Discussion Questions for Mia Birdsong: Community as a Verb
1. Activist Mia Birdsong is trying to move at the pace of love, humanity, liberation. What pace do you want to move at today?
2. The American Dream is a story about how anyone can be successful with just a little bit of grit. The problem with this story, Mia explains, is that it’s embedded with ideologies of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism that create barriers for certain individuals and walls between us all. How has the American Dream failed you?
3. Mia says that the ideal of the nuclear family is like the ideal of the self-made man, but in family form. If you’re able to attain it, you’re a sign of cultural success (and God’s favor). If not, you’re considered deficient or, even worse, immoral. What kind of family were you taught to want? What kind of family do you want now?
4. Families were never meant to be everything. We used to move in interdependent tribes, relying on a lot of other folks to get by. Think for a moment about a relationship that’s felt a little disappointing in your life lately. What do you need from it? Which of those needs can you meet yourself? Which of those needs can someone else meet? How does naming the limits of your relationship feel liberating?
5. Mia wrote this: “We are responsible for one another. That doesn’t mean we can heal someone or make them accountable though, they have to own a commitment to those things. But it does mean being there. It means not avoiding our people when they experience trauma, illness, violence or pain we find hard or scary. It means not abandoning them to their relentless pain and hurting.” Whose hard and scary pain are you showing up for? Is anyone else sharing the circle of responsibility with you?
6. The people who the American dream has excluded are the people amongst whom Mia has seen the most expansive, deep, and interconnected community. Why do you think this? What is it about prizing individualism that breeds toxicity? What is it about prizing survival that creates community?
7. Mia is a fan of chosen families. She tells a story about her friendship with a single woman named Mariah that expanded the boundaries of her belonging. Who is one person in your chosen family? How have you agreed to be responsible for one another? How else could you expand your circle of care?
8. In the middle of a global pandemic and another cycle of police brutality, Mia is learning how to help others in a way that doesn’t burden them further. It’s about making a specific suggestion, she says, rather than asking an open-ended question. It’s about creating more ease, not necessarily meeting a need. What have you learned during this time about how we make life lighter for each other?
9. Mia is cautiously optimistic that we’re experiencing a fresh level of solidarity with one another. After all, when systems aren’t made to support us, all we’ve got is the support of each other. Are you feeling similarly hopeful? Why or why not?
10. Mia’s book How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community is about helping us name what’s mine to carry, what’s yours to carry, and what’s ours to carry together. What’s one action you can take this week to live like community is a verb?
Bonus: After listening to this week’s podcast, what part of Kate and Mia’s conversation resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?