Tiny Steps Toward the Beloved Community
How do you go about building the beloved community? Where would you start? And what would it be like, anyways?
Over the past year, we’ve walked alongside an incredible group of people who are asking these questions in the midst one of the darkest forms of economic injustice: homelessness.
Along with prison and death, homelessness is one of the cul de sacs at the end of the long road of oppression. Think of a marginalized group, and you’ll find them grossly over-represented on our city streets: the physically and mentally disabled, African Americans, Indigenous peoples, former foster kids, the LGBTQ community (particularly trans women), immigrants, and (obviously but not redundantly) the poor.
In a state that prides itself on living outdoors, we’ve passed over 370 laws to make life a crime for those who have no choice but to live outside. Housing is historically unaffordable, while funding falls “orders of magnitude” short of what’s needed.
So where would you start seeking change? And how would you know what to change it into?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. The roads to the beloved community are as numerous as we are. These are a few steps we’ve taken to keep walking in the right direction. These are the steps that causes us to build the Beloved Community Village.
STEP 1: GO TO THE MARGINS
The new world begins through the power and voice of those at the margins, those who are abused by the current way of things, who understand its flaws because they’ve touched them, and who aren’t attached to the present order because it does nothing for them.
We’ve yoked ourselves to people on the street. We’ve struggled to understand that pain. We’ve learned of their dreams, and begun to share their vision.
Go to the margins, friend. Listen to what is said there. Believe it. And follow.
STEP 2: TELL A BETTER STORY
The war for the future is fought in a thousand little battles over stories.
Good stories lift us to our better angels or dredge out our fears. Their alchemy transforms the chaos around us into common sense. But what becomes “common” is not always aligned with the acurate or the just.
Beloved community builders have a responsibility to see through the haze of rhetoric and misdirection. We need the moral courage to name the violence covered up in the dominant story. We must tell news tale that reveal the beauty of the discarded, that grow our souls, that captivate our imaginations with visions of what could be, and energize our bodies for the work.
When Denver’s Mayor says “no person should have to sleep outside,” we shout Amen! But when he uses that story to justify the criminalization of those who have no other choice, we say your story started out good but ended in a lie. When the powerful say “these people can’t figure it out on their own,” we say you must not have met Ray.
In these ways, we move beyond protest. We’re telling a better story on which a new world can be built.
STEP 3: START IN A PLACE
The beloved community isn’t “over there.” It waits in every place for a liberated imagination to express itself in action. It’s built in real locations out of concrete, lumber, and love.
The beloved community can only be birthed where we are, whether that’s Colorado Springs or Craig, Delta or Durango. Many of our homeless friends are on the northside of Denver’s downtown. So that’s where we’re dreaming and building. That’s where our beloved community will be.
STEP 4: CHANGE THE RULES
Public policy, business models, governance structures. These things set the rules of the game. These rules are designed to fit with the old story. The story that didn’t lead to the beloved community.
That’s why we’ll fight for the Right to Rest -- a “homeless bill of rights” -- until the Colorado’s legislature passes it. And that’s why we working with Denver to develop a new zoning category for permanent tiny home villages.
We need new rules that see every person as a human being worthy of dignity, respect, and basic rights to survival. New rules that build equity, share abundance, grow democracy, sustain the earth, and protect the vulnerable.
STEP 5: DO SOMETHING NEW
What got you here won’t get you there. You’ll have to do something new.
Our friends said they wanted to live in tiny homes. And they wanted them built together in community. That’s never been done in Denver before. So we’re doing it, together. And we’re calling it the Beloved Community Village. Will you join us?