PA Leaders Reimagine Community Engagement

July 1, 2020

Professionals from across Pennsylvania, representing non-profits, government, arts, culture, humanities, and library services, attended Reimagining Community Engagement, a virtual event presented by PHC in partnership with the Office of Commonwealth Libraries during the summer of 2020. The event involved a three-part series to create a statewide network to learn and build humanities-based and equitable practices for the future of community engagement in our changing world.

PART 1: From Inclusion to Belonging

The first webinar in the series was kicked off by Philadelphia Poet Laureate Trapeta B. Mayson, who highlighted the danger of single story and inspired the group to explore experiences of belonging and disbelonging through storytelling. After Mayson’s talk and poetry performance, participants joined story circles in breakout groups and shared their own personal stories. Returning to the main discussion, they debriefed about what our stories tell us about belonging, inclusion, and community engagement. The event closed with Mayson leading a sensory poem, prompting the group to imagine what belonging looks, feels, tastes and sounds like. A word cloud was created from participants’ responses.

PART 2: Lessons From the Field

The Reimagining Community Engagement series continued with a cross-sector panel conversation moderated by Michael O’Bryan from the Village of Arts and Humanities: 

  • Salina Almanzar, Lancaster-based Artist, Organizer, Scholar
  • Mary Foltz, Director, Lehigh University South Side Initiative 
  • Lindsay Varner, Community Outreach Director, Cumberland County Historical Society
  • Marcus P. Yuille, Outreach Manager, Erie County Public Library

This second session discussed the power of cross-sector collaborations with artists and approaching work with the community through inquiry and as lifelong learners. Panelists talked about trusting communities to know what they need and centering community desires in institutional efforts and budgets. Finally, the group delved into what “belonging” means for staff within organizations and how to address institutional racism.

PART 3: Connecting the Dots: Collective Action for a New Era

The third and final Reimagining Community Engagement webinar featured an engaging panel moderated by Chester Made project manager Ulysses Slaughter and featured national leaders Carlton Turner from the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production, Tracie D. Hall from the American Library Association, and Ben Fink from Appalshop.

Participants moved into deeper discussions about connection, taking action, and making meaningful change.

To cap off the event, particpants submitted songs that they felt represented the current moment.

Listen on Spotify.

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