C O N S T R U C T I O N
General Sisters has taken longer than I ever expected to become a physical storefront and place. There has not been one moment when I have ever doubted that General Sisters would happen. The idea is carried by me, by you, and by the neighbors, the idea is rooted in confronting systemic injustices, the idea has evolved in relation to the seasons, to the people around us and the ever expansive collaboration. That is why I have never doubted it, I did not know how exactly to get there, what the space in between would like , where the money will come from or how long it will take but those questions did not create doubt.
The first step was a roof. Ginger, Emma, Dean and MPA came to Kirkpatrick Avenue to build the roof. An investment of deep energy and labor, an investment in the process as an actuality of the idea. The neighbors made us lunch as they saw our bodies opening the rotted wood and then closing it after we sistered old beams to new beams. You may of heard this part of the story before.
At that point $4,000 was invested into the materials of the new sub-roof and roof of personal money and the back taxes of $2,500 paid.
Our first generous outside financial investment was made from Louise Silk (my NuMa) her money was in a fund initially seeded by the sale of her fathers property in downtown Pittsburgh. She had kept the money for a long time and decided to gift it to the realization of General Sisters. It was the catalytic money for the next phase of the project – getting the building to a shell, strengthening the infrastructure, putting the plumbing and electric back in and opening the windows. This is where the story gets hard and uncomfortable. We had been working with a contractor on some of our other projects in North Braddock, for over a year, we had built trust and what I considered an understanding of values and the scale of our economies and visions. I did the thing you are not suppose to do based on the circumstance of the money coming from a fund, I paid all of the money to him at once. After exchange of the contract and the money – he left for the south where is family was experiencing health problems. After 6 months of unreturned phone calls from him he wrote to tell me he had spent the money on his sick brother and he would sell some property to return the money. Another 6 months or so went by of missed promises of payment plans and unreturned emails and phone calls. In the meantime I read of large-scale projects he was doing with his other companies.
While we were stalled in our physical construction General Sisters thrived making fertile soil as an abundant peace garden grew, soup was delivered, weekly garden products were made and nurtured many, we catered meals, tonics and tinctures healed, and bitters woke us up for spring visions.
I have still not fully processed the loss that our contractor created, the damages of layers of trust. And the pain of being stolen from and the pain of watching everything go on hold. A large part of this was me, I did not want to let go of trust, because trust seemed so at the root of this idea. So I waited. I did not want to sue him, I wanted to believe that good faith would reign. After a year and a half and with the support of people around me, I filed a claim against him. The hearing is on April 22.
Somehow filing the claim gave Ginger and I both some power back, it was a letting go of sorts. Ginger took action, reactivating the physical process of construction, of making General Sisters a place. She released her frustration with our loss by tearing down the rest of the walls in the space, and hauling out debris. I spent some time in the building too, sweeping. We decided to invest $3,000 more made from a teaching workshop Ginger and I did together a few years back into the next phase of the building. We developed a revised work plan. Revisited our vision plan and developed an investment plan we feel comfortable with.
This week we uncovered the electric. And made room for new wires. We also put a new door so we could access the basement from ground level. And this morning I loaded trash can and chipped off plaster.
Tonight our friend Mia is coming from NYC to work on the building for a week. She will teach us and guide us to our next steps, a construction plan. Ginger and Mia will get to sistering again as they strengthen the floor joists that were destroyed from when there was the hole in the roof and they will frame some windows and build a soffit box. Mia is an amazing singer and and an even better contractor. Over the past year since Ginger has moved to North Braddock to work on General Sisters we confronted the destruction of trust. It was paralyzing. Ginger took a breath out and opened the door again to General Sisters as a place, Mia is going to arrive tonight and this week we will begin to reconstruct the foundation of trust that General Sisters desires and will need going forward.
General Sisters is under construction. And so am I.