Listening to the Stories and Sharing the Cultural Capital of the Community

This week’s readings deal with the idea of knowledge and capital, or assets, in communities. What is knowledge, how do we obtain it, where does it come from, why is it valuable? Knowledge is a set of ideas based on observations made by people. But who gets to decide what is knowledge worth sharing? This is also true for capital, meaning what is identified as assets in a community is a result of what people think is important. Many of us think of capital as money, but what about other types of assets in a community? In sociology, capital is defined as anything that adds value to a community. But who decides what is considered as adding value? Too often, those who are in charge, who have a larger percentage of the resources, and who have power decide. This is a problem because all too often, the people who decide what is valuable knowledge and assets in a community are wealthy white people. This means the knowledge and assets of countless individuals, families, and even entire communities is not valued simply because those who are in charge tend to work to maintain the way things are as not to lose their position on the social ladder.

The community garden in Washington Park will highlight the social and cultural assets in the community. What we know, or our knowledge, is based on three parts: the one who knows, what is known, and how we know what we know. Washington Park community members are the knowers. They are the heartbeat of the community, the families that live, work, learn, and play here every day. What is known is their stories, their wants, desires, and dreams. As community partners with Washington Park, it is our job to learn those stories, wants, desires, and dreams so that we may better support the community’s wishes. The process of knowing is what we get to do! We get to meet community members and listen to their stories. We need to listen, really hear, what the people of the community want and need so that we can better understand how we can support their goals. It’s our responsibility to understand the stories from their perspective, and not as outsiders. The outsider’s point of view has been seen and heard enough already. It’s time to bring to life the rich history, generations of families and their stories, and the traditions that make Washington Park a community. By learning their stories, we also become better sociologists.

Questions for consideration:

  1. What do you consider to be your community’s biggest cultural asset?
  2. What could happen to our communities if we don’t listen to the perspective of the people who live in the communities?
  3. We’re using community based research for a community garden, what are some other projects that could benefit from getting local stories and input?