Whenever I am asked where I work, I describe my community as urban. Starting today, I will use the term urban-rich, thanks to a conversation I had with Dwana Young, a new colleague from the New Jersey Office of Resilience. We were engaged in a lively conversation about the exciting work happening in New Jersey and envisioning possibilities for innovative collaborations. Once again, I described my Camden, New Jersey school community as an urban district. Every time I say it out loud, I feel like I am betraying a trust that has been cultivated after twenty years of service to the city. I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone reading this post, but as a white, suburban woman, using the term urban in this context, feels judgemental and has racist implications. This brings me back to the conversation with Dwana. Very early on in the discussions, I heard Dwana use the phrase “urban-rich,” and from that moment on, it was all I could think about.
I waited until the very end of this one-hour Zoom meeting to thank Dwana for introducing me to the concept of urban-rich. I spent a good part of the hour we had together thinking about how impactful this way of describing my school community would be. I promised myself that moving forward I will say that I am a school nurse, in an urban-rich community. This description sits well with my soul. I have written in the past about exploring my implicit biases. The original blog post; The Relentless School Nurse: Finding Flowers and Implicit Biases was published May 10, 2018. I am always learning and unlearning in an attempt to confront my biases, both implicit and explicit.
Before the meeting ended, I asked if I could make one closing comment and thanked Dwana for opening my heart to a new perspective in describing urban communities. We had a productive exchange about how the word urban elicits visions of poverty and does not reveal the beauty or richness of the culture(s) of any city. Dwana jokingly shared that she should trademark the term because others have had similar responses. I agree, trademark it Dwana, it has deep meaning and can create transformational perspectives.
When you finally “see” something, it can’t be “unseen.” This is one of those moments for me and I hope for the readers of this blog post.