Message from Interim Executive Director, Hudson Vaughan:
I have the great honor of sharing that we have a new Executive Director: George Barrett will serve as the Jackson Center’s first full-time “on-site” Executive Director! George has been a staff member of the Jackson Center for the last 6 years and our Associate Director for the last four. George brings the perfect combination of passion, energy, and brilliance for the work, all grounded in community relationships and vision. As community leader Ms. Keith says, “he is one of the community’s claimed sons.”
I will transition out of my leadership role at the end of the month, after a year as Interim Executive Director and over ten years of leadership work at the Jackson Center, to pursue Master of Divinity Degree at Duke University. I will continue to consult on the Housing Justice and Northside Neighborhood Initiative work with the Jackson Center team. And, of course, Maggie, our son Charlie, and I will also still be an active part of the work as Northside neighbors.
I am proud of how our team approached the leadership transitions over the last two years. Our staff and board worked tirelessly and thoughtfully to ensure that we made the transition from founding directors to new leadership sustainably. We had the privilege to complete a series of oral history interviews as a staff and board with several powerful Black leaders from across the Triangle, including the late Andrea Harris. These interviews grounded our vision of this position and shaped our description, recruitment, process, and structure. They also helped inspire internal leaders like George to step up in this critical time. We completed a national search and an intensive series of interviews and are proud that our internal candidate rose to the top.
The Jackson Center emerged from a movement for community justice and was founded by a broad coalition of neighbors. But 12 years ago, we also started out in the upper room of St. Joseph, with Della Pollock as our volunteer Executive Director and two “part-time” recent college graduates as the staff (myself included). Today, the Jackson Center has 10 permanent staff members, over half of whom have lived or currently live in the community, 9 of whom are people of color, and a majority of whom have been with the Center for three or more years. And by the end of this month, the Jackson Center will complete our 4th year as a Living Wage Employer.
Beyond this, our work is led by community teams of dozens of neighborhood leaders and guided by over 200 oral histories by which we collectively work to do justice. The Jackson Center has become a leader in groundbreaking housing justice work that is stemming the tide of gentrification; civil rights and oral history education that is disrupting conventional history and dismantling white supremacy; and community fabric work that is importantly fighting the pandemics of COVID-19 and centuries of entrenched racism. In the midst of this critical work, what makes the Jackson Center and this community so special is the spirit of joyful abundance and radical love that prevails in and powers our struggle for community justice.
This has all been possible because of the incredible strength of Northside leadership and the powerful, generous spirit of the Jackson Center team.
I never would have imagined that sitting down to do a series of oral histories with Mrs. Jackson 13 years ago would change my life. But that’s the beauty of oral history, and the power of community leaders and history makers like Mrs. Jackson. I never planned to stay in Chapel Hill, but I was called by the force of this community’s history and faith, and by the coalition that emerged through listening to help found the Jackson Center. The invitation to join the collective struggle for the future of this community was then and has continued to be one of the great blessings of my life. I am endlessly grateful.
I am especially lucky because even as I transition out of my leadership role at the Jackson Center, my family is rooted in this community. As I wrote in my holiday letter, I feel blessed to see Northside grow and change from the eyes of my one year-old son. I think that makes me all the more proud to be passing the baton of leadership to George – who my son will grow up seeing as one of our community’s powerful Black leaders and as another of this neighborhood’s great lineage of history-makers.
With Deepest Thanks,
Message from Jackson Center Board Co-Chairs:
The Marian Cheek Jackson Center is very pleased to announce that George Barrett is unanimously endorsed by the Board of Directors to serve as its next Executive Director. This selection is the culmination of a transition process initiated by the Jackson Center’s Board of Directors more than one year ago, and which led us to reflect in a deliberate and meaningful way on the Center’s future. The open call for applications produced a competitive, national search from which George emerged as our preferred candidate based on his combination of vision, experience and abilities. We want to thank the members of the Search and Transition Committee for all of their tireless work that has ensured the Jackson Center’s continued success.
George has worked at the Jackson Center since his time as an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and served most recently as its Associate Director. His commitment to engage UNC student residents and implicate them in the life of the neighborhood has blossomed and born fruit. Over the past few years, he has provided pivotal support to the Northside Neighborhood Initiative and the land bank’s efforts to prevent displacement of long-term neighbors and support homeownership. We see George’s own experiences through the Jackson Center and in the neighborhood as embodying the notion of community justice, and this reassures us that he is our best choice to be the next Executive Director of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center.
George will succeed Interim Executive Director Hudson Vaughan, who begins seminary at Duke Divinity School next month. The Jackson Center is immensely grateful to Hudson for his steady, thoughtful leadership and careful vision over many years, and never more than during the COVID-19 pandemic when so many of our neighbors and friends have rallied together through crisis. With Hudson’s 10+ years of service to the community through the Jackson Center, as a co-founder and long serving Deputy to founding Executive Director, Della Pollock, he has been a rock of stability through times of turbulent change, and has consistently put the community’s interests front and center in the work of the Jackson Center. Hudson will continue to collaborate with us and advise us on the Northside Neighborhood Initiative, and he and his family remain Northside neighbors. We are immensely grateful for his service, and we wish Hudson much success in the next steps of his educational and professional journey.
All of us at the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, staff and Directors, remain profoundly committed to honoring, renewing and building communities in the historic Northside and Pine Knolls neighborhoods of Chapel Hill, NC. We are confident that, with George Barrett as our new Executive Director, the Jackson Center is well poised to extend and intensify our engagement with the community, working with one eye on our past and one eye towards the future.
Rev. Dr. Mark Royster & Dr. Seth Murray
Co-chairs, Board of Directors, Marian Cheek Jackson Center