"Public Kinship is the acknowledgment that we are family in our community, nations, and world, and that we act accordingly. It is the willingness of everyday people to publicly assume responsibility in acting out the phrase 'love thy neighbor as thyself.' It requires our leaders to support participation in the nation's public arena as well as promote community ethics."
PUBLIC KINSHIP DEFINED
Dr. Bobby William Austin
INTRODUCTION -- WHY PUBLIC KINSHIP MATTERS
Public Kinship is the foundational recognition of our common humanity — that our own well-being is bound to that of others. The concept of Public Kinship was developed by sociologist, Dr. Bobby William Austin, and stems from his work as the Director of the seminal 1996 report commissioned by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and released by the National Task Force on African American Men and Boys (The Task Force), Repairing the Breach: Keys Ways to Support Family Life, Reclaim Our Streets, and Rebuild Civil Society in America's Communities.
Upon its release, Repairing the Breach was called, “The plan to save America,” by Washington Post columnist Bill Raspberry. Repairing the Breach highlighted the need for agenda building and planning that must take place in and around a general discussion of the goals, missions, and aspirations of those affected. Moreover, it provided a framework to advance efforts. The report argued that if our civic, social, religious, and cultural organizations can develop themselves into a working network, this would give rise to a new national dialogue adding voices to existing civil rights organizations. This dialogue would focus on the bridges that must be built; it would be based on study and a sense of community mission. (pp. 62-64)
A key driver in the Repairing the Breach framework was to bolster Public Kinship at the grassroots and national level. Engendering perspectives and behavior that foster Public Kinship within individuals, households, neighborhoods and cities can
In today’s terms, Public Kinship is what noted sociologists, social psychologists, and behavioral economists posit as the building of social capital, social trust, and social cohesion. As Harvard University professor, Dr. Robert Putnam, states in his 1995 book, Bowling Alone, social capital is exhibited as “features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit.
Starting at the individual, household, then neighborhood levels with the kinds of behavioral changes that engender Public Kinship will allow us to create momentum towards a ripple effect. As the process moves forward, residents in the targeted communities will improve their self-efficacy and self-confidence, moving from merely surviving to thriving. They will improve their relationships with each other, increasing the quality of their interactions and communication
Public Kinship is seen and felt in the often overlooked behavior that guides how we live our values and care for our communities. It is evidenced in the everyday gestures that reaffirm our trust and compassion towards one another: greeting neighbors, sharing meals, attending events to support efforts, taking that extra step to tidy our streets or grow a community garden. Though seemingly small, the sum of these actions and the sentiment behind them textures our neighborhoods and nation.
Public Kinship is similar to Putnam’s formulation of social capital: it seeks to create a sense of “village” among residents of urban, underserved, African American communities, whose social fabric is all too often shredded by the daily stresses and shocks that coincide with isolation, poverty, and little trust among neighbors let alone institutions. In essence, the lack of social capital and trust, the absence of Public Kinship, is a root obstacle for historically marginalized communities to overcome in their collaborative efforts to affect positive change. Similarly, this gap can begin to explain the chaotic ebbs and flows of civic leadership within struggling neighborhoods.