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,