Staff Reflection by George Barrett
From the moment I walked into the Jackson Center on a January afternoon, I knew this place was important and would somehow be a new and important member of my life. As a UNC senior, I was part of Anthropology 93 course, a social justice course that requires students to take part in a 30 hour service learning project. I needed a location and had come up empty up to that point. Then my professor dropped the name “The Jackson Center.“ After visiting the website I decided to make a bold move. Without prior notice, I dropped into the charming brick house at 512 W. Rosemary St. Little did I know (or maybe I did) that this house would become my new home.
After volunteering under the direction of Jacob Lerner for the entire semester, I applied and was lovingly offered the position of Coordinator of Advocacy and Organizing. Without a moment of hesitation I accepted the position, because sometimes there is an intangible and almost spiritual knowledge that tells the rational mind “this is right!” I joined the team in July and got rolling.
Above: George in a huddle with first grade students on a historical tour of Northside
People often ask “What does the Jackson Center do?”, and are quickly reciprocated with a five minute soliloquy of the plethora of programs that intertwine to serve the Northside neighborhood. But if I have learned anything in my few months, it is that COMMUNITY is a dynamic and complex web that cannot not be packaged in a neat and calculated elevator speech. In this time I have been awarded the opportunity to coordinate the production of our Northside News, mobilize volunteers, facilitate advocacy groups around Housing Choice Vouchers and anti-bias policing, participate in neighborhood home repairs, outreach to 45 new student residents, and get to meet some of the most empowered individuals. Every day is different. Every day is active. Every day is community.
The Jackson Center is a unique space that has challenged me in the best way possible. It forces me to be better and forces me to listen! As our executive director Della Pollock always says, “Listen, listen again, and then listen again”. The members of this community have given me an education that is unparalleled in my four years at UNC. My involvement in the Northside community, from volunteer to staff member, have felt like a homecoming weekend that never gets to Monday. I have been able to laugh, cry, and feel some type of way in this brief period of time… and I could not be happier.
The Marian Cheek Jackson Center does not serve a community; it is a community. When things are still (which is very rare) and my mind takes a moment to stop fixating on task oriented concerns, I can exist in a clarity of pure fulfillment. Because we are making history!