2 cousins of mine. Being an only child, they are the closest things I have to a brother and a sister. As such, we are all rather close, and when things happen to one of us, they effect all of us. These relationships can serve as microcosms for the connection that we as a people share and must acknowledge in order to advance in our collective knowledge of self.

Most without siblings value tremendously the relationships they form with their extended family and their “chosen family,” who are more often referred to as their friends. Most are not comfortable losing people, finding out family members are hurt, unheard from, or [potentially] in danger. This is news that is never good, whether you spoke to the people minutes, hours, or days before whatever happened happened, as was my case, or if you have not interacted with the person(s) for an extended period of time. In both cases, you will generally go through the following set of emotions/responses:

Disbelief (Are you serious?)
Helplessness (Could I have stopped/prevented this? Is there anything I can do now?)
Questioning (What happened? How did this happen?)
Action (I’m coming home/over right now!)
Evaluation (Is everything cool now? What can we do going forward?)

These are all things that I thought/felt/said when I got the call about my cousin’s stabbing and my other cousin’s disappearance. Thankfully, the slightly older cousin (slightly because they are both 18) is back home safely and the younger cousin escaped with “minor” injuries. The reason I, and most other people, can literally feel the connection to the individual(s) effected by the happenings.

The question, is how do we create this connection between those who are not family? It is created between friends through choice, trust, and experience. However, can we choose, trust, and share experiences with strangers? I argue that we can, since we are not strangers. What? You don’t know me, therefore you’re a stranger. Well, I say that a stranger is a person with whom you have not connection, literal or figurative. Using this definition, we cannot consider ourselves strangers to anyone. Taking myself as an example, I have shared experiences with others as humans, others as Black people, others as Black men, others as native Detroiters, others as current/former basketball players, others as Christians, others as tall people, etc. We should think about the basic things that we have in common, and from there we can grow in our compassion and community.

Doing this will give us the level of empathy to understand and embrace one another during “happy” and “difficult” times. The “happy” times are important because we often only think of our connection during “low” moments (how many people only see certain family at funerals?). We can change this. Let’s get back to the basics everybody. We can flip the notion of only seeing one another at funerals to seeing one another at graduations. We can flip the notion of only talking to people when tragedies strike to talking to people when we think about each other. If we can change the way we think of one another, not as separate entities but as members of the same collective body, then perhaps we can build a firm foundation upon which current and future generations can create a humanity that is not so divisive or defensive, one that is more practical, one that is more sensitive to the wants and needs of everyone.

Doing this can be the basis for changing the fundamental way that we think about things. What is going on in the mind of a young man or group of young men that attempt to take the life of another? What is going on in the mind of a young person who leaves their mother on Mother’s Day? These are questions that cannot be asked or answered if we consider ourselves strangers. Let’s create a closeness that bridges artificial boundaries.

Successful revolution is not created from hatred, anger, or being “fed up.” It is created out of love for and knowledge of self and love between former “strangers.”

One Love. One II.

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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

2 responses to “Strangers”

  1. Yolanda says :

    So often we lose sight of what’s important in life until; in some cases, it’s too late. Thank you SuperSpade for giving us something to think about. I will keep your family in prayer.
    y.

  2. Anonymous says :

    I have just learned that in experiencing live and loving the ones that you are closest to – you have to realize that each individual has a mind and spirit of their own and as significant others in their lives we have to remain prayful and trust God as we continue to support and mentor them. lady b

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