July 31st. 6:00p.m.
I arrived that Monday evening at 512 Whitaker St , my new home, carrying a box of books, and was surprised to see a squad of my neighbors/friends at the house. As I walked through the door and into the living room I witnessed two of my neighbors hanging lights on the porch while another neighbor was fixing a bookshelf that had fallen apart in the front yard. Simultaneously two other people were bringing in their own furniture pieces that somehow were exactly what was needed for the living room. I stood in silence next to my roommate, who had been witnessing this scenario all weekend, and shared a moment of voiceless communication where we concurred “How are we this blessed?” What I didn’t realize in my sleep-deprived state was that I was witnessing beloved community in action!
In the midst of all that was happening around me, the focus of my emotions transitioned from the anxiety of moving houses to gratefulness for staying in the neighborhood. In that short micro-moment I re-realized, as I have done on a weekly basis over the past three years, the power of how community, how this community, can change hearts and minds through love of one another. This is the same love that gave black youth of this segregated neighborhood the courage to stand up and fight for justice during Jim Crow segregation in the 1960’s. A love that today organizes, strategizes, and implements groundbreaking, self-determined actions to balance the market against studentification and preserve the future of a diverse, intergenerational, family friendly, affordable neighborhood for all members of Chapel Hill! This moment was just a small representation of how this community has sustained itself through “… the cohesiveness of brothers and sisters working together”- Pastor Troy Harrison.
I grew up in a neighborhood where people kept to themselves so I have had to learn how to live in a close/connected neighborhood. I have had to learn that in Northside love for your neighbor is present even when you feel like you don’t deserve it. I have had to learn how I personally put up petty and trivial walls (one might even say a bubble) that prohibits me from creating space to love others over myself and access the freedom to experience the blessings that surround me everyday.
For everyone new to our neighborhood or returning after some time away, welcome! I encourage you from the deepest center of my spirit to tap into this abundant love that is the bedrock of our community. Visit your neighbor on the porch and open yourself up to immersive listening of the history makers that surround you. Be a voice of change, join a community coalition, volunteer your time and gifts. Help someone who is moving into a new home carry in a heavy load because that could be the same person who will help carry your heavy load down the road.
That Monday evening was the first step in making my new house into a home. It was a second abundant welcome to Northside: a community came in like a mighty wave that day and saturated the new walls of my home with love. So let the new memories begin!