by Hudson Vaughan, Interim Executive Director
On a Friday evening in late October, I experienced the fullness of Northside. I was walking down the street with my 4-month old son, Charlie, to the Halloween block party organized by the Jackson Center and several Craig Street neighbors. As we started down the street, Ms. Susan, one of our long-term neighbors, stopped her car in the middle of the road to get out and see how Charlie was doing. “He’s growing so much! How’s your wife? I plan to visit you soon,” she said. As soon as she drove off, Ms. Deborah, another long-term neighbor who has participated in several Jackson Center programs, came rushing out of her house: “Hudson, I have a gift for Charlie!” she said as she held up a rattle proudly. At that moment, Ms. Ellen, who lives in one of the houses that came through our land bank, came by in her wheelchair inviting us to a Carrboro event: “You have to come and bring Charlie. He would love it.”
As I strolled Charlie across the park toward the sound of the Halloween classic, “Monster Mash,” echoing from the party, he had that wide-eyed look of wonder on his face that is his primary expression at this point. But that face reminded me, as it seems to daily, to open my eyes and really see the scene as we walked onto Craig Street:
Neighborhood DJ, Avon Lassiter, was setting up his stage in the middle of the street. Avon, a 3rd generation resident, volunteers at nearly every major community event because he believes it’s not a Northside party without good music. Donna, a Craig St. neighbor and one of our Compass Group members, was helping set up a pumpkin patch in her front yard and immediately broke away to watch Charlie for me for a few minutes. Ms. Adisa greeted us from the grill, where she was preparing over a hundred hotdogs for the party. Ms. Adisa recently moved back to the neighborhood to care for her mother, who just turned 101. She joined our Compass Group last year to lead housing strategy and ensure a place for the next generation of Northside families. Smalls walked down from his spot on his porch at the corner, and struck up a conversation with a new family on the block. Smalls moved into the tiny house duplex created through our land bank just a year ago, but neighbors from all across the community already know his friendly smile.
Meanwhile, three generations of one family sat on lawn chairs enjoying hotdogs in their front yard. A father danced with his one-year-old son. Kids of all ages were playing in the streets with UNC students, who have just begun to learn the history of this community through their Jackson Center volunteer service. A ninja turtle, a Washington National, and a Black Panther all rushed into the street for the annual Halloween cake-walk.
This fall evening, Charlie and I were surrounded by the kind of rare community that most people only hear about – diverse, intergenerational, abundant community. I have always known that Northside is special. But having a child in this community – and trying to see the world through my child’s eyes – has made me realize just how powerful this kind of community is. I am so thankful that Charlie is surrounded by long-term neighbors who have made Northside the special place it is; by young children who don’t all look like him; by people who live generously and celebrate endlessly. And I am grateful that we live in a community that will raise him in a way that undermines the dominant culture of fear, division, individualism, and racism.
The work of the Jackson Center honors the legacy of abundant community by participating wholeheartedly in it. None of our work would be possible without the many neighbors who show us every day what this legacy means, and who inspire us to continue the struggle for a better world. And as I look down the street and see dozens of new kids who now call Northside home because of our collective work, I rejoice in knowing that this legacy will continue to grow.
I hope you will consider making a holiday donation to the Jackson Center. In the spirit of this abundant community, your gift to the Jackson Center multiplies: you help honor and retain our long-term neighbors who form the bedrock of this neighborhood; you help provide quality housing for the next generation; you help educate and inspire young people to stand up in the fight for justice; and you help connect folks in the kind of multigenerational networks of support that transform all of our lives.