Monday, November 23, 2009

Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People: Heal Thyself

My phone was overloaded with messages and I had over 50 emails waiting to be read. My last blog concerning the chaos in the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People sparked a public dialogue that confirmed my premise that the organization is out of touch and viewed as a contentious group with no message, purpose or plan to shift the tide.

Those on the inside have challenged me to join the group and help change things from the inside rather than throw stones at the organization from the outside. The basis for that agenda is rooted in the notion that black folks should keep their business to themselves and hide the dirty laundry from “The Man”. There was a time when the plans of those on the other side hindered the goals of the black community. The mean and calculating spirits of those in white hoods made it difficult for the black community to improve their position. That was then, this is now.

The Durham Committee is so outdated in the way it functions that catching up will take more than a few fresh bodies to fix what aisles them. The biggest obstacle facing the Committee is a major change that alienates people who want to make a difference. Even if I wanted to come back and participate, I can’t vote for the next leader due to my lack of participation.

In the past, anyone could vote for the leadership of the Durham Committee. The only requirements were that you be black and a resident of Durham. The change requires that voters attend two general body meetings each year. This leaves the organization under the control of the few who continue to support the work of the Committee. A person like me would have to attend two meetings while waiting for the next election. You would have to bite your tongue and embrace the agenda of the current leadership. Frankly, that is something I can’t do.

I refuse to participate in a work that goes against much of what I believe. I will not support the divisiveness of the Durham Committee. I will not follow the leadership of a woman who clings to a process that distances the group from those who want to make a difference. I hate the “us” versus “them” philosophy of the Committee. I deplore making assumptions about race and the way people are disqualified from leadership due to the opinions of a few. I regret a practice that fails to connect to the myriad of voices in the community and the failure of the Committee to consider the variety of gifts and positions waiting to be considered.

I loathe being told what is best for me and the people I care about. As much as I want to participate, I’m reminded that I can’t take responsibility for what I didn’t create. The Durham Committee is not the organization I loved when I served as a committee chair under the leadership of Ken Spaulding. Spaulding had a vision that was easy to follow. He wanted to improve housing conditions. He wanted to bridge the racial divide. Spaulding had the organization moving in a different direction.

I’m reminded that my appointment to the Religious and Human Rights Committee was met with controversy. Lavonia Allison led the charge to protest Spaulding’s decision to assign me and William Height, pastor of the Greater St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, as co-chairs. Spaulding went against protocol. The recommendation had come from the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance to the Durham Committee. We began serving under protest.

The battles surrounding that appointment opened my eyes to the agenda’s that hamper solidarity. Spaulding recognized the emergence of new leadership in the city. He mobilized the genius of those waiting to make a difference. Tara Nichols, Glennis and Grace Jones worked tirelessly with the city of Durham to improve housing standards. Then it all stopped. Conflicts of interest led Spaulding to resign and the rest is history. The Committee has not been the same since.

Those within the Committee bear responsibility for what has happened to this once powerful organization. Those on the outside looking in can’t take blame for the sad state of the Committee. They voted on changes that kept us on the outside. They embraced leadership not respected by the majority of black people in the city. They have refused to move to correct the systemic problems that prevent those on the outside from feeling at home.

The Committee should heal itself from within. The fewer than 50 people who keep things moving within the Committee should consider the implications of its decline. Countless men and women are watching from the outside. Chuck Watts, Carl Webb, Ken Lewis, Lois Deloatch, Nnenna Freelon, Phil Freelon, Dante James, Karla Holloway, Dionne Greelee, Aidil Collins, Eric Pristel, Dewayne Marks, Sherrod Banks, Anita Brown-Graham, Sterling Freeman and countless others aren’t a part of the Committee. There are gifted young men and women like my son, King Kenney, who feel alienated from the Committee. Ask them what they think. Listen to what they have to say about a group that has disregarded them for the past 15 years.

Those on the inside say they need for us to participate. I say fix what you messed up and check back with me on the other side. Until then, an election is coming up in December. Who you elect will go a long way in improving that screwed up image you helped create. The bad news is the best in black leadership isn’t present to help lead the way. What a web you have created.

It’s sad what happens when people become obsessed with power.


  1. Thank you for the truth. It’s the end of the year and I’m asking what have the Durham Committee done. With the entire problems we have here in Durham, we need more than a successful banquet.

  2. The Durham Committee has become a joke. Lavonia has surrounded herself by people with no political self-esteem who just move at her every command. They might as well just have the Committee meetings at her house.

  3. i use the committee meetings as my time to tell jokes and kid around.i just can't take helping the black community seriously when the chair has been one of, if not THE biggest slumlord in durham.the housing committee has suddenly become inactive under interesting is that?

  4. Although I can appreciate your opinion as an outsider looking in; I think that if you would like to post the voting procedure that you should get it correct. You have to attend more than 2 meetings per year. The prerequisite is that you attend 2 meetings per quarter and 1 political committee meeting per quarter.

    It's amazing to me that those who do not participate seem to have the most to say about what does/does not happen in the Committee's meetings. It also amazes me that ONE woman can keep away so many people. My thing is this; if you want to affect change in the community, how are you able to be stopped by ONE woman?

    Maybe, if you chose to work WITH the Committee versus AGAINST the Committee, something MIGHT actually happen in Durham for Black people.

    Oh, and by the way, for those that choose to attend the meetings as a platform for their jokes and kidding around, please remember, you will be running for office again.

  5. This is one of the few occassions where I wholeheartedly agree with Joy.

    How can change be created, when people who express wanting change, sit on the sidelines screaming at the participants; yet without joining-in and adding fresh perspective? I've heard Dr. Allison talk hot trash about Joy, but Joy comes and makes her presence felt, no matter what others may think. This is the mentality that true, mentally tough leaders, who profess to care about the community have to demonstrate. No one individual is going to run me from anything - heck, a group isn't going to run me away either.

    Having said all of that, please don't construe my remarks to mean that I support the Durham Committee's current direction.

    Having run for office, I will say that Joy Morgan does make a good point: those NC House races (which are restricted to certain areas of Durham) are a heck of a lot easier to win than City Council races (which are city wide and as such, makes reaching voters much more difficult).

  6. darius if you have a shortcoming as a young man,it is always wanting to be nice to everyone.people like joy and jackie arent your friends.that is why i voted for howard over you in the committee.

    joy has only come to the committee the past 2 months,after being gone for years.and she is more obnoxious now than she was before.

    joy cant vote herself,but is here giving advice.

    joy needs to shut the hell up, sit down and not worry about everyone else.

    joy should use her energy looking for a damn job, instead of talking about and then asking those same elected officials for help getting a job.

  7. Thank you for your concern idontcare; it seems as if you do care, but please know that I am fine. Also, if trying to help make a difference is obnoxious, then I'll be obnoxious all day everyday. You should try it sometimes, maybe it will help you ease your negativity and childlike behavior.

  8. 1. The bylaws don't specify being black to be a member
    2. Was the change in voting eligibility requirement properly enacted? Under what rules?

  9. Anonymous: I have already, thoroughly investigated and uncovered the facts and elements surrounding therewith, as it relates to those procedures.

    Rest assured, I have mass-emailed everyone in and around the Committee with the results of my investigation. Furthermore, such conclusions were backed-up with scanned documentation.

    Lastly, I've asked everyone who received such communication, to please make the black community aware of the 'current, accurate' voting requirements.

    As far as one having to be black, while it isn't specifically stated, the background of the preamble and the language thereafter made sure that there needed to be an organization which wholeheartedly, represented the interests of the Black Community. I will say one thing: no other political pac has 'created' any black candidate, they came out of the Durham Committee. Later, yes, other organizations may have backed them once they were incumbents and more established, but I don't see any proof of the People's Alliance, or the Friends of Durham, "taking a chance" on a young, OR unestablished, black candidate. The Durham Committee has and always has, as the only true avenue by which a young black man/woman can get both, involved and supported at the same time.

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