With the school year approaching, I am reminded of an email I sent my colleagues at a previous job discussing the importance of community spaces that promote inclusivity, love, and respect. This email was inspired by three students that grew to love the comforts of a familiar space and the family that existed within it.
With news of our branch transitioning into a new space, many opinions have been shared in the HHC about this next building phase of the Karl Road branch. Many students are excited about the prospects of being a part of something new and vibrant in this community. For them, this branch is an educational resource, cross-cultural meeting place, and yes, a spot where Takis are exchanged just as freely as friendly greetings. Though excitement may ring from the mouths of many kids that come to this branch when thinking about a newer Karl Road library, I was reminded that everyone is not excited about this change.
Last week, I spoke to three Homework Help Center students who wanted to be more excited about moving to a new branch or transitional spot. Their reason was simple: this place is home. They reminded me that this is where they meet up with their friends and laugh at this day's funniest moments. The Homework Help Center is also where they can relax and be kids. The HHC is a place for them to build positive relationships with people they respect, love, and cherish. Their questions were valid: Will things be the same when the HHC moves? Where will everyone go and hang out after-school? Why do things have to change? As someone that loves music, I realized that, in many ways, the HHC is a band of sorts in which the chemistry is as undeniable as the warmth that flows throughout the room when we are all together. There are no lead singers, and somehow, no one sings backup. Songs are written collaboratively, and production credit is shared equally. Singers sing, instrumentalist play, managers manage, and there are always a couple of people in charge of keeping the snacks stocked up. Simply put, if you are in the band, you are a part of the group.
The HHC staff and students are a proud band of others, distinctly different from one another yet sharing the same passion for creating positivity. We are both a band and a family (more Jackson 5 than the Partridge Family vocally, minus the flashy costumes and family calamity). As a family, we compose the songs that supply the soundtrack to our weekly existence in the Homework Help Center. These songs are tunes of happiness, help, inspiration, connection, love, safety, respect, integrity, and hope. We have played at the same venue for years as our version of a sold-out arena is the white walls of the HHC. Though this area may look bland, it's our home, and everyone is a rock star within this space.
These girls wanted the band to stay together so the music still flows and the vibes remain real. As members of this band, these girls understood that they were part of a community that valued each individual as a critical component of the group's success. These kids embody many of the interactions in the HHC in which staff and students have created a mutual existence in which needs are lovingly and respectfully met. Interactions that start with a simple greeting grow into complete relationships in which lives are positively impacted for both students and adults. Having worked in the Homework Help Center, Fatima, Ty, and I agree that these kids have significantly impacted our lives. Their smiles, conversations, hugs, and words of encouragement are invaluable to us, and it speaks the rich quality of culture in the HHC. Our band rocks and the sound we, students and staff, create is revolutionary, world-changing, momentum-shifting, and soul-enriching.
After hearing their displeasure concerning the uncertainty of transitioning to the venue of a new branch, I talked to the girls and reminded them that though the space may change and people may go, as a band, our songs of community, acceptance, love, change, and peace must travel because good music should always be shared. Within the HHC, we often talk about taking what you have learned within the space and applying it to the outside world by creating a diverse, different, accepting, and loving culture—then sharing it with others. The band won't always be together in proximity, but the connection will remain strong enough so that when we are in the same shared space, a jam session could erupt. The songs we have created, much like memories, last and, in some cases, are timeless. As we wrap up this final segment of the school year, I am deeply proud that HHC is still rockin' and that no matter where we go, the music, just like the band, is at real as it gets.