Community Consciousness

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I would like to combine the fields of Sociology and Communiications in order to create and implement projects that increase community awareness of critical social and environmental issues in that community as well as promote participation of the population of that community in those issues which require community attention and action.

What are the critical social and environmental issues in a community? All members of a community, including its human beings, animals, and landscape, must have basic needs met--enough food to eat, decent shelter, and clothing to wear. Community members also deserve the right to live without being threatened by abuse from other members of the community. Some examples of populations which are currently underrepresented include homeless people, teenagers and children, elderly people, impoverished people, prisoners, single-parent families, and animals.

Where do we begin? First, communities need to be educated as to what issues are threatening the well-being of their community. I will utilize various media technologies such as news publications, video/television, and the Internet, to give voice to these underrepresented populations. This will increase public awareness of these issues as well as mobilize community actions that can affect these issues.

An example of one of the programs that I have created is the Video Resume program for the homeless population. I compiled a videotape in which homeless people spoke on camera directly to potential employers, and offered their specialized job skills in hopes of being employed. The videotape was then shown to potential employers who needed a position filled. Incentives provided by support groups for the homeless population would be given to such employers to hire from that group.

Videotaping also served the dual purpose of allowing the homeless population to have the experience of presenting themselves and their abilities, which allowed them to prepare for job interviews and to see themselves on camera. The Weingart Center, a multi-purpose housing and support center for homeless people in Skid Row-Los Angeles, adopted the Video Resume project for this purpose.

Another project that I am currently working with is an Internet publication called Global Action for Internet Advocates (GAIA), which "promotes global democracy through conscious community action". It's purpose is to educate the Internet community about the critical social and environmental issues, and to provide options for community involvement, on the individual and group level. Our audience is educated on the issues, and then given opportunities to participate constructively as part of the solution on a variety of levels.

For example, the September issue on GAIA was the preservation of the Redwood Forest at Headwaters, CA, which were being threatened by logger interests. We covered the issue briefly and timely, and also gave our audience options for involvement, including being a participant at a rally in the forest, or simply e-mailing President Clinton and voicing an opinion on the issue. More than a news publication, Global Action for Internet Advocates is not bound by traditional beauracracy and so can go beyond objective reporting to offer concrete solution-oriented suggestions for real community action.

I see GAIA as part of a wave of community consciousness I will call Community Action Coalitions (CAC's). More and more, people in communities are learning that, with education, guidance, and unification, we can be self-sustaining and solve our own problems. Federal, state, and local governments are withdrawing their support and claiming that their hands are tied on a variety of critical issues that deserve immediate attention. Community Action Coalitions can succeed because they bypass "traditional" political/beaurecratic action and mobilize communities to meet our own needs.

The resources of everyone in the community are employed instead of relying on the few ineffectual government representatives that have been chosen to represent us. Those who have more resources, time, and energy to participate are able to share with those that have less and so are empowered. People in the community who have less resources benefit from the support of the rest of the community. A real sense of community empowerment is gained by everyone who participates. We can be self-sustaining and take care of our own members.

Time is of the essence. There is a dire need for communities to come together to solve our own problems. Our people are suffering, and our environment is being destructed each day that passes. No longer can we allow our ignorance, apathy, or laziness to come between us making a difference in our communities and in our world. Our voices and actions do make a difference, especially when we can come together as a community. Many voices are much louder than one. People must first be made aware of the issues, and then be invited to participate. Many of us have the desire to participate in a positive way, but feel overwhelmed and may not know where to begin. Others may feel they haven't the time to participate. I would like to take a step in de-mystifying the concept of community action. I will start by researching the issues and the multidudes of ways in which people can involve themselves. Educating people that they do make a difference and inviting their participation will empower our communities to support each and every member and create a world that works for everyone.

Colleen Grimes

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