“We usually don't do any events in the summer just because we're transitioning exec boards and things like that,” Le said. “But when the Black Lives Matter movement started getting a lot of traction, with the death of George Floyd and everything, we thought, ‘We want to take action beyond just putting out a statement condemning their [the police officers’] actions.’”
Alexandria Chadwick, president-elect of APO, said the societies decided on the Marian Cheek Jackson Center after reviewing a variety of local organizations.
“They're so instrumental to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area for creating community and just offering so much support in a variety of different ways to Black neighborhoods in Chapel Hill and Carrboro,” Chadwick said.
Kathy Atwater serves as community advocacy coordinator at the Jackson Center and is a lifelong resident of the Northside community, where the center is based. Atwater said the main goal of the center is to preserve and document the historically Black neighborhoods of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
“Our focus is to assist the neighborhood,” Atwater said. “... We want to focus on the fact that there are long-term historical neighbors who still live here, who have roots here, ancestors who helped build UNC’s campus.”
According to the Jackson Center’s website, there are four main programs that make up the work at the center: Housing Justice, Heavenly Groceries, Civil Rights and Local History Education, and Celebration and Connection.
- The Housing Justice program, based on community-first organizing, includes the Northside Neighborhood Initiative, which works to ensure residents make decisions about properties, and the Neighbor Retention Programs, which provides a list of services to keep long-term residents in the neighborhood.
- Heavenly Groceries Food Ministry works with volunteers to serve around 3,500 individuals a month and is one of the only food banks in North Carolina that allows patrons to select their own food.
- The Civil Rights and Local History Education program works to bring the history of the Northside community to K-12 students and classrooms in Durham and Orange counties.
- The Celebration and Connection program aims to celebrate the community and maintain relationships between neighbors through different events.
Atwater said operations at the center have continued to run with additional programs to help families and individuals feel supported through the COVID-19 crisis.
“Our focus during this virus is making sure that the neighbors have the things that they need and are staying safe, and getting the necessary information about what's going on,” Atwater said.
The center has also been providing meals to senior residents, as well as basic emergency and sanitary supplies to other community members.
Aisha Booze-hall, food justice and eldercare senior fellow at the Jackson Center, said as of Friday, volunteers had directly delivered 600 boxes of food to people in the neighborhood.
Booze-hall said the money raised from the Race Against Racism fundraiser could contribute to three actions the center has taken to help more vulnerable populations in the neighborhood. These include the food delivery service, making the education program more versatile by moving it online and increasing the center’s focus on its neighborhood retention programs.
“I just feel like right now we are doing what we were doing before, but now we're just adding a couple other things to check in on people who maybe can't come to us,” said Booze-hall.
Connor Leeson, a rising junior double majoring in statistics and sports science, registered for the race and planned to hike 10 kilometers for the cause.
“They're just trying to get people to kind of take a moment to recognize everything that's going on right now and reflect on it and put it into physical action,” Leeson said. “I don't think the actual distances really matter too much; it's more the symbolic nature of everything.”
Diana Koo, an intern at the center, said the Jackson Center has a history of over 10 years of supporting the community.
“People can see that they do meaningful work and that they are actually listening to the voices of the community,” Koo said. “I feel like that resonates with people.”
Those who'd like to learn more about the Marian Cheek Jackson Center can do so at the Center's website.