What is MCAC and why is it changing the way we view empowering youth?

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Scene from a good old-fashioned community gathering – MCAC’s Sound in Science 4th Anniversary Celebration Event in February at SEE Science Center. Photo/Felipe Salas-Ogilvie

InkubatorColorsThe era of block parties and neighborhood potlucks, loving those who live next door and politely asking to borrow a cup of sugar seem far behind us in the digital age; where isolation is almost inherent behind endless screentime. Gone are the bridge clubs and the ladies who lunch, as the day-to-day lives of most Americans consist of travel in car-centric urban zones and time split between only two places: work and home.

Increasingly lost to time are these elusive “third places” or spaces and environments other than the home and workplace that encourage and facilitate conversation and public relaxation. While some still persist and thrive as businesses nestled within our city (think your favorite cafe or bar, or bookshops with reading spaces like The Bookery), the most unique and integral kind of third place fades into the distance more and more by the day.

The spaces that empower and nourish community bonds, connection, relationships and joy the most are those where one can simply just exist without the pressure of forking up cash. Almost like a vignette from a vintage film, casual and unassuming spots like the barbershop, park benches, street corners, and good old-fashioned stoops can become the beating heart of social interaction, gossip, laughter, friendship, and meaningful connection in the lives of those who frequent them. Lost in the digital world and fighting against climbing bills, isolation is easy; seeking ways to exist in and empower community feels like an impossible challenge. Enter Manchester Community Action Coalition (MCAC), a group focused on elevating the voices of community members to seek solutions together, in order to promote change and support diversity in the city.

The Coalition’s hope to engage and educate citizens in civic discourse and public issues via meaningful and intersectional relationships has been realized in Manchester in many ways since its inception in 2020. With a variety of programs focused on uplifting and educating marginalized people in order to ensure equitable opportunity for people of all backgrounds and opportunities, some of MCAC’s most notable ventures include multilingual CPR training and a 2023 Voter Education program working to inform Manchesterites about voter registration and candidates.

Working alongside individuals, they collaborate to solve community issues and support families and children for equal social and economic opportunities. They are a staple in the Manchester community and are often seen backing multicultural events and tabling at events all over the city, seeking new voices of involvement from those wanting to work toward a more equitable experience for all in the Queen City. With a bountiful celebration of Black History Month, community love and Black contributions to science, MCAC’s latest event with SEE Science Center was the perfect demonstration of the special bonds and joy that can be found engaging in your neighborhood happenings.

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Kile Adumene of MCAC, helping to create “third spaces” in our community. Photo/Felipe Salas-Ogilvie

A night full of stimulating, hands-on science exhibitions, jubilant dance from children’s dance group Spark the Dream, and joyful noise, MCAC’s Sound in Science 4th Anniversary Celebration Event was a gem of engagement and delightful free entertainment whose purpose was clear: simply to bring all of us together to engage in a space right here in our own neighborhood. Bringing people together to discuss their thoughts and interact with one another, the event created a hearty third place to spend the evening fostering relationships, exploring a local museum and filling your belly free of charge.

All of it supported and put together as testament to what is possible when we work together to achieve a better life for all of us, by the loving arms of a commonwealth of residents looking simply for the pleasure of your company. To sit and chat while sharing a meal with those who live and walk alongside us through the hustle and bustle of daily life.

And oh, the meal that was had…

A perfect visualization of the tapestry of culture and diversity MCAC is striving to achieve in their spaces, the food spread long in an endless buffet of options ranging anywhere from eggplant parm to birthday cake, jerk chicken and jollof rice homemade by coalition co-director Kile Adumene. Piled high and seemingly infinite in supply, the museum teemed with life and laughter in this after-hours celebration of who we are as a city and what makes us the strongest: the variegation of stories and connection within. To-go boxes were both supplied and encouraged to all in attendance, clutched like a precious gift in the hands of all who left.

Community can feel hard to find. So stuck in our individual ways with our noses to the grindstone each day, becoming blind to the rich tapestries of connections just waiting to be found in the world around us.

“I think this event is a perfect example of a way to build that sense of community,” said educator member Amy Booth. “I feel very much more a part of the community after tonight’s event.” She reflected on how students from the Dana Whipple STEAM Academy were able to engage one one-on-one with children and community members leading science activities amongst the exhibits.

“Our community is fairly close-minded,” says Bowen, a non-Manchester native who attended the night’s festivities. “We don’t really get too many gatherings where everybody gets together and kind of forgets about everything, and just hangs out and enjoys a meal together.”

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Author Amara Phelps with Manchester School Board member Jason Bonilla. Photo/Felipe Salas-Ogilvie

The success of the event gave hope to many for positive growth and rejuvenation to come to our social relationships as neighbors, providing a space for all to foster true connection and collaboration to achieve impactful missions. Jason Bonilla, local placemaker and school board member pioneering for inclusive and diverse space in education in our city (including amplifying and supporting the work of the Manchester School District in starting a Spanish/English dual language immersion program for elementary students), was thrilled by the space and platform provided to celebrate Black contributions and engagement in STEM during Black History Month. “I feel like this is the true representation of what Manchester looks like to me.”

With a world so easy to find dissatisfaction in, losing yourself in cynicism of the every day is almost standard procedure for most Americans in our day and age. Floating through days in isolation believing screens are connecting us, a better world for us and our children can feel impossible. Grocery bills climb and pantries grow bare and entertainment perpetually is a luxury whose price tag grows by the day, we wrack our nu-age minds for the answers for how to push society’s progress further into the future. Manchester Community Action Coalition reminds us that sometimes the most traditional means of connection are the ones that unified those who came before us: a good ol’ fashioned plate of food and great company.

If you are interested in more information or becoming involved with Manchester Community Action Coalition, please contact kile@mcacnh.com


InkubatorColorsThe Inkubator program is aimed at nurturing and growing New Hampshire’s local journalism ecosystem – support for educators, opportunities for students and pathways for future journalists, artists and creators. And beyond that, we want to engage our community in this process because together, we rise.

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Amara Phelps is a freelance writer.

About this Author

Amara Phelps

Amara Phelps is a freelance writer and works with Unchartered Tutoring.