Creating Community

Last night my BlackBerry and I stumbled through near-100-degree heat into the second weekly drum circle convened in the new Veteran’s Plaza by Impact Silver Spring.

Silver Spring is an interesting place. I’ve lived here for nearly 10 years and I still feel like a newcomer. It is an unincorporated place in southern Montgomery County (Maryland) that hugs Washington’s angular northern boundary line. Unlike other places I have lived (e.g., Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Atlanta), there is no cohesive Silver Spring identity for the community as a whole or its various neighborhoods. It’s a place in search of a culture, it seems.

Two years ago the space where the new Veterans Plaza and Civic Building now sit was a patch of artificial turf that became a community gathering place. One year ago the spot was a construction site.  County planners envisioned the new space as a performance space and a formal and informal gathering place. I wonder how this is going to develop and if Silver Spring will get the culture planners hoped for in building the new space. Okay, they’ve built it and people are coming: skateboarders, loafers, nappers, and voyeurs. And the drummers. Are the drum circles a transitional phase helping (through music therapy?) to move Silver Spring into a new direction? Or are they something else? I look forward to watching how things turn out.

I spent about 45 minutes at last night’s drum circle (it was more of a rectangle with an amorphous fringe) and I wish I could have stayed longer. I enjoyed the improvisation and watching the diverse crowd. I wonder how things turned out with the Krishnas who set up an informational table a few dozen yards away, complete with their own drum.

3 thoughts on “Creating Community

  1. I felt Silver Spring had a very strong culture when I was growing up, one very similar to Takoma Park: liberal, sometimes crunchy, generally open-minded, and embracing of the “offbeat.” It’s a place where we had a mural of penguin commuters and a “mayor” who was a homeless man. We have art stores and record stores. In high school and college, I saw that culture manifested among my peers who were more likely to start bands and make art than to spend their afternoons at Montgomery Mall. At U-Md., I could easily pick out the kids who were from Silver Spring (that is, the ones I didn’t already know). I don’t know if everyone was aware of this “culture,” but to me, it was always a part of Silver Spring. To that end, it seems like Veterans Plaza has made a space for that culture to express itself – in the drum circle, in skateboarding, and in many more things we’ve yet to see.

    • Thanks for the note Dan. What you’re describing is a vibrant cluster of subcultures that sometimes overlap(ped) in Silver Spring’s public spheres. When I use the term “culture” I am using it in the anthropological sense of something larger than subcultures, i.e., a group with shared traditions, symbols, and all that, which is reproducible and recognizable and legible among all of its practitioners. I would go beyond the garage bands and skateboarders and the homeless mayor to find something that unifies Silver Spring. The first step in that goes back to a comment I put on a blog post from earlier this year (I cannot put my mouse on it — just getting back online after the Sunday Storm [is there a formal name, a la “Snopocalypse”] for the event?).

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