Rissy

What's your experience of community like these days?

Since moving from NYC to San Francisco, I've had to redefine what community looks like and means to me. I was born & raised in Brooklyn, went to a primarily white institution (PWI) for college, and came back to NYC for a couple of years post university. Through all of those years, my core group of friends were largely black and hispanic, and then I moved to SF.

The most earth shattering aspect of SF for me is the severe lack of what I carefully define as “societally successful” black people. On one hand, my social circles have diversified, and I’ve learned a bunch about other cultures and backgrounds in the process. On the other hand, my group of black friends, the people who make me feel at home, and to whom I never have to explain or justify my experiences as a black woman, are an important part of my community. And as much as I enjoy facilitating conversations around race and sharing my experiences as a black woman, that lack of a safety net [of black friends] is exhausting.

 

How do you feel about your situation?

I'm rolling with it. I'm happier here than I was in NYC overall, but being black in SF is...an experience. I encounter more casual racism here than I’ve dealt with elsewhere, and walking around a city where the majority of people who look like me are struggling is tough. I’m working out how to balance my career and having fun in a new city with opportunities to help solve the issues I’m seeing play out in front of me.

 

How would you define community?

My community is the people, environments, and experiences that make me feel fulfilled. Right now that means indoor rock climbing, small minority-focused networking events [I’m an introvert], and any activities with friends. I don’t quite feel fulfilled yet, but I’m making progress.

 

What causes you to feel fulfilled in community?

I feel fulfilled when I’m among people with whom I have a mutual understanding. I’m not always asking questions or being asked to explain, we’re just existing in unhindered comfort.