“Lemons are sour. But when you put lemons with water and sugar and honey, it becomes lemonade.”
– Ms. Gladys Pendergraph Brandon, who runs St. Joseph C.M.E.’s Food Ministry
On a cool October afternoon, Paris Miller, a North Roberson Street neighbor and Jackson Center Board member, and I shared a socially distant tea on her front porch. Our conversation was full of laughter, dreaming, and reflection on how the world has changed over the last eight months. As our time concluded, what was clear to both of us was that our community has a lot to be proud of.
In the last five years alone, neighborhood leadership married with Jackson Center grit has saved over 40 properties from becoming student rental investments, enabled over 100 elderly residents to remain in their homes through property tax assistance and critical home repairs, and reversed the rate of economic displacement in Northside and Pine Knolls. At the same time, the Jackson Center has grown into a robust organization with a passionate intergenerational staff led entirely by people of color.
Fellowship is in the bones of our community. So, when COVID hit, the Jackson Center focused on deepening our connection with residents. We listened and responded. We made weekly “wellness calls” to over 100 elders and families. We pursued a new food justice initiative in partnership with local chef and activist Vimala Rajendran. We continued to connect and celebrate through weekly sidewalk serenades, monthly virtual Bingo, and, in June, a march to insist that Black Lives Matter. Our education team created a new digital civil rights education curriculum shared with teachers across Orange County while our public history team worked to launch a new web portal to make 200 oral histories of Black Chapel Hill and Carrboro widely accessible.
As the unprecedented year of 2020 comes to a close, I have a simple ask of you: can I get a witness?
- Together, we are building community in the face of isolation and brutality.
- We are ensuring that more young children and families can find affordable housing in Northside, Pine Knolls, and Tin Top.
- We are delivering new histories of our town and region to kids in their homes across three school districts.
- Led by community members, we are preserving and advancing community history for generations to come. Can I get a witness?
Thank you for giving to the Jackson Center! Your gift enables us to continue the work with neighbors to build Black resilience and creative ingenuity that have sustained this community for generations. I offer you my witness and gratitude.
This year, the Marian Cheek Jackson Center:
- Welcomed our very first full-time “on-site” Executive Director, George Barrett (formerly our Associate Director), after a two-year planning and search process! The community gave a heartfelt thank you to Hudson Vaughan
(Interim Executive Director & co-founder) as he transitioned from over a decade of leadership at the Jackson Center.
- Propelled a comprehensive response to the COVID pandemic, drawing upon deep neighborhood networks and leadership. We distributed 1,550 grocery boxes, partnered with Vimala’s Curryblossom Café to bring 3,262 hot meals directly to neighbors, made thousands of phone calls to check-in with neighborhood elders, fostered joy-making through singing and virtual Bingo, and hand-delivered newsletters with COVID-19 information from trusted neighborhood public health experts. We also gave out 150 Family Activity Bags filled with interactive activities adapted from our immersive racial and social justice workshops.
- Celebrated big Northside Neighborhood Initiative victories! 60 homeowners stayed in their homes through critical home repairs, property tax relief, and estate planning workshops offered by the Jackson Center. We acquired our 40th land bank property, and partnered to create seven new affordable homes.
- Organized a march, 100 strong, in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives.
In 2021, we look forward to:
- Launching From the Rock Wall, a beautiful new online home for our oral history archive. These hundreds of life histories, reflections, and images offer a powerful witness to our abundant community.
- Sharing the new Learning Across Generations – Online curriculum with students and teachers, drawing on the Jackson Center’s wealth of learning tools. These engaging modules feature oral histories and have opportunities for singing, movement, writing, and drawing!
- Welcoming ten new homeowners through the Northside Neighborhood Initiative’s creative housing justice efforts!
Thank you for being a part of our community of support!
Your gift enables us to continue to honor, renew, and build community across historically Black Chapel Hill & Carrboro.