A Letter on Community Engagement – Shannon Ellis

Our history, as a city, comes from communication and collaboration. Our future is whether we can continue this tradition.

Community engagement is the enactment of providing branches for conversations to establish the collective future envisioned. It is a right, a privilege, and my pleasure to be involved in the facilitation of engaging my community.

For me, it began with poetry. In living rooms during parties, in parking lots, to library audiences, and all of those who would listen.

I began collaborating with local creatives, putting on music and art events in basements and any abandoned space throughout our downtown.

Outside of the creative underground, I found myself being offered a position and I accepted. This is how I fell into the nonprofit world, which Birmingham is rich in. I began coordinating the teaching artists and their workshops for Moss Rock Festival and Magic City Art Connection.

I became immersed in creating impact and actualization in my community within this responsibility. I began reading Birmingham’s comprehensive plan to understand where we are at and where we are going, I began volunteer teaching creative writing to fourth graders with Desert Island Supply Co., and I found a purpose and passion in giving back by making things happens. I learned there was no richer feeling than knowing the work you’ve labored over, leading to the smile of a student and seeing empowerment in their eyes.

After two years of involvement in my community, I had the opportunity to dive deeper by becoming a community fellow for the Birmingham Education Foundation.

Community engagement is a right, a privilege, a pleasure, and a responsibility.

I have only glimpsed portions and parts of the communities of my city, and I want to continue to listen, I want to connect others, and I want to connect others to opportunities. I challenge others to do the same.

Being a community engager defines you as a person who is not only a bridge but a well.

At the Ed Foundation, we hope to be that bridge, a well, and a lighthouse.

Within the community engagement of Ed, we are building bridges between community partners and schools, we are hearing you out at Network Nights to create a well of connections to those who are our neighbors, and creating a beacon of resources and opportunities to schools, students, and families. From launching a survey to better understand the needs and ideas for the future, to coming to your neighborhood and knocking on your door to hear your story. We want to hear your voice, needs, wants, experiences, and hopes to guide the community towards a future we all contributed to. We are accomplishing this by opening the door to bring the community together and creating solutions together.

Come to a Network Night, see if where your work is partnered with us, fill out the ALL In survey, volunteer with us, answer the door when we knock, and let us know how to plant success and connection in your neighborhood, in your community.

To learn more about Ed’s Community Engagement work, and to get involved visit www.edbirmingham.org and take our survey at bit.ly/bcsedsurveyPicsArt_12-03-02.11.58

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