a Robertson Scholar at the University of North Carolina, is a Communication Studies major and African American studies minor. At CDS, she studied black and white film photography, digital color photography, and oral history. Her capstone project is about the historically African American Northside community of Chapel Hill—a community currently experiencing gentrification. Northside Stories: Building Hope, Strengthening Community uses photography to explore the unique activism arising from partnerships between UNC Now, St. Joseph’s Church, and the Jackson Center for Saving and Making History.
Northside Stories: Building Hope, Strengthening Community
Gentrification in the Northside Community has been a hot button issue for the past few years. The erection of Greenbridge Condominiums (above) brought Northside residents, UNC students, and Chapel Hill/Carborro community members together in active protest. Myriad unconventional activities, however, are currently occurring within the neighborhood. These activities build hope for and strengthen this large, historic, rapidly changing African American community and also expand our definitions of ‘activism.’
St. Joseph’s C.M.E. church is a site of spiritual uplift and community bonding. It’s also the base for many activists and activism activities which regularly occur in the neighborhood. St. Joseph’s houses the Bread Ministry and The Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History.
“St. Joseph’s C.M.E. Church”
Service Activism: The Bread Ministry
“We started with 20-30 [people] and increased to 50. Now it’s almost 100 people every day, five days a week. We have a lot of diversity – social diversity, social class differences of people; we don’t discriminate…The Bread ministry is really humbling because it makes you think about where you could be. We all are a paycheck away from the door. You never know who needs what. You can’t say what people’s situations are. It’s humbling dealing with that day in and day out, to see the people, attitudes, thankfulness, ungratefulness, and taken for granted. [God said] you feed my people you clothe my people…activism is showing compassion, humility for people. We are not judge or jury for anyone.” – Mrs. Gladys Pendergraph, Bread Ministry Director
“St. Joseph’s Church Bread Ministry Volunteers”
“[God said] feed my people…”
Creative Community Building: The Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Making and Saving History
The first public history center of its kind in North Carolina, the Jackson Center (http://www.jacksoncenter.info/) is dedicated to honoring everyday history-makers by engaging intergenerational dialogue, sponsoring youth initiatives, and pursuing creative community development. The Jackson Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Della Pollock; Assistant Directors CJ Suitt, Alexander Stephens, and Hudson Vaughn; and Managers Gladys Pendergraph, Rob Stephens, and Patricia Jackson work to gather resources and facilitate programs, workshops, and community events. Through the Jackson Center Northside Community members can learn about, document, and preserve the legacy of their community and its residents.
“Dr. Della Pollock”
“Community Training led by Aleck Stephens”
Artistic Activism: CJ Suitt
“Poetry is as natural as conversation. When someone does a good poem, you feel like you had a conversation with them and you know them better. It’s super important in social movements to keep that conversation going…[My poetry has] shown people that people from this neighborhood matter. People of color care… Historically, a Griot reported on what was going on in the community. They would stand out and do freestyle poems about what was going on. They were revered and feared by the leadership and royalty of a community because they had so much control over the news. They were the news for the community, and they had so much respect from people in the city. Me and Mark Kleinschmidt [Mayor of Chapel Hill] have an interesting relationship. He understands that I have a lot of people’s ears… Poetry is on my own terms. I can’t come to this [Town Council] meeting, but I can stand out here on my OWN time and do a poem about how I feel, the way I want to do it, when I want to do it. It’s rooted in passion for the community – care and empathy for the community I grew up in that I don’t want to see disappear… As far as social activism, it’s also about maintaining a balance and accountability for the community. My words could cause damage and harm to the community, could cause recourse and recoil, and cause people to shut down. The town could stop talking to us, which is a worse thing that could happen. There’s a certain amount of accountability…an understanding…[of] the weight of words.” – CJ Suitt, poet/activist
Coalition Building: UNC Now Health Committee
In the spring of 2007, UNC Now was formed by a small group of students who got to know and learned to love the Northside Community after taking an oral histories and performance class with Dr. Della Pollock at UNC Chapel Hill. This group of UNC students, community leaders and activists work with each other to advocate for and with the Northside Community. They also work to strengthen relationships between UNC students, staff, and administration and the Northside community. Through service endeavors, UNC Now’s subcommittees have worked on projects impacting the Northside Community related to politics, development, economics, history, and health. During the Spring of 2011, the UNC Now Health Committee formed a collaboration between Piedmont Health Center, St. Joseph’s Church, and Mama Dips Restaurant to teach a free ‘healthy cooking class’ for community members.
“Spring into Health”
“Planning Meeting with UNC Now, Piedmont Health, and St. Joseph’s Church”
“Meeting with Piedmont Health, UNC Now, and Mama Dip”
“Spring into Health”
“Mama Kat and Mama Dip”
Creating a Space to Speak: Community Meeting, February 22, 2011
On February 22, 2011, members of the Jackson Center and leaders in the Northside Community brought together Northside Community Members and leadership from the town of Chapel Hill to discuss future development plans for the town of Chapel Hill that would directly and indireclty impact the Northside Community. The meeting provided an opportunity for community members to become aware of or further educate themselves about the plans of the town of Chapel Hill. It also created an open space in which Northside Community members could provide the town’s leadership with clear feedback about their desire to preserve the Northside Community.
“The Developer’s Presentation”
“We understand. We question. We object!”
“UNC Now Leadership”
“Do NOT sell your houses!”
Mrs. Gladys Pendergrass and Chapel Hill NAACP President Michelle Cotton-Laws encourage Northside Community Members to not sell their houses to developers.
“Remember where we’ve been. Think about where we’re going.”