Use of the word Tribe

Good morning,

After recent questions arose in the global November Project Facebook Group (NP World Social), we wanted to shed some light on why November Project has stopped identifying cities as tribes. 

To backtrack: at the annual gathering of November Project co-leaders last summer in Seattle, we did an exercise with co-leaders from each city that eventually produced our Community Agreements. We were put into small groups and asked to share what we thought should be required of members and co-leaders who show up to November Project. While each group verbalized their thoughts in various ways, we all shared the same vision, and our collective ideas were crafted into these Community Agreements. We encourage all of you to go read, or reread them…right now. We share this to give context and to bring you into the conversations that allow November Project to grow and adapt as we learn.

The first and foremost of these agreements is respect – of boundaries, of identities, of neighbors and environment. We hope that you agree that we aim, and sometimes fail, to be respectful to you and yours and us and ours. This entire movement has focused from the beginning on showing up as you are, and being accepted for who that is. As such, the use of the word tribe in the November Project Community has been a point of discussion for a long time. In the spring, even before we put our community agreements to paper, HQ decided to formally stop using the word “tribe” as a way to identify our community. As Bojan (one of NP’s founders) has shared on facebook, NP HQ decided not to make an announcement about it because of the diversity of cities and countries and each of their relationship to the history of the word tribe. He also shared a document that gives some background to the word tribe and some history of its usage in North America, including why our use of it is appropriative. We will share the document in our social page for people to view and contemplate. 

We, in Baltimore, take responsibility for not getting ahead of this prior to an eruption on Facebook. We (wrongly) assumed that taking it out of our language would be enough to change how NP BAL describes ourselves. We now realize that we should have been more explicit and direct.  Language and words matter. They are a reflection of our community and our identity. We aim to be respectful, and we aim to be inclusive. There may not have been any malintent in our use of “tribe,” but that is beyond the point – it is still an appropriation of a culture with which November Project does not have a relationship. 

While the point of this is not to debate where the word originated, or how it is “actually” perceived in current culture, it is to say that our words reflect our inclusivity, and we use community agreement number one to guide us to the conclusion that this word is and continues to be hurtful for some, so we moved away from it. Plain and simple. 

The most important thing (to us) moving forward is not to think about what to call ourselves, but rather to reflect on what November Project means to you. What do you get out of it? Why do you come? Surely the answer is not, and should never be a name change. For me, Bryson, I show up because of the energy that I gain from everyone else who shows up and the effort that they put in, pushing themselves week after week. It makes us feel like family. I show up to gain friendships and strength. I show up to hold myself accountable – to working out, to my community members, to growing as a group. The connections formed with others and the feeling of being a part of something larger than myself makes being at November Project one of my favorite places to be. And certainly none of that has to do with any title that November Project has. This is our focus. 

That said, we understand the importance of having a shared identity. There has been some interest in having a replacement word. For over a year we (as co-leaders) have been using city/family/crew/squad. There are about a hundred good options. We are happy to entertain others and engage in conversation about this so that we can use and share the same identity.

We hope this offers some clarity to how this decision played out in Baltimore. We are more than happy to answer questions that folks may have, though the usage of the word in the context of November Project isn’t up for debate. We are striving to be an inclusive and respectful community, and sometimes that means we need to take a critical look at ourselves. Maybe this will be a surprise to you or maybe it won’t. Either way, we hope you can give this some thought. 

Yours in community,

Bryson, Kaye & Lizzie

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One Reply to “Use of the word Tribe”

  1. when I first started working out with NP in SF a few years ago this made me uncomfortable and I am so happy to see this change acknowledged.

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