One of my favorite quotes is by Frederick Buechner, who writes about Noah’s ark riding out the great storm in The Hungering Dark. I first read this when I was a Stapleton-Davidson intern placed at QC Family Tree in 2018, trying to make sense of the injustice and pain and love and beauty I was seeing in the world. This past year and a half have also been chock-full of injustice and pain and love and beauty. As many of us hid away in our homes to ride out the storm of covid through the bleakness of winter, I returned often to this quote. Now, as I begin to venture out into the sun-soaked summer, it continues to tether me to hope.
Buechner writes, “The ark is wherever people come together because this is a stormy world where nothing stays put for long among the crazy waves and where at the end of every voyage there is a burial at sea. The ark is where, just because it is such a world, we really need each other and know very well that we do. The ark is wherever human beings come together because in their heart of hearts all of them—white and black, believer and unbeliever, hippie and square—dream the same dream, which is a dream of peace—peace between the nations, between the races, between the brothers—and thus ultimately a dream of love. Love not as an excuse for the mushy and innocuous, but love as a summons to battle against all that is unlovely and unloving in the world. The ark, in other words, is where we have each other and where we have hope…. We must build our arks with love and ride out the storm with courage and know that the little sprig of green in the dove's mouth betokens a reality beyond the storm more precious than the likes of us can imagine.”
Now it seems we are starting to emerge from our arks. We are grieving that not all of us survived the storm. We are gathering ourselves to deal with the wreckage. But we will never stop needing the ark and we will never stop needing each other. Little moments of compassion and kinship, as small as a scraggly, weather-beaten dove you can hold in the palm of your hand, point me to a larger truth about humanity and the hope we must hold on to as we continue to work to make our world more livable for everyone. I hope that the love we feel is fierce, and I hope that we all answer the summons it gives us.
What does battling against un-love look like right now at QC Family Tree? We’ve been battling against displacement for a long time, but it often feels like a wave of black-and-white paint and privacy fences is cascading down Tuck as we and our neighbors build our arks with our backyard gardens and little red pantry. The pandemic just sped up the displacement. Many neighbors we love have been forced to leave, but many remain, too. One tool that people in neighborhoods like Enderly Park can use to stay afloat when facing waves of gentrification are Community Benefits Agreements (CBA’s).
We are currently fighting for CBA’s be included in the 2040 Plan. You can join us in this fight by writing to your council members to include CBA’s in the plan. We are also exploring what a co-operative housing structure would look like with the tenants of QC Family Tree’s affordable units. And we continue to use art and storytelling like olive branches pointing towards the hope of a better future.
The storm of the pandemic has taught us about the importance of intentional adaptation to change. In the words of Octavia Butler, we recognize that “The only lasting truth is Change.” As such, some of our programming is shifting. We are carrying forward where we’ve been and what we’ve done in the past, and we are adapting it and expanding on it for the future. We used to have one-on-one relationships with supporters and ran programming geared towards our neighbors. We will continue to build up arks of belonging and kinship with our neighbors, dreaming and working together for a city and neighborhoods where everyone can thrive. As we enter the summer, we are also building up programming geared towards supporters of QC Family Tree. We want to empower them to build their own arks, filled with people prepared to battle unlove (i.e. white supremacy culture and systemic racism) in the ways it shows up in their communities. We will continue to adapt, find strength in our arks made up of kinship and belonging, and work towards the dream of communities where all can thrive.