Community Development

Weaving heals us, and the community

March 18, 2024  • Weave: The Social Fabric Project

When Sirena Smith came back to her neighborhood in Chicago, IL, after 23 years in prison, everything had changed. “I realized I didn’t even know how to cross the street. I was so scared. I had to ask one of the gentlemen in the store for help,’” says Smith.

“I left at 18 years old, and came home at 40-something years old. There’s challenges every day. But I wake up with purpose,” says Smith. Her purpose is weaving community. Building relationships, finding belonging, and serving where she grew up has become her life.

Two organizations – the Women’s Justice Institute and Precious Blood – helped her reintegrate. They taught her skills she needed, like how to use a laptop and look for a job. But above all, they connected her to others in the neighborhood.

At one event, she heard Weave speaker Charles Perry tell about his experience returning to the community after 19 years in prison. He said he could have put the past behind him, but he wanted to repair the damage he had done to the community through drug dealing. So he started helping others, working with gang members and coaching youth sports. He invited Smith and the others to become weavers of their community.

“Now, I weave everywhere I go. I was sharing last night at work about weaving and what it means to me. One of the young ladies, she never heard of it. I said, ’Guess what? We’re weaving right now. Because we’re talking to one another. We’re getting to know one another. We are building trust with one another.’”

Weaving, she says, has helped her find belonging after so many years away. “Before, I was surviving. Now, I’m living because I’m building something for myself and my community.”

Let us know how you came to weaving. We might profile you in the newsletter. You might also consider applying to become a Weave speaker, like Charles Perry. Weave provides training and support to put its speakers on stages large and small around the US.

We will be selecting 12 new people to join the Speakers Bureau. Learn more here.