2009-05-22 / Columnists

It's My Turn

Real Talk
By Timothy Aaron Styles

Namaste": A Hindu greeting that means 'the Divinity in me, recognizes/ salutes the Divinity in You.

I don't know about where you live but where I live in Queens, there is something so very interesting about the new houses have been built that have theoretically increased the social, cultural and economic value of the neighborhood.

It's a global village on my block. Folks from Guyana, The Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Panama, Jamaica, Nigeria, Eastern Europe, Mexico (?) and Haiti. But - most people walk right by one another with no acknowledgement - no greeting. I find that absolutely amazing!

I mean, Angelina lives right next door to Halima (both fictitious names) - their dwelling places are attached. They walk right by one another and don't even speak! W-o-w! W-T-F? Same with their husbands Jose and Ndugu (also fictitious).

So, have all these new financially affordable new homes made our neighborhoods better places? All the new SUV's and Lexus' and BMW's in the driveways and on the streets. And these wonderful external signs of personal individual and familial prosperity (or is it really debt?) progress in the name of improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods at the expense of true, real and authentic community.

The etymological origins of community are "communal" and "unity," right? Or is it "Common unity?" Either way, let's toss the usage of the word and never use it again. As well, let's never use the word "village" either.

Instead, let's use "dwelling places," "residential districts" or "places with people in them." While these descriptions are more sterile and less personal - less human - they are phrases that appropriately and accurately describe the phenomenon that I am witnessing daily.

Dick Gregory once said about the American educational system was that its problem was that it was teaching people how to make a living rather than teaching people how to live.

If I could humbly and respectfully attempt to paraphrase and re-purpose Dick Gregory's comment and make it pertinent to the subject at hand:

"The problem with these new residential districts is that the value of human beings is no longer based on social interaction but based on externalities and material possessions."

Or how about this one:

"The problem with these new emerging neighborhoods is that the people moving in don't define "community" based on shared concerns and social interaction but geographical proximity."

I don't know, maybe I'm being too critical? Maybe I expect too much. Maybe I really am out of touch with the reality of New York, and the nature of people, as one Nigerian brother on my block suggested after I shared with him my observation: "That's the way people are."

Maybe I need to stop gazing with socio-cultural analytical eyes. Maybe I need to see less from my traditional African POV where community is based on village and village is extended family. Maybe I need to suppress my heart-based notion and belief that people, especially people of color, should always acknowledge one other.

Maybe I need to ignore the thoughts telling me that it is in the acknowledgment of others, that we affirm not just the other person's existence and importance, but also our own as well.

Maybe I should deny the divine spiritual inspiration that whispers to me: "acknowledgment of others is acknowledgement of one's self."

And then there is that certain something - maybe it is my Soul. Maybe my own personal spiritual guides. Maybe the Ancestors. Maybe the Holy and Divine Spirit. Maybe it's just good ole common sense:

Acknowledging and saluting others is acknowledging and honoring The Creator.

Dang! Maybe I'm getting too deep with all this. Too ethereal. Maybe I should just do like most people - ignore the other person and just don't speak! Look straight ahead and put my head down. Shift my eyes and attention somewhere else!

Whether neighbor or stranger in the elevator with no one else there but you and them. (Long pause. Seriously contemplating…)

Nah, I can't do it. It's against my Queens, New York-born, Georgiaroots, Afrakan-origin and God-created and God-centered being.

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Oh how I enjoy the look of surprise on one's face, when greeting a person who doesn't expect to hear a morning, noon, or night greeting...


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