A Blessing.

Every day there are people within our own communities who are drowning. Many have jumped in, many have fallen in, most have been swept under… And they are drowning. Drowning in philosophical or spiritual confusion, drowning in loneliness, drowning in addiction, drowning in mental illness, drowning in self-righteousness and dogmatic arrogance, drowning in complacency, drowning under the waves of economic and ethnic injustice, drowning as victims or instigators of racism, drowning under terms such as “law and order”. They are struggling… just below the surface of our neighborhoods, made visible as they come up gasping for air, begging for food, longing for a warm place to rest their heads, screaming for sanity.

Many of us sit on the sidelines, with a compassion-less arrogance, observing those who are drowning and say they should learn how to swim, unaware of our complacency and lack of knowledge on how to swim ourselves.

Some of us observe from the sidelines with compassion, telling those who are drowning that we are willing to teach them how to swim. We may even look for a life preserver, while trying not to get our feet wet.

Yet …there are few of us…hearts broken, with the knowledge that we were (and many times still are) drowning, who are willing, even compelled, to jump in the water and lift these brothers and sisters up, to become one with them, to understand that we are one of them, and to simply help them be raised so that they can at the very least take another breath in hopes that they will be pulled out of the mire once and for all.

May we be so disturbed by injustice, so disrupted from our comfort, so filled with an understanding of Shalom, that we learn to not only dip our toes in, but immerse our entire lives into the waves, in order to bring breath, life, hope…real hope.. so that we may all see a new day dawn when the waves that are drowning so many, subside to unveil a fertile land.

So may you be blessed:
With strength and weakness, passion and longing, protest and silence, hope and doubt, courage and humility.

May you be kept:
Near each other, joyful, awake, transparent, and at rest;

May you be gracious with yourself and others and may others do the same:
So that you may shine Light in every situation, without fear or worry, without the desire to seek the approval of others.

May others stand with you:
As you stand in solidarity, with the confused, the foreign, the addicted, the homeless, and the hopeless…

And may you see true peace:
Not just the absence of conflict, but the full presence of love and equity.

 

 

Photo by nikko macaspac

What Smalltown Means to Me.

Smalltown Society is a manifestation of a beautiful vision of humanity brought to life. It's a unique space and organization dedicated to bringing to life community as it should be. Smalltown bravely imagines a society that is united, enlightened, and empathetic toward one another. But they don't stop at simply imagining, STS boldly actualizes these concepts through engaging events, exhibits, and projects that are unique and inspiring.

My short answer is Smalltown Society is a communal art space, but in truth it's so much more. It's a group of individuals dedicated to listening, sharing, and belonging. They are elevating the level of art, discussion, entertainment, and activism in Castro Valley, and words can't describe how thankful I am for them. - Karin Richey (Plethos Productions)

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What Smalltown Means to Me.

There is nothing “small” about Smalltown. In just 2 years, it has created an important and cherished community space. It brings together community members whose paths might not ordinarily cross. It celebrates voices that are not readily heard. It creates a dialogue for Castro Valley, a community lacking formal civic institutions. Smalltown is community. Smalltown is building community.

- Mike Kusiak (CVMatters)

You Belong

*A Poem often read at the beginning of our events

For the skinny boy, hopeless romantic,
           Swimming in a sea of masculinity
           Heart shattered into a million pieces
           Wondering “when will I belong?”
For the “overweight” girl, wanting to airbrush her thoughts
           Covering up in clothes in order to hide her skin
           Trying on another diet
For the paycheck to paycheck parents
           Overcome with the flames of consumerism
           Burned out with saying, “No, we just can’t buy it”
           Wondering “when will I belong?”
For the elderly
           Walled up in a rest home, lost in transition
           Having so much still to give
           Wondering “when will I belong?”
For the ex-con
           With no job, mounds of a debt
           With stigma written on his resume, arms, and neck
           Wondering “when will I belong?”
For the thrift store shopper, bargain isle hopper
           Buying their 10th pair of Velcro shoes
           Not because they want to but because the have to
           Wondering “when will I belong?”

For the outcast sitting alone at lunch period
Staring across the quad at the popular kids
Wondering “when will I belong?”
And for the struggling mom
Sifting through her instagram
Staring across the city at the popular kids
Wondering “when will I belong?”

Perhaps not realizing that the popular
Drowning in their popularity
Striving to maintain perfection
Are all asking…the same question:
When will I belong?

So today,
            I make a declaration:

YOU BELONG.

Perhaps without knowing how, or without any effort of your own.

YOU BELONG.

Your existence screams for belonging.
Your presence, your planted feet,
The space that you occupy
Makes our community more complete.

YOU BELONG.

If you are well fed from conversation
Or empty with loneliness

If you always seem to be the life of the party
If you can’t seem to finish a conversation,
Slap yourself for talking too much,
Make dumb jokes
Every exchange you feel like a burden
Eyes of others drift around the room looking for a more important person

YOU BELONG.   

If you reside in the hills or your car or a tent in the creek
If you live all alone whether by choice or circumstance
Or your couching surfing through jam packed two bedroom apartments

YOU BELONG.

If you know exactly who you are
Or spent your whole life still wondering

YOU BELONG.

The self-disciplined and the addict.

YOU BELONG.   

If you’re used to saying the words, “I love you mom and dad”
Or if life has been one long stretch toward the family you never had
Or if your foster parents are doing the best they can
But you all realize for the first time, they’ll never understand

Male, female, somewhere outside or in-between
Finally trying to lift your voice to the song you need to sing

YOU BELONG.   

If, for 50 years, you’ve been blessed to call the same place home.
Or travelled a thousand miles and still have no where to call your own.
If your life has been ripped out from under you, fleeing to be free
No longer in the same place but displaced, now called a refugee

YOU BELONG.

Rooted deep in your culture
Or rediscovering your origins
Unearthing past oppressors, oppressions, and cultural abortion
Or lost in a plastic experience, where all the tastes are bland
For the first time realizing this is not really your ancestors land…

If you pride yourself on equity and feel you’ve covered all the bases
Or like an alcoholic your brave enough to stand and say, “Hi I’m Sam, I’m Racist”.

If you were born with all the right documents
In a nation filled with immigrants
Or if your status causes arguments,
If not treated as equal
Your presence, beliefs, and people
Are often considered evil…
Listen, no human being is illegal.

YOU BELONG.

YOU BELONG.

No one’s story too odd not to be heard…I think of the Zulu word
Ubuntu…meaning Humanity.
All interconnected, a thousand different versions,
built to lift each other’s burdens.
A person is a person through other persons.
In the words of Teresa, whom we often called Mother
“If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other”.

            I am because we are.
            You are because we are.
            We are because we are.

Longing to be?

Belong.

There’s a table prepared for all who are hungry, it’s free
No one’s excluded, no matter your label or history
Like a beggar I’ve come with this bread I have found
Not having all answers, but dammit! I will no longer be bound.
You who are loved,

…come join the song

You Belong.

Let’s write a new story of belonging together….

Artist Highlight: Brittany Williams (B-Spoke-it)

Brittany Williams (B-Spoke-it) is a writer and poet from Atlanta, GA who for now calls the Bay Area home. She would say that she's a designer by day, storyteller by night, and a freedom fighter all the time. Her love for all things creative and a particular affinity for word expression have opened opportunities to do what she loves most - connecting with people through poetic storytelling. Her favorite color is blue. Or pink. Or black and white depending on the day. You can often find her looking for inspiration on a beach or most likely at the bottom of a coffee cup in a local Bay Area cafe.

Brittany will be performing in our Space at our July 6th gathering, representing Lyrical Opposition, a lyrical family of artists, activists & administrators opposing injustice through the integration of faith, arts & activism.

Artist Highlight: Kristiana Federe

My love for art began when I was young. I remember winning coloring contests in elementary school, I’d think of new and innovative ways to color inside the lines. Come to think of it, that was just the beginning. Years down the road, I attended CSUEB - Hayward Campus where I graduated with a degree in graphic design. While I created art in college, I was never really satisfied with it until after I graduated. It was then that I was able to sit down and create art that I felt passionate about. Much of my work is inspired by the people, experiences, and environment I am surrounded by and consists of hand-drawn illustrations, digital art, photography, and acrylic paintings.

Kristiana will be highlighting her work in our Space at the JULY 6th Gathering

Artist Highlight: Tyler Harlow

Tyler is an upright and electric bassist, composer, and band leader based in the San Francisco Bay Area. While he primarily keeps busy as a jazz musician, he can often be seen playing a variety of genres including funk, soul, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and reggae, among others. While acting as a sideman for a plethora of artists, Tyler mainly excercises his composing and bandleading skills in two of his own groups, Traveler and Buttery Crispy. 

Tyler began playing at age 8 and quickly found music to be his passion. By age 12, Tyler was writing his own music and performing on stage. When he was 17, Tyler decided he couldn’t resist pursuing music as a career. He began working his way into various musical communities around The San Francisco Bay Area, performing with groups of various genres. Through all this he remained committed to his pursuit of jazz. In 2014, Tyler began studying jazz formally at the California Jazz Conservatory, from where he will graduate in May 2018. While studying at the CJC, Tyler has become an in-demand and respected young bassist throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s been featured as an ‘Emerging Artist’ by Jazz in the Neighborhood, been a member of the award-winning California Jazz Conservatory Advanced Combo, and has taught on the faculty at the prestigious Stanford Jazz Workshop. He has performed and recorded alongside many esteemed musicians, including Dann Zinn, Tony Miceli, Anthony Smith, Marcos Silva, Erik Jekabson, Kari Ikonen, and Greg Glassman.

Tyler and his quartet will be performing "The Traveler" in our Space at the JULY 6th Gathering. 

View Tyler's website

What Smalltown Means to Me.

We were stopped by a sign on the door that read “Byrne After Reading Collective”, and a date.

“Shall we go?,” my daughter asked. Without hesitation I said, “YES.”

We went, and nothing has been the same since. 

It’s been an awakening to the good one hopes for, the good you know must be going on somewhere that turns out to be going on right here under your nose.  There was an immediate sense of inclusion, and we found community, companionship, intellectual stimulation, an expanding appreciation of music, and a growing list of activities and events that are thought-provoking , rich and sometimes pure fun.  We found an amazing sense of welcome, creativity, humor, joy, refreshing world view, art, fresh ideas and some of the sweetest, brightest, kindest most talented people you’ll ever find. 

Yesterday I asked my daughter what Smalltown Society meant to her.  She answered with one word, “HOPE.”  That pretty much sums it up for me. Smalltown Society banished a sense of malaise and is evidence that there is every good reason for hope for the future, not in some far off place and time, but right here, right now.

With gratitude,

Sylvia Medeiros (Community member, curator, author, Smalltown blog contributor)

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