QC Family Tree is an intentional Christian community forming relationships and seeking justice alongside residents of the Enderly Park neighborhood of Charlotte, N.C.
Since 2005, co-directors Greg and Helms Jarrell have called the Queen City home and sought wholeness with a community marked by lack of opportunity and economic disinvestment. Yet, as the gap between the country’s richest and poorest grows — leaving Enderly Park’s mostly black community with a median income $50,000 less than the average white resident in Charlotte — the Jarrells and their neighbors are engaging injustice with fresh urgency.
The Jarrells first settled in Enderly Park with a desire to overturn their experience of Christian discipleship among families in West Charlotte, one of the city’s most marginalized yet resilient communities. Through gathering Enderly Park children and teenagers, the Jarrells slowly developed a neighborhood youth group and began connecting with local families, all of whom are invited to dinner twice a month at their home on Parkway Avenue. Gathering for community meals is often the starting point for organizing around areas of injustice, Greg Jarrell says, and most residents have one thing on their mind — housing. Now, with deepened relationships and a careful ear toward the forces that threaten their neighbors, the Jarrells are organizing to combat gentrification, which increasingly threatens long-time Enderly Park residents with rising property value and the reality of displacement.
As a community that counters the narrative of supremacy, Helms Jarrell says, QC Family Tree is directed daily by local community leaders such as Frank Byers, a multi-decade resident of Charlotte and now chair of the West Side Community Land Trust. The WSCLT, now in its second year of development, is QC Family Tree’s latest expression of justice-seeking, and Byers is channeling his own encounters with displacement to help his neighbors remain in Enderly Park. Through grassroots organizing, QCFT and other investors are applying a sustainable housing model in which a nonprofit organization purchases land with the intention of holding rent prices steady for low-income residents facing the effects of gentrification.
At the end of the day, however, seeking justice starts with young people, says Cornelia Hagens, a volunteer with the QC Family Tree youth group. That’s why Hagens and the Jarrells continue to rally around children and teenagers in Enderly Park. Through weekly faith-building gatherings, called “Devos,” and regular opportunities to serve with their community, the QCFT youth group is seeking the kind of justice that comes when black youth feel empowered with imagination and resiliency, Greg says. The youth group’s latest enterprise revolves around the newly-created pottery studio, which allowed the group to host a Christmas pottery market with their creations and generate income for themselves and the project. More than occasionally, the youth group simply finds a reason to travel and have adventures, or simply hang out in the Jarrells’ dining room after school.
Ultimately, for QC Family Tree, seeking justice in Enderly Park means standing with their neighbors, even and especially when social and economic justice feels elusive and long deferred. In the meantime, QCFT will continue to be a place where the reality of relationship is its own form of justice. God surely resides in the everyday life of marginalized communities, Helms says, and the QCFT community is called to immerse themselves in that space.
Read more in the QC Family Tree Series
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QC Family Tree, founded by Greg and Helms Jarrell, is an intentional Christian community forming relationships and seeking justice alongside residents of the Enderly Park neighborhood of Charlotte, N.C. This series in the “Faith & Justice” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects initiative. In “Faith & Justice,” we tell the stories of the people and organizations that are helping to bend the “arc of moral justice” towards justice and who are transforming communities.
Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.