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Posts by alex

A First Person Perspective of Security in Communities

Of all the experiences one can have with culture and communities, none of them quite stack up to the experience of a music festival – especially the experience of working at one. Whether it’s Austin City Limits, or Coachella, or Bonnaroo, there’s nothing quite like camping out with 80,000 others for a weekend full of peace, love, and music. Personally, I worked security at Bonnaroo this past summer and immensely enjoyed it. I got to discover new bands, re-acquaint myself with old favorites, meet people from all over the world, and experience things in a new way I never would be able to without it. I saw performances from bands like Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, fun., Flogging Molly, The Roots, The Antlers, Ludacris, The Shins, Bon Iver, and dozens of others – but more importantly I saw community in action.

music festival security hug

In the course of just a few days, from people all over the country and all over the world a community formed. People laughed, and danced, and ate together, and shared the (fairly abysmal) bathroom facilities. They formed a community eighty-thousand strong, of every race and religion and creed and nationality imaginable, together to have a fun, safe, and happy weekend. As a security guard, my perspective on it was fairly unique. I was mainly in charge of the barricades – mosh-heavy punk bands like Bad Brains or Flogging Molly were especially chaotic in the security crew trying to help out crowd-surfers and contain the crowd. Even with thousands of people thrashing around to loud, angry music, they still did so to have fun and enjoy themselves, creating their own community through that music. We were also responsible for helping to give directions for whoever might need it, and for handing out bottles of water – a necessity in the 95+ degree heat! And those bottles of water were shared by the community as well; people would take a sip and pass it to those who needed it. Together, as a community, we looked out for one another and provided comfort and safety.

Another interesting community was the way the performers shared in their camaraderie with one another and the crowd. I walked backstage once to find Maynard James Keenan from Tool and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers enthusiastically talking to Alice Cooper himself. Fitz & The Tantrums had an ASL interpreter/dancer on stage with them, translating all their lyrics into sign language for the hearing impaired. Nate Ruess, lead singer of fun., literally threw himself at the crowd, trusting their community to support him safely as he surfed across their fingertips.

But looking back, as great an experience as it was, the most defining aspect of it from a community perspective is that we, as security guards, were not called that at all. We weren’t security, we were “safety”. We wore bright pink shirts with SAFETY emblazoned on the back so that people would come to us if they needed anything. Even in the craziest of mosh pits, we helped to make sure everyone was still happy and safe and healthy. We provided the community a service, and the community responded to us, incorporating everyone so that we truly did have a safe community.

Community brings safety and happiness. It’s the basic backbone and definition of it. When a community comes together, it doesn’t matter how big – it can be eight people or eighty thousand. As long as they work together for each other’s best interests and safety, the entire community will benefit. Four days at a music festival taught me that, and it’s an attitude that has truly influenced me in my work with OurPangea. It proved to me that no matter what happened, and no matter how out of control a situation could get , as long as there was a strong community, we would always be safe.

The Individual’s Role Within The Community

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It all begins with an idea. An idea is the most precious, valuable, and influential possession anyone could have. Ideas build people, build groups, build communities, build worlds. Ideas turn small sparks into dazzling spectacles of light, drops of water into vast oceans of potential. Any one of us can tap into the amazing framework of imagination to create wonderful things. This is why it is so important for the world to come together and embrace each other – not only to celebrate the great differences of the people, but the great similarities we all possess.

Our ideas create communities within our minds, and those idea-communities bring into real value to the real-life communities we live in. It’s a constant cycle – ideas bring community, community brings ideas, which brings more community. A community could do nothing without the  people to set these ideas in motion. What community could exist without individuals to further their goals?

That is why the individual is so vital and important to establishing strong communities. Everyone, from leader to follower, brain and brawn, most important to least important – every individual plays a great part in each of their communities. They are the sum of their parts and so much more, yet could not function without the strength of great individuals to play their roles in each idea. A community could never succeed without them – without you. We all have our roles to play in the great idea that is the human equation, each of us just as important as the last. Together, we can create the greatest community of all.

The Spirit of Community

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The world is full of communities large and small that bring life. Some are family or friends. Some form around cities or nations, and others form around tables and fireplaces. Communities keep us together, giving us all a place to sit and share our dreams. We create a bond of community with one another in any way we can – sometimes it’s these little things that bring us together to flourish in times of trouble.  Whether as co-workers, friends, or even as neighbors, what we share as a community is invaluable.

This is especially evident in this time of the year, with the holiday season upon us. All around, we hear of families coming together, sharing, and giving to others out of goodness of their hearts, and goodness to their communities. Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other holiday you choose to celebrate, the spirit of community unites us.

Personally, I love my family’s traditions for this time of year, and I feel like they truly bring us together as a community. We organize a large-scale Secret Santa-style operation, only with mysterious “brown bag gifts” that we must make or give from our own collections. In the past, I have received precious family heirlooms, poems and works of art, and of course a large number of useless novelty items that have been passed around the country for years and years. It’s always an exciting surprise to see who will get the singing reindeer lowrider, the zebra-print snuggie, or the ever-popular “box full of love”, which is of course just an empty box. These may seem like insulting gifts, but it really is an honor to have any of them for a year.

But our family traditions don’t just end with our own community. The holiday season has also always been about helping the less fortunate, and my father and I, along with several family friends, volunteer to play music at a local homeless shelter to entertain them as they eat the potluck Christmas lunch that we help to donate and prepare. It is fun, heartwarming, and heartbreaking at the same time to be able to help these people by sharing a little of our community with them. Though it may not be much, we try to do what we can and the only payment I could ever ask for is to see the looks of joy and gratitude on their faces. It’s in these moments when I realize what the spirit of community and giving can do for you. Over the years, it has certainly become a humbling and powerful experience for me.

At OurPangea, we want to invite you to bring your community to us, and we’ll share ours with you. Whether it’s your thoughts, your jokes and gifts, or your help and time, our communities provide us the framework to enrich our lives and the lives of others. So in the spirit of this season, we invite you to give – to share, with us and each other. Share with us some of your holiday traditions, some of your hopes, aspirations, and dreams, so that our community may become stronger for now and the future.

The Importance Of Teamwork

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As important, and as brilliant, as every single person has the potential to be, nothing can quite change the world like a good team. Two heads are always better than one, of course. The core of OurPangea can be traced to this simple root: teamwork. We’re bringing people together as teams to form communities. Those communities are joining as teams to further their goals.

Think about some of the lauded most teams the world has seen. John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Laurel and Hardy, Siskel and Ebert, Abbot and Costello. Batman and Robin, Simon and Garfunkel, Venus and Serena Williams. These teams don’t even have to be limited to two – vastly different groups such as Rush, the Three Musketeers, and of course the Three Stooges prove that otherwise.

Some of these great teams are entirely fictional. Some create art for us to enjoy, some excel in sports to entertain us. Some create music, others art. Some work together to create new worlds of technology for us to explore. Where would we be today without the revolutionary teamwork of Bill Gates and Paul Allen, creating Microsoft and changing the world? Who could forget the incredible beach volleyball dynasty of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings, who dominated the Olympics and the sport for more than a decade, becoming one of the most dominant, dynamic duos in any sport ever? Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein becoming perhaps the defining element in creating a unique and modern American musical identity? Or Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, as they created one of the most beloved fictional characters of all time, the great Mickey Mouse?

But the most important thing surrounding all of these great teams is that they work best with another person. Every friendship, marriage, relationship, partnership, negotiation to ever exist revolves around two (or more!) parties coming together to use teamwork, always becoming more than the sum of its parts. The synergy and magic of collaboration is what drives these teams forward, feeding off each other and sharing ideas back and forth to find that the world can be a better place when you reach the hand of togetherness to another.

When two people, or two groups, work together with an idea on any level – person to person or culture to culture – the result changes both parties forever, and creates a wholly new idea. Lennon and McCartney’s “A Day in the Life” or “Eleanor Rigby”; or Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s creation of the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and hundreds of beloved characters; or Michael Jordan’s groundbreaking six championships he shared with Scottie Pippen, could never have happened with just one of them. Both members of each tandem contributed in their own unique ways, creating works of music, art, and sports that were not only a mix of each, but also with their own new identity born of collaboration.

Who knows? Maybe someday soon we can add Ari Franklin and Noah Simon to the esteemed list above, for their creation of the potentially world-changing OurPangea (I’d be more than happy to take second billing, of course). It’s been a privilege to work with these two, and watch the creative process explode in action as we all strive our hardest to help collaborate with the world.

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