Stories. What are the stories we tell? What are the stories
that nourish us? What are the stories that remind us of who we are? What we
stand for? What generations have stood for?
Shared over a meal.
Sung in praise. And sorrow. And defiance.
Carried through movement.
That inspire movement.
Lately, the MCJC – the Marian Cheek Jackson Center for
Saving and Making History – has been reflecting on its own story. Looking at
the past to understand the present. Looking at the spirit and the charge behind
its name. Looking at missteps and triumphs. Looking to see where this
organization, that breathes and bleeds and loves and questions and is imperfect
and sincere, will go. And how it will carry forth a vision born from and
seeking the Beloved Community.
I’m fairly new here (y’all reading this may be wondering who
I am and why I’m writing this) and am still learning about this organization and
its place in the community. But, (with permission), I want to share with you a
condensed version MCJC’s Basic Operating Principles (aka “what’s in that secret
sauce?”) – which moved me to be folded into the mix.
1. Listen. Then listen again. Then listen again.
Listen to be changed. Listen to witness.
2. Respond. Assume response-ability.
oral histories as a call to action.
3. Work beyond an oppositional politics. Focus
on what we’re for… focus on building connections, partnerships, and
“matchmaking” of all kinds.
best intentions. Check your enthusiasms against those of community members.
5. Refuse to represent. We can and must
listen forward into community justice… Remember that “Northside” is broadly,
As a primary way of recognizing personhood, declaring peace, renewing spirit,
making necessary connections, honoring accomplishments… be present to abundance
in the moment.
7. Cultivate an ethnographic spirit. Wonder:
a. rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to
one’s experience. b. a feeling of doubt or uncertainty. Claim both.
8. Criss-cross differences. Consider what if
9. Assume the Right to be Raggedy (title
credit: Jasmine “Juice” Farmer) To be responsive means to be in process.
10. Practice Gratitude. For many reasons
but mostly because our neighborhood compatriots model it daily—and because we
get to work with them.
11. If all else fails, go back to #1.
I share these as a reflection of part of the MCJC’s story
and as a call to hold the MCJC accountable to what it aspires to do and be. In
this work, there is always room for feedback and self-examination to help
remind, clarify, and strengthen the who and the why.
So, to go back to the question of “what is the story of the
MCJC?”, one might simply be boiled down to:
Someone shared their
story. Somebody listened and was changed.
But, there’s never just one story. What are your stories of the Marian Cheek
How can we thrive in the multitude?
Yours in joy, in peace, in love, in reckoning.
Submitted by Kaley Deal, February 2019
 Kelly Oliver, Witnessing: Beyond Recognition
(University of Minnesota Press, 2001)