After Northside residents and friends won a moratorium on development in the neighborhood in 2011, community members, in partnership with Durham-based community development and financial institution Self-Help, came together to create the Northside Neighborhood Initiative (NNI). As part of the initiative, which launched in 2015, residents envisioned the gateways project as a way to make history tangible. They are a creative placemaking strategy working to advance the goal of “building a neighborhood that attracts a diverse range of individuals and families going forward.”
The first Gateway was revealed in 2017. At the corner of W. Rosemary and Roberson, this gateway honors our community’s Freedom Fighters. The Gateway is built of Chatham stone and features eight black, granite slabs impressed with images of civil rights action in Chapel Hill and quotations from oral history interviews selected in an intensive, public process. The gateway offers what one local, civil rights leaders called “a beautiful glimpse” into the Freedom Movement. It is meant to let people know–loud and clear–that they have entered a unique community of people who have struggled for freedom their whole lives and to inspire similar determination. As lifetime resident, Clementine Self, said: “The battle is not over. We have not yet overcome.”
We are excited to announce that we have started the process of creating three new, additional gateways dedicated to the community’s builders, educators, and faith leaders. The Builders Gateway will tell the story of Black builders who carried forward the traditions of enslaved carpenters, brick masons, and stone masons. Often working together across family and company lines, these men and women built community from collaboration, cooperation, and creativity, just as they built walls from stone and mortar. The Educators Gateway will honor the Black educators who have been essential in bringing up new generations of community leaders and changemakers. The gateway will not only honor the work of educators, but also act as a call to action to continue to support and advocate for Black students. The Faith Leaders Gateway will honor Black faith leaders who worked tirelessly to care for their community-beyond their congregation. Many of the political gains and policy changes Black folks have been able to achieve were nourished in the steady march of faith.
If you would like to participate in the community-led design process for the three future gateways, please contact the Jackson Center.