Adante, Preman, and Tia welcomed their Northside neighbors
To me, hosting the porch party was my official introduction to the neighborhood. Though my housemates and I met a few of my neighbors in passing and in previous neighborhood gatherings, I found a party with food, drinks and music to be the perfect way to say, “Hey, we’re here!” Having been to another porch party in the neighborhood I was excited for the opportunity to host my neighbors this time…but I was also nervous. There were a couple of reasons for that.
First, the forecast called for severe thunderstorms during the time of our party. Imagine constantly checking the weather app on your phone to see if the clouds and lightning bolts would disappear off the screen! That was me. I was worried that this party, with all of the publicity and planning that went into it, would get cancelled (even though in reality would have likely been postponed).
I was also nervous because of the responsibility that comes with being a host, specifically the pressure to deliver and impress. A host must ensure that guests feel welcome and are having a good time. For me, that meant making sure the house was clean, cooking and serving food that everyone could eat, and playing music that wouldn’t offend anyone or deter anyone from stopping by. Also, living in a neighborhood comprised of students, young professionals and longtime residents of varying ages, races and genders means that you can’t just cater to one particular group. That fact alone added even more pressure to deliver a quality experience that everyone could enjoy. I certainly didn’t want this event to be the talk of the neighborhood for all the wrong reasons.
Thankfully, that was not the case, as the weather held up and people came and enjoyed themselves. The pressure and nervousness slowly dissipated with each person that set foot in the yard. It was refreshing to see the dialogues between students and longtime residents, teenagers and elders, known neighbors and newly-introduced neighbors, and any other group represented in Northside take place on our front yard that evening.
We are living in a dark time in which political tension, xenophobia, and divisiveness plague our country, a time in which our differences become the center of debate and reactants for vitriolic products. However, despite all of the negativity, there exist beacons of love, hope, and civility within our country. Beacons which cast light upon the darkness and help us find ways to acknowledge and celebrate our differences. What took place in our yard for those two hours on a September evening convinces me that such a Beacon exists right here in Chapel Hill, in Northside.
I was extremely nervous about hosting our first porch party. However, walking through our neighborhood and going to each of our neighbors to personally invite them eased my nerves tremendously. Every neighbor (that was home) opened the door with a smile and was extremely inviting and welcoming. By the time, Preman and I got to the end of the street, I felt much better and much more comfortable about the event. On the day of the porch party, I was excited to finally meet everyone! As guests started arriving, the little bit of nervousness that remained completely disappeared, and it simply became neighbors having a great time together. I got to meet neighbors that I hadn’t met at previous neighborhood events and also was excited to see those neighbors and Heavenly Grocery volunteers that I had personally invited. Getting to know everyone on an intimate one-on-one level without pressure or expectations was fantastic and I think the event really showcased what living in Northside is like.
I immensely enjoyed the porch party. It was wonderful being able to connect with so many people, so quickly. I really didn’t have high hopes for it initially, as many other community events that I had been to in previous neighborhoods that I lived in were not well attended. So it was a happy surprise that so many people came! For me, it was the first time that I felt that Northside could be a real home, a rich community that I could be a part of.