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Author Brings "Positive Proximity" to Roanoke


Singer/songwriter and author Dar Williams will be speaking Monday evening December 11 in Roanoke on her new book “What I Found In A Thousand Towns:  A Traveling Musician’s Guide To Rebuilding America’s Communities.” 

Dar Williams wanted to know why some towns flourish and others don’t.

So, while touring, she began to ask questions.  One of the answers she found was what she calls positive proximity, where living side by side with other people is experienced as beneficial.

“It’s kind of the ethos in the air, you know that is a sense of ‘we’; we’ve got something to work on.   You need positive proximity in the air in order for leadership to work, and in order for people to have a sense of place, and a sense of meaning, and also to be able to reach out to one another and address inequality, loneliness, racism and feelings of isolation.”

Williams sees those lofty goals achieved on the ground, with people working together, as they did in Carrborro, North Carolina.

“There was a food truck issue; somebody didn’t want food trucks. But, the town got to work and within a week there was a food truck ordinance. And, I said ‘how did that get passed so quickly?’ And, the former mayor, who I was interviewing, said, ‘the people here just know that they own the town.’  And, that sense of the collective is something that you sort of achieve and accumulate and arrive at over time.”

Douglas Jackson organized this evening’s talk by Dar Williams.  He works for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, helping communities revitalize their downtowns.  He also founded Book City Roanoke to promote and support literary arts.

Book City Roanoke hosted several discussions on building community based on “What I Found In A Thousand Towns.”

“We did eight chapter conversations leading up to this dinner and each one was different.  And, we just used the book really as a launching point to talk about what is happening in Roanoke.”

What Jackson sees happening is positive and he says he wants to build on that.

“Is everyone invited?  Are we aligning the abilities and resources and skills and energy of everyone in the community?  Or are there some people we are leaving out?  And that them has run through the entire conversation.  And, that’s where I think we have some opportunity to do more.”

And, Dar Williams agrees on Roanoke’s positive direction.

“People who come to Roanoke say ‘I came here for a year and I’ve been here for twenty.’ (Laughter)  That was like five people said that to me. Roanoke is the kind of place, a fall in love city which is if I fell in love with someone in Roanoke, I could happily live there.”

Dar Williams will be joined for this evening’s talk by Roanoke author Beth Macy.  The event is sold out, but will be streamed online via Facebook Live.

Click HERE for more information on the event and for online streaming.


Dar Williams Interview Part 1
Dar Williams Interview Part 2
Douglas Jackson Interview (in which he talks of the work of Book City Roanoke)

Luke Church
Luke Church hosts Roots Down on WVTF Music.