Dialectic of Community and Fragmentation in Organizing for Social Change
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integrated through structure, ecology, networks, civic solidarity, and symbolic
communication (Friedland, 2001). Micro-level interpersonal networks form
community (Fischer, 1982; Morrison, et al., 1998; Wellman, Carrington, & Hall,
1988). The very connectedness and community that Shirley feels at the supper is
contrasted sharply by the isolation she feels at home; however. Thus, her
participation serves as both a reminder of her connection to others and her
fragmented existence once she returns home.
Another story told to us came from Bill a sixty-five year old man who worked
as a miner when he was young. He says that his father came to get him when he
was in his third grade classroom in Kentucky and said, "You got to come work with
me in the mines." That was the last day he went to school and he worked six days
a week in the mines for the next ten years. His last day was in 1954. Bill said when
he tells that story to some people they say why did you go to work so early and
stop going to school? His eyes begin to water and he says he tells them:
These are my parents. They took care of me and fed me and they needed
me to help out
because we was hungry. How could I tell them no? I’d never say no
because I wanted to help. Why can't these kids I talk to understand? They
come here and help cook the dinners but they just don’t understand.
They’re different. They take from their folks. Why don't they want to help
their folks? It don't make no sense to me. You give to your kin. That means
everyone helps everyone else. That’s what family is. [Bill begins to cough a
weak, breathy cough and holds up his hand] They say I don't have black
lung. How can they say that? I was in the mine ten years, they know that.
My father died of black lung and so did his brothers. But it don't matter.
They say I don't got it and that's that (Informal Conversation, 2000, p. 509).
Bill’s story exhibits fragmentation in terms of the disconnection he feels with
the local college students who often participate in the Friday Night Supper. When
he talks with them and shares some of his experiences he realizes how different
he is from them. There is a perceived difference in value systems that separate
the poor and homeless who attend the supper and the wealthier college
students who participate. The two groups attempt to talk to one another but
sometimes the talk just serves to highlight how different they are from one