The Town of Chapel Hill is hosting a community cookout to promote the Good Neighbor Initiative, which seeks to strengthen relationships and decrease disruptive behavior in areas where students and non-students live close to one another.
On Wednesday, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Hargraves Community Center, off-campus students, residents and others will join together for entertainment and a celebration of community.
The Good Neighbor Initiative Community Cookout is a free event open to all and will have free food from Al’s Burger Shack and Ben & Jerry’s.
Aaron Bachenheimer, executive director of off-campus student life and community partnerships at UNC Student Affairs, said there should be one table for arts and crafts and a table for board games. He added that there will be soccer, frisbees and a DJ, with a visit from Musical Empowerment — a UNC organization that teaches children about music.
The Good Neighbor Initiative partners with UNC, the Town of Chapel Hill, the Town of Carrboro and other community organizations with the mission of establishing connections between off-campus students and residents. Other organizations include the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, EMPOWERment, Inc. and the Downtown Chapel Hill Partnership.
Bachenheimer said the idea behind the cookout is for people to show up, eat free food and enjoy being in community with each other.
“Part of the hope of the Good Neighbor Initiative just largely is that when students do move off campus, that they find opportunities to just get involved in the community,” Bachenheimer said.
Sarah Viñas, director of affordable housing and community connections with the Town of Chapel Hill, said once people get to know each other and see each other as friends and neighbors they are less likely to do things that are not consistent with being a good neighbor.
Bachenheimer said the primary neighborhoods that the Good Neighbor Initiative has focused on historically are Northside, Pine Knolls and Cameron-McCauley. He added that the Northside neighborhood is a historically Black community — going back many generations.
Northside has seen a decline in both Black residents and family households since 1980 as the number of college residents has increased.
Bachenheimer said another goal of the Good Neighbor Initiative is to help students understand that the communities they are moving into are neighborhoods with a history deeply connected to the Black community. He added that Black families living in Northside are bearing the brunt of issues such as noise, trash and parking.
Sophie Dubois, a 2022 summer fellow at the Jackson Center, said the mission of the Jackson Center is to build, honor and renew community in historically Black neighborhoods of Chapel Hill.
“Tensions can run high between neighbors and students, and I think that the cookout is a really great way for students to be able to see the community that they’re a part of, beyond just the university,” Dubois said.
Delores Bailey, executive director of EMPOWERment, Inc., said the community includes anyone who positively engages in the things going on in the area. She specifically emphasized interaction with families, the school system and police system.
"Diversity and inclusion will happen because we will be a diverse group," Bailey said. "I think it will happen because we will start talking to each other and start listening to each other and that always are the key foundation blocks for growing a good community, a good diverse community."
Bachenheimer said that, in the past, there has been an attendance of around 350 to 400 people coming and going from the cookout.
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