Creating Communities of Belonging

Human beings have a need for love and belonging. It is when we feel a sense of connection and trust in our fellow human beings, that we are able to bring our authentic selves forward. This is a job on its own, as social and cultural norms indicate that certain parts of our multiple identities are not welcome in this space or that circle. In a way, we are socialized to “show” the parts of our identities that fit in the mainstream culture and we reserve the rest for our intimate spaces. 

As an immigrant in the United States, it took me years to realize that my difference could be an asset and not an obstacle, and that my strength was grounded in the ability to see things through a different lens. I also learned that I could connect with people at deeper levels not despite our differences, but because of them. 

john a. powell, Director of the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley, says that when we pretend we are not connected, we are in the process of othering. That is, the process of denying not only someone’s humanity, but our own humanity, because we deny our connectedness. When people become “the other,” we don’t feel the need to understand or have feelings about their suffering. 

But it doesn’t need to be that way. It is possible and necessary to create spaces where young people and adults feel that they belong. That means paying attention to how “we are” in community, and intentionally uplifting each other with empathy, cariño and a commitment for positive change. 

At the core, this is the goal of Social Emotional Learning—to create the social and emotional conditions where children can thrive, by intentionally teaching and integrating HEART skills into the fabric of schools and classrooms. And that includes paying attention to our shared need for love and belonging.

Start today by:

“We need to have our circle of human concern with no one outside the circle.”

john a. powell

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