Discovering the Third Space with Josie Hunckler

By Hayley Brown

Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp A Butterfly is one of the best literary pieces of the early 2000s (second to Harry Potter, obviously). Through the layers of seemingly unrelated sounds that he ties together through lyrics, rhythms, and tones, he takes you through the rawest, multi-layered metaphorical life experiences that all can relate to. What does this have to do with Josie Hunckler? No, unfortunately, she’s not a rising rap artist - although she does love music. As I was listening to his album for the umpteenth time, I made a connection from her interview that deepened the complexity of my connectedness to his song “Institutionalized”. “Institutionalized” explains how there are certain life experiences that we cannot escape. For Kendrick, it was growing up in Compton, CA. Although through his fame he was able to rid himself of many of the day-to-day anxieties that he used to feel, he shares how the culture he grew up in affects his decisions and perceptions of the world every day. Personally, growing up in a farm town during a post-recession poverty that sucked the culture, money, and joy out of my neighbors is something that I feel institutionalized by. I feel guilty for escaping and hypocritical for asking people to care about that community after I’ve left and put my soul into another.

Everyone has a story and places that we go to escape what makes us feel institutionalized. Many of those places are a third space. My unofficial definition of a third space is a place that’s outside your house or work where you can engage with your community for long periods of time that don’t require an agenda. Rabble Coffee is offering that to an underserved, yet growing, neighborhood in Indianapolis. Josie understands the opportunities that a non-judgmental third space offers to a community beyond the value of coffee. No matter if you need to use a token paid for by your neighbor for food, need your DIY bike repaired, or have an idea that you want others to hear about, you are welcome at Rabble Coffee. The only times you are truly in poverty is whenever you don’t have relationships. Third spaces are critical for creating community and collaboration, which is what makes Josie’s effort so impactful. She’s providing people a safe place to learn from each other and make meaningful connections that can not only provide value to the neighborhood, but to each individual who participates. Metaphorically, Rabble Coffee is the smooth, consistent, reliable rhythm of a song and Josie is the jazzy saxophone that guides the rhythm through a purposeful melody.

When you think of the people you know in Indianapolis, where do they live? After a coffee meeting with a local leader, I realized that my group of friends lived in the same areas that his did - downtown, a few blocks between downtown and Meridian-Kessler, Broad Ripple, and in the northern suburbs. Ideas that are generated in third spaces in those communities are limited by the similarities in life experiences and relationships that the people in those communities have. Imagine if the different neighborhoods collaborated ideas?

People go where they are comfortable, making visiting communities that are different from yours can feel unsafe. I am rarely apprehensive about visiting communities where I’m uncomfortable, but I feel that I stand out in all of the wrong ways in Josie’s neighborhood. That I am somehow insulting. Throughout Josie’s interview, I was contemplating about how I can help her in her efforts other than by purchasing food tokens or sharing her story. My conclusion is that by ignoring my reservations and visiting with the intention of listening and learning before collaboration, I can accomplish my goal.

I encourage all to do this. Josie provides avenues and enlightens us on how we can do that in a safe way. Her give back program is my personal favorite because I now do not have to make internal decision on how to feed people who can’t eat. Josie also talks about how she’s not trying to change a community, rather become part of it and be a force for good. It’s proof that you don’t have to go out trying to change the world to make great change.

When you listen to Josie’s episode, I encourage you to consider what makes you feel institutionalized, where many of the people you connect with frequently live in Indianapolis, and what obstacles you have and can remove to collaborate with those outside of your comfort zone. Tune in here and let us know what you think by connecting with us at @drnkcltr (Twitter) or @drinkculturepodcast (Instagram).