Since hosting salons and brunches the most common question is always, “How do you select your invitees?” Because of the sentiments I express below my methods have changed but I would like to walk through them to explain my though process as it relates to space.
To answer simply, I invited people that I had observed or have expressed a desire to have meaningful conversations and share ideas about various social topics. This presents two criteria, one my observation, and two personal expression. If I meet a person at a bar and we ended up having a really great conversation about transportation, then I would invite them to a brunch about the city, or technology, or social access to resources. If I meet another person in a bar and all we talk about are the new Episodes of House Of Cards then they might not be invited.
It is not an over exclusion as much as it is a reflection of their perceived interests. I also invite people to these events based on their expressed interest, meaning there may be an email from a stranger or someone I already knew that says “I’d like to check that out.” Do I make an assessment about their level of interest and motive for wanting to be invited? Sure. Is it fair? Not sure.
There must be some responsibility of the host to prepare a safe place for the guests that do attend my events to be comfortable expressing their feelings. On the other hand, in doing so immediately begin to create a criteria that excludes people based on arbitrary criteria. But, I am also invited to a lot of social gathers, discussions, talks and dinners that are centered around “creating communities”.
But I ask wonder, Am I really creating an opportunity for new valuable engagements or simply creating yet another division between us, under the guise of a “curated audience”. If nothing else curation is making distinctions based on a particular criteria, but what happens when you do that with people?
There are other groups like this, some I am a part of and others that I have heard about. In either case, one thing is constant, everyone feels incredibly appreciative to be apart of such an amazing group. This amazingness is such an abstraction though.
In these groups I hear words like tribe, community, collective, the language is always one of oneness and connectivity. But there still seems to be a commonality within these groups. Either age, or income, or level of education, even social perspective. So it got me thinking about these criteria and how they afford us the idea of safety. That we can speak freely without fear of being spoken up against or judged. I have been thanked for preparing a space for this with SHLTR and the various events.
What each of these groups have in common is a sense of like-mindedness. This is great because you are indeed welcome to speak freely about topics that are generally agreed upon and expand on topics and themes that are accepted. It is that old adage of preaching to the choir at play. Though I feel these groups are absolutely necessary to progress the initiative they are interested in, they are not as community, or connectivity oriented as their language might suggest.
Nature categorizes each of us organically, and yet we find new ways of doing it. We create homogenous groups that celebrate the slightest of differences and call it diversity. Too often we preach to the choir, and reaffirm our own ideas in group settings. It is one of the dangers of mob mentality. We should be clear about this and hope to reduce it when recognized.
Separation in disguise looks like cultural curation, the art, is really coming up with complex ways to categorize people base of social and cultural criteria that are ever changing. If you end up in a room where everyone is good looking, then that is not an open community. There must be some unspoken prerequisite for admission that is not being explained. The same goes for intelligence or wealth, social perspective or taste. If we want to grow as a society at large we must be open to navigating the situations that come with mixed groups.
To truly be community oriented, all types of people must be invited to the feast, a truly diverse array of people does not need organized curation. The invitation need only be extended to all, and those that are interested should be allowed to join. This means that there will be a greater likelihood that confrontations can occur, but without these experiences our ideas are never challenged.
This is one of the great beauties of urban life, we are not spared from bumping into the homeless person or religious person shouting on the street corner. It offers us a chance to experience a new idea, and see each person, not as a character but as an individual should we choose to do so. In the open format of the city we may be subject to these experiences and in response to them we keep our guard up.
It is my goal with all Citizens Of Culture events to be inclusive. The website is open to be viewed by everyone, and I would like the full experience of to be shared by as many that are interested in engaging and being respectful to the others in the group.
No other criteria should be consequential. I still thing we should seek to prepare a safe space for people to express themselves but I wonder if that safety can be achieved be establishing a context of mutual respect based on the idea that each of us are can create value in our society.
After sitting with these thoughts I change my answer. There are certain people that I know personally that I would love to have attend each event for individual reasons and those that have signed up on a mailing list or other form of communication. Those people will receive invites into their inbox. However, each even will be open to the public on a first come basis. I hope that the limits of seating capacity will be enough of a curator on its own. The goal is to bring people together and learn to see each other as individual people not as a “type” person. Giving each other full permission to express a variety of facets, is not only interesting but gives ourselves permission to do so as well.
It may be a tall order, but I would rather not cultivate a group with people that are like-minded, and instead cultivate a group of people that are open minded.