The need, as we continue to explore the process and industry of community development, I found it essential to address mediums that were used as vehicles for establishing actors such as family values, social practices, and community. One such actor that comes to mind is the role the dinner table had in the development of my frame of reference for how I understood the community, family, values, and social systems.
As the internal operation of the home and community continue to change on a generational basis, two things remain the same, which are food and the feeling of family congregating for the often monthly or annual occasion. The food with it many recipes often passed down from family member to family member and prepared to the fashion and appetite of those who can remember which such and such made it. Lastly, the feeling of seeing family members, their smiles, and stories dating back generations. To me, this picture is what family and community meant to me. What made occasions like this impactful was the fact that the entire neighborhood was invited to celebrate, indulge, and share.
I am sure that many of you, who are reading this, can attest to experiencing such occurrences in one shape or form. Still, sadly, traditions focused around food, family, and community are becoming a lost experience to younger generations. With the reality of younger generations not being afforded the opportunity to have the dinner table experience, I have decided to act and develop a concept. The goal of the concept hopefully innovates the dinner table experience and create an apparatus for establishing family and community values, efficacy, and a basis for community development.
No, my goal is not to eat at the dinner table, but instead utilize the dinner table as a tool that will allow family and eventually their community. Family and Community Engagement Dinners allows participating families to create their systems and beliefs that will first create a community within the home and then community within the community. Yes, there will be a curriculum that will assist families with creating such systems along with financial support to help families that may not have the resources to participate in this project.
My approach to developing such a unique concept is rooted in the belief that communities consist of more than erected buildings, streets, and agendas. Instead, communities are people and cultures, which is why I believe that this new community development model is sustainable and can improve families as well as communities on a generational level.
The family is a community. The community is family.
Na’Shon Z. Edwards, Sr., MCD is a graduate of Prairie View A&M University Community Development Program, an independent community development consultant and researcher.