When you get to a certain point in your friendship, you may feel that you want to integrate your new friends with your old friends, your old friends with your family. I held my first community coffee morning for black women in Watford, and I wanted to host it like a big family breakfast that my friends – old and new – could attend and get to know each other.
In my role, I am constantly thinking about the fundamentals of friendship – the importance of really taking care of each other and showing my friends that they are of value, that I care about them, believe in them and support them. A friend in the community kindly donated a gazillion baked goods for our coffee morning, and it was so touching – not because cake is life (although it is), but because this lady couldn’t make it to the event, but still wanted to show up for us in some way. Usually I’m thinking about ways that I can make my friends feel supported and valued, but this got me thinking about the ways my friends show up for me. This lady didn’t have to offer any help or support, but she offered this donation out of the goodness of her heart, and it meant the world.
The morning of the event, I was extremely nervous. I was worried that no one would turn up, that they wouldn’t enjoy themselves, that I’d forgotten something or that the venue would somehow forget that the event was happening and there would be no space for us.
When I arrived, I realised that there was a mix up and they’d given us the wrong room. I had 30 minutes to transform a children’s nursery into a coffee morning. Our first guest arrived just as I was setting the table and I was stressed out to say the least, but she said, ‘take your time, I’ll just sit here, unless you need any help?’, and I was instantly more at ease. Accommodating everyone and making sure they had an amazing time was at the forefront of my mind, but the idea of them showing up for me was something I didn’t even consider.
People arrived little by little, until I had 18 out of the 20 people I was expecting, and the room was filled with anticipation and excitement as old friends reunited and new friends were made in the moment. There was something so familial about the atmosphere, and the level of care and attention from everyone in the room came as such a surprise to me. Over teas, coffees and pastries galore we discussed the amazing work that different women around the table were doing, and I felt the support of the women, not just for me, but for each other.
One young woman came to me and explained that she was painfully shy and extremely nervous to attend, and she said she felt so at ease by the end, in part due to the supportive atmosphere created by all the wonderful women there.
After the event, people took home boxes upon boxes of baked goods for their families, colleagues and Parishes, and when it came time to clear up, everyone mucked in and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was left surprised and extremely touched that during my attempt to show up for my community, they inevitably ended up doing the same for me.
Kiki Brown is the Friendship Producer for Tiata Fahodzi. With a background that also encompasses acting and community theatre, she has co-run two small-scale theatre companies, is a drama facilitator and a singer/songwriter.