Monday, April 30, 2012

Are we in the middle of a Civil War


The more I think about it, the more it feels like I’m in the middle of a Civil War. It’s thorny for me to assert that claim given I wasn’t there when the dudes in gray scraped with their kin in blue.  I do know that it was a war like no other, a fight not for land or oil, but over the right to define what it means to be an American.


The air is oozing with this complex definition crap.  Underneath all those layers of determination is stuff so deep that common folks get  fooled into believing the fight is over something other than hatred.  Yes, this is about hate and insensitivity.  It’s about defining what it means to be human and taking no prisoners in the quest to force people into adopting common ideas.


This Civil War is different than the first one.  Yes, it’s true that both used the Bible to minimize the legitimacy of the humanity of a select few.  That first was about state rights, but cloaked beneath it all was the matter of defining the worth of the slaves.  Brothers fought brothers, and cousins killed cousins because the hatred for an entire race was so deep they were willing to die to prove a point.

It’s sad how much people are willing to give up coercing others to adopt a mindset.  The first Civil War stands as America’s saddest moment.  It is a reminder of how hatred can move people to design ways to force an agenda of hatred.  The Bible is used.  The law is used.  All that is good and sacred become the weapons of hate.

This current Civil War is painful to watch. This war isn’t relegated to a select group.  No, this is not a quarrel over the humanity of a race.  This war is an all out blitz to wane the voice of all who aren’t white, heterosexual and male.  This war is to demean black and brown people.  It is a war to aggravate the gains of women while forcing them back into roles of subjugation.  This is a war to label gays and lesbian as less than human, and, as a consequence of their subpar human status, to deny them the protections of America’s laws.  You can’t protect what isn’t human.

This is a war to determine who gets treated fairly.  After years of toying with the Constitution, America has gone to war to resolve who is protected by the provisions mandated in the document.  This is that, “I didn’t mean you” moment that so many have always felt.  Is this an opportunity for white men, with power and a chip on their shoulder, to ratify what has always been on their minds?  Instead of hiding behind the façade of political correctness, they can come out of the closet and yell their truth – this is a white man’s world.


It’s an ideological civil war that has dire consequences related to the future of all public policy.  Once the Constitution is eroded by wording that defines what love looks like, the next step could be to collapse the civil rights of others by forcing language granting people the right to hate and discriminate other groups.  Before long, the Constitution will adapt to legitimize all forms of hatred.


One step at a time.  Next up, immigration rights.  Follow that up by going back to the original wording of the U.S. Constitution – to define black folks as less than human.  One step at a time. 

These ideological wars can get tricky.  They look innocent on the surface, but, once you unpack the language, it’s all about hatred.

My pen is my weapon.  I fight with my words.

I fight on the side of love.

Join the Rev-elution at May Day Triangle

Schedule
3 p.m. Arts and Cultural Festival (including children's area) at People’s Plaza (CCB Plaza) in Durham
5 p.m. Potluck
6 p.m. March through downtown Durham starting at People’s Plaza
7 p.m. Rally and speeches at People’s Plaza

We invite everyone to participate in a May Day 2012 mobilization together.

May 1 is celebrated around the world as international workers day and originated in Chicago after the 1886 Haymarket Massacre, in which police fired on workers during a general strike for the eight-hour workday.

On May 1, 2006, in the largest single day protest in the history of the United States, massive migrant marches re-ignited May Day as a day of resistance, a near-lost tradition in the US. May Day is important this year as a day of action for economic justice and equality.

Over the past year, we have been inspired by people’s movements, resistance and actions around the globe. We have experienced an awakening over the past year that has created a new political movement and a focus on economic justice, and we believe that May Day 2012 is an opportunity for us to cultivate a broad and potent coalition of communities, organizations, and others seeking to build a different city and a different world. We believe that it can be not only a moment to demonstrate our discontent, but to begin to think together toward building self-determination for and from our communities.

Join us on May 1 as we rally for:
* Good jobs and living wages
* The right to join a union, the right to organize for all workers, and the right to collective bargaining
* Justice for immigrants, including amnesty and an end to deportations
* An end to police brutality, mass incarceration of communities of color, and all forms of oppression and discrimination
* Public sector jobs and services and public budgets that meet human needs

Friday, April 27, 2012

The deaths of two sons aroused Howteron's desire to become a County Commissioner


Some memories never go away.  No matter how much you do to flush the pain away, they keep coming back.

Durham County Commissioner Brenda Howerton has her share of old memories.  She has a pair of wounds exposed by the death of Trayvon Martin.  Two sons murdered in the space of 17 months have made it difficult for her to focus on campaigning to keep her seat as a County Commissioner.

“I was on my way to Lowes looking for material for my campaign. I had the radio on and they were talking about this case,” she told me. “Tears were running down my face while trying to run a campaign.  My heart is taken back to what President Obama said.  That could have been my son.  That was my son.”

It was two sons.

She worked until 2a.m. that day to put campaign signs out.  From there, she prepared herself for a series of debates and making the rounds to prove she deserves another term.    All while fighting back those tears that come whenever she hears Trayvon’s name.

Her oldest son Lamont was killed by a Navy officer at a party he organized for students at Hampton University.  It was a party celebrating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Lamont asked the officer to leave after he started a fight.  He returned with a pistol and killed Lamont as the crowd ran for cover. 

“Lamont was always doing things for the kids on campus,” Howerton says.  He died while celebrating the life of Martin Luther King.  He was only 26 years-old.

While weeping over the death of Lamont and fighting for justice in court, her youngest son was killed.  Darryl, who was 17 years-old, decided to re-enroll at NC A&T University.  The pressure was too much for him to take. 

“He walked out the street with no clothes on and was shot and killed by the police,” Howerton says.

“The death of Trayvon takes me back there,” she says.  “I feel for all the brothers and fathers, mothers and sisters, uncles and aunts who have to deal with the death of a person they love.”

After years of fighting for justice in the death of her two sons, Howerton says she learned the difference between justice and higher justice.  “No matter what the courts ruled, it wasn’t going to take that pain away,” she says. “I had to learn to fight for all the other kids still with us.”

A few tears broke free as Howerton talked about her sons. “People don’t understand that I do this for them,” she says.  “I do this because I want to make a difference for the people.”

Her phone kept ringing as she talked about the death of loved ones and her role as a County Commissioner.  She fought back the tears the best she could to avoid the glares of potential voters.  I was left wondering what they might think of those tears. Is it a sign of weakness?  Is it a sign of strength?

She talked about being watched by people.  “I don’t want to do anything that would let the people who vote for me down,” she says.

She wiped the tears from her face and smiled in a way that contradicted the emotions that stirred the tears.  She had to smile for those who vote.  She had to smile for me.  More than any of that, she had to smile to fuel courage to keep moving.

There are people behind the names that appear on the ballot.  They laugh, they get tired and they serve beyond the burden of the task.  We hold them responsible to our expectations of what we believe strong leadership means. 

Sometimes they cry. 

Voters rarely see beyond the issue that leads them to vote.  Be it the handling of the 751 project or the problems with the Department of Social Services, there’s no place to witness those tears.

The tears may not matter, but the least we can do is embrace them when they come.

Two sons.  All of us should shed a tear.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

LeRoy Walker inspired us to run


I know a few things about track and field.  I also know a few things about unfulfilled dreams.  Those words – could have been, should have been, and would have been – come to mind whenever I watch young folks run around a track.

Making it to the other side of disappointment requires people capable of inspiring you to keep running.  You have to run past the ache of a lost race.  You have to get up when the muscles aren’t strong enough to get you to the finish line.

Leroy Walker knew how to arouse faith in victory. Walker died on Monday at the age of 93.

Walker was the first African American to lead the U.S. Olympic Committee and the first black man to coach an American Olympic team.  He led the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1992 to 1996, heading the Summer Games in Atlanta and leading the way when the 2002 Winter Olympics were awarded to Salt Lake City.

Walker coached Olympic track and field teams from Ethiopian, Israel, Jamaica, Kenya, Trinidad and Tobago before the United States gave him a chance to be the first black head coach of its team.  He led the team that traveled to Montreal in 1976.  The team came home with 22 medals, including gold in the long jump, discuss, both men’s relays, Bruce Jenner winning the decathlon and Edwin Moses dominating the 400-meter hurdles.


He was born in Atlanta, the youngest of 13 children and the grandson of a former slave.  His father, a railroad fireman, died when he was 9. When his daddy died he was sent to Harlem to live with an older brother. He moved back South to attend Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., where he earned 11 letters in football, basketball, and track and field.  From there he attended Columbia University where he earned a master’s degree.

He was hired to coach football and basketball at North Carolina Central University in Durham.  Walker started the track program in between the basketball and football season, and decided to give up the other two sports to focus on track.

Walker kept running.  He earned a doctorate from New York University in 1957 and was named chancellor at North Carolina Central University in 1983.

Walker talked about that trip to Harlem in a 1993 interview with the Times.  His mother gave him specific instructions before setting him free to run alone.  “I’ll never forget what she told me,” he said. “If anything gets in your way, look it in the eye, grab hold of it and find a way to achieve in spite of it.  One thing that was drilled into me was to not let circumstance determine what I could begin to be.”

You keep running no matter what.  Run when you get tired.  Run the day after you forfeit the race. Run when you hurt and no one believes you have what it takes to win that race.

I remember the conversation I had with Walker at an affair in 1991 to honor his years of services at North Carolina Central University.  It was held in the building with his name.  It came after he was awarded the Eagle Award from the United States Sports Academy, the Academy’s highest international honor.  He spoke of his work at the University and his love for his family.  I left the event wanting to run and to follow those amazing footsteps.

Durham, NC has witnessed the death of many great leaders.  Earlier this year it was Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans.  In 2009, we lost John Hope Franklin.  These are rare breeds that come along to teach lessons that take us further than the common classroom discussion.  It’s been one of the gifts afforded those who walk the streets of this amazing city.

Walker inspires me to run.  Yes, I wonder about what could have been if I had a coach like Walker.  The truth is I had two great ones –Coach Fred at Hickman High in Columbia, MO who saved my life when I needed more than a coach and Pops Logan who saw greatness in me.  I’m thankful for great coaches and mentors who lead the way.

Walker is that legend who subtracts a few seconds whenever you run that race.

Walker moves me to run.  So, I keep running.  Not around the track on the field, but that track of life that we all must run.  I run with pride and hope.  I run knowing that nothing can keep me from running this race.  Nothing can get in the way of the gold medal at the finish line. 

Coach Walker has paved the way.  It’s up to us to keep running.

Rest in peace.  I’ll see you at the finish line.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Amendment One resolution removed from County Commission agenda


The Daily Beast was correct in naming Durham, NC the most tolerant city in America.  Some of the members of the Board of County Commissioners didn’t get the memo.  A lack of leadership involving a resolution on Amendment One has left the board at odds with those who make Durham their home.

It was a case of too little too late.  I was encouraged when Michael Page, chair of the Board of County Commissioners, informed me of his desire to place the resolution on the agenda at tonight’s meeting.  Lowell Siler, the county attorney, advised the board to remove the item from the agenda after the Institute of Government informed him the resolution would put the county at risk.

Siler contacted the Institute of Government due to opposition from Dick Ford, research chairman for the Durham Republican Party.  In a letter sent to Siler, Ford argued that passing a resolution during Early Voting would amount to “an impermissible use of public resources to influence an election.”

“Clearly, this resolution has been proposed to aid the campaign against the Marriage Amendment,” Ford writes. “It is intended to tell Durham County voters how they should vote.” 

Ford’s contention raises apprehension related to why the Board of County Commissioners would consider the resolution after the start of early voting.  Their passive response lends credence to assertions that the proposal is a political maneuver to placate those critical of a lack of leadership in opposing Amendment One.

Moving on the resolution became politically expedient when the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People moved to contest the amendment.  Before then it was a political wait and see.  The lack of courage in denouncing the amendment led the Rev-elution to not endorse any of the incumbents in the upcoming election. 

Page responded to not receiving an endorsement with a promise to bring a resolution before the board.  That promise would have been fulfilled at tonight’s meeting, but Ford’s dispute forced the hand of the legal team at the county.  Moving now is too risky.  The lack of courage in placing an agenda item before the board before the start of voting raises serious questions about the quality of leadership at the head of the board.

It’s that hiccup in the process that impeded the board bringing attention to how the passage of Amendment One would impact the quality of life of those living in Durham County.  Responsible leadership advises voters of the potential harm linked to those precious votes.  Ford’s problem with discussing Amendment One now is the timing.  People are voting.  Minds are made up.  It’s too late.

“The General Assembly set this referendum on the ballot months ago,” Ford writes.  “The Commissioners must respect the electoral process and let the voters decide.  While they as individuals can use their own resources to advocate, they cannot use public taxpayer funds.  Yet this is what is scheduled to occur Monday night.”

So, why did it take the board so long to consider Amendment One?  It would be too simple to blame Page for pushing it back as he monitored the political consequences of the amendment. It would be easy to claim he didn’t know which position to take.  As a minister, I both understand and appreciate the angst that comes with taking a stance that may be disputed by members of the congregation.

That’s why I define it as a lack of courage.  It’s hard to find it while waffling between divergent political camps.  It took courage when Bill Bell and members of the City Council took a position on the amendment long before the local political action committees voiced an opinion.  They moved based on conviction, not what is politically expedient.  That’s courage.  That’s leadership. 

Ellen Reckhow, vice-chair of the Board of County Commissioners, has shown courage in opposing the Amendment from the beginning.  She signed a letter on September 11, 2011 with leaders representing seven of eight state jurisdictions offering domestic partner benefits. The open letter to “Members of the North Carolina General Assembly,” was also signed by Bill Bell, but not by Page, the chair of the board.

The letter argued that the amendment "represents a threat to North Carolina’s ability to recruit the diverse workforce needed to compete in a global economy, will strip public employees of domestic partner benefits while also hindering benefits in the private sector, and perpetuates a divisive social agenda that is unwelcoming and not reflective of our state."

Living in a city called the most tolerant in the nation comes with a price.  The nation is watching us to lead the way toward being affirming of all our citizens.  The ball was dropped with the Board of County Commissioners and the opposing team is dribbling down the other end of the court.  The lack of a resolution suggests a lack of bold leadership that defines what it means to live in Durham.  We demand more in Durham.  This is not a place that allows space to feel the crowd before stepping forward with a plan.  If you can’t get with the program, get out of the kitchen.

They waited too long.  The problem is we don’t have time to waste.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The African Diaspora Film Festival addresses the state of hip-hop.

Does the resurrection of Tupac pave the way for the rebirth of Hip-Hop? The appearance of Tupac, via a hologram, at the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was the talk of the week.

Performances by Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Eminem, Wiz Khalifa, Rihanna and Usher weren’t enough to overshadow the performance of the legendary rapper. The hoopla involving the return of the hip-hop messiah has led to speculation that Tupac may take the hologram on the road.

 Imagine listening to him spit the lyrics to “Life Goes on”.


Bury me smilin’ with G’s in my pocket 
Have a party at my funeral 
Let every rapper rock it 
Let tha hoes that I usta know from way before 
kiss me from my head to my toe

Makes you wonder if he knew his death was coming.

It also leads to intense discussion involving the state of hip-hop since the deaths of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. What has happened to the genre that introduced the world to street pain and pleas for folks to take notice? My boy NAS mulled over the state of hip-hop in 2006 with the release of “Hip-Hop is Dead”.

Everybody sound the same, 
commercialize the game 
Reminiscin' when it wasn't all business 
If it got where it started 
So we all gather here for the dearly departed

The album generated a debate over the state of hip-hop music, and NAS became the unofficial leader of the “Hip-Hop is Dead” movement. Some blamed the death on Southern crunk and snap music. Many of the Southern rappers came to the defense of hip-hop. Big Boi from Outkast, T.I., Young Jeezy and Dem Franchize took offense that the South was under attack for ruining hip-hop.

The hip-hop commentary of NAS was endorsed by KRS-One, DMX and Ghostface Killah. The most significant deliberation on the topic came from Bryon Hurt in his 2006 documentary film Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes. Hurt explored the issues of masculinity, violence, homophobia and sexism in hip-hop music and culture. It’s a must see for anyone who loves the genre yet despises the images and messages associated with hip-hop.

The African Studies Program on the campus of North Carolina State University has been tackling the complexity of hip-hop music, its culture and its relationship to the academy with the African Diaspora Film Festival. It began on April 2 and concludes on Monday with the viewing of Bling and a panel discussion in which I will participate.

The series opened with the film Juice, starring Tupac. Gerard Brown, the screenwriter of Juice, was present to offer his insight and answer questions. That was followed up with the viewing of Hurts Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes. On Monday, April 16, the film Sarabah was screened. The film from Senegal featured rapper, singer and activist Sista Fa who uses her music to end the practice of female genital cutting. Say My Name was also screened. The film features female artist who discuss class, race and gender and the difficulties associated with pursuing a career in a male dominated industry.

Monday’s viewing of Bling is the final film of the festival. Bling begins with travel to war-torn Sierra Leone in West Africa, and the correlation between the blood diamond industry and the call for justice in hip-hop music. The filmmakers explore the cultural significance of diamond jewelry in hip-hop and trace its evolution from the early 1980s old-school culture to the bling-encrusted industry of today.

Following Bling, the festival will culminate with a panel discussion on hip-hop culture, its place in the academy, and both its positive and negative impact. The panel will be moderated by Emmy Award winning filmmaker Dante James. James is Assistant Director of the African American Cultural Center at NC State. I will serve on the panel with Thomas Easley, hip-hop artist and director of the Community of Diversity in the College of Natural Resources at NC State and Sandra DuBose, a multi-talented performance artist.

Monday’s viewing of Bling begins at 7:00 PM at the Campus Cinema in the A.M. Witherspoon Student Center at 2810 Cates Avenue on the NC State University Campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Has hip-hop died or morphed into something different? Have those changes altered the images of black life, or exposed what was already present? Is hip-hop to blame for the thug life reflected in the music of Tupac, or is there something deeper within the mores of inner city life fueling the messages of hip-hop. On Monday we will explore these issues and more. I hope you can join me on the last day of the film festival.

The Africana Studies Program, housed in the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Humani¬ties and Social Sciences at NC State University, offers students the opportunity to study the Black experi¬ence in Africa, the Americas, and throughout the African Diaspora. Students explore topics, issues and research from cross-cultural, international, transnational and multidisciplinary perspectives.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Amendment One is the litmus test to determine who gets my vote


I consider it the most important item on the election ballot. It defines how we define what it means to be a community. It establishes how we decide to function as people dedicated to the protection of one’s right to define their own space as members of the human family. It’s more important than our vote for County Commissioners. Amendment One has implications beyond a few terms in office.

I’m maddened that we’re forced to vote against the move to place an amendment in the North Carolina constitution that defines marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Voting yes is an unequivocal no to those who desire the freedom to express their love in a relationship with a person of the same gender. This battle is, for those who support the amendment, paramount to a holy war. They perceive it as an attack on God’s will, and contend that affirming same gender bonds pits the nation in conflict with divine order.

What makes this vote so critical is how it forces voters to validate a theological agenda that compromises the divide between church and state. If Amendment One passes North Carolina will go on record as a state that endorses a theological agenda that is rooted within fundamentalist interpretation. Formulating a state mandate that is structured on a Christian Biblicist dogma will radically shift how we envision what it means to be a community that embraces different faith claims and supports the rights of those with views different from our own.

Given the importance of Amendment One, it is vital that voters consider each candidates position on the amendment prior to casting a vote. Many have dodged the issue by hiding under the rhetoric of “that’s not the business of the Board of County Commissioners. We should leave it up to the voters to decide.” In answering questions related to their stance on Amendment One, candidates express their vision for community, and reflect the courage to rise to the occasion when faced with potential opposition.

The candidate that avoids this issue isn’t worthy of consideration. They refuse to say yes in support due to how that would alienate those who oppose the amendment. They refuse to say no out of fear that they would evoke the scorn of conservative minded Christians waiting to cast folks in Hell for going against the Word of God. By staying in the middle, I’m forced to speculate on the consequences of voting for a weak politician incapable to telling us the truth about how they feel.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with my father in 1972. He told me he was supporting George Wallace for President over Jimmy Carter. Wallace, who was elected Governor of Alabama in 1962, stood in front of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama in an attempt to halt the enrollment of black students. Wallace used a quote from Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, forever,” as the basis for a line in a speech. “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” ”

I didn’t understand why my father would vote for a man like Wallace. I’ll never forget the look when he said, “They’re all a bunch of liars. They tell you one thing and do the opposite. I’ll rather vote for a man who tells me the truth in my face, than a man who lies and does the opposite of what he claims.”

I could sense his rage. I learned a lesson that day. My father then, and me now, have endured massive deception from those who hold political office. That’s why this vote is important to me. It’s also why it’s important that I know, up front, how the people who desire my vote feel about Amendment One. You simply can’t hide behind the line that says it’s not within your jurisdiction. It is because we deserve to know your theory behind what it means to be a community.

So, come clean on your position. If you can’t do that, you will not get my vote. I’m begging others to take the same position.

Do you believe black people have the right to attend schools with white students? Do you believe women have the right to serve in corporate and government leadership? Do you believe people have the right to marry a person of a different race? Do you believe there should be a constitutional provision that defines humans as white males?

Yes, it’s important that we know each candidates position on those questions. The same applies on how a person feels about the rights of those who love a person of the same gender. You may not agree, but should our constitution force the issue beyond our opinion? I think not!

Have the guts to tell us how you feel, and leave it up to the voters to determine if you are worthy to serve based on how you answer that question.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The 751 South development is not about race or jobs

Someone needs to say it. The 751 South project is not about race. It’s not about jobs. Underneath, around and in between all the political maneuvers to push the development project, is something more critical. When will people stop playing games with black voters?

The outcome of the impending election for members of the Board of County Commissioners hinges on positions taken on the plan to build 1,300 homes and 600,000 square feet of commercial space on the 167- acres at the intersection of Fayetteville Road and NC 751. Durham’s three political action committees (The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, People’s Alliance and the Friends of Durham) have endorsed based on the stance taken on the project.

The obvious disconnect between the DCABP and the PA surrounds assumptions made related to expansion. Members of the DCABP, along with the black incumbents on the County Commission, has contended that growth correlates to job creation and the expansion of economic growth ultimately benefits the black community. The PA argues on the side of careful consideration of consequences of land usage. It’s a fight that has pitted the black members of the Board of County Commissioners against the white board members.

This political split broadens the supposition that the 751 South project is a black versus white issue. Black voters are fed a party line that connects the development of 751 South as a pro black initiative. It’s a message that took hold among the three black incumbents – Joe Bowser, Michael Page and Brenda Howerton. A vote to re-elect this pro-growth trinity is paramount, according to the message delivered, to endorsing an effort that advances the lives of unemployed blacks in Durham.

We should be careful with making that assumption.

What is clear is the insistent mind-set of those positioned to make a profit on the project. That truth took center stage on Friday when the aspirant developers formed a political action committee of the own, called the Durham Partnership for Progress.

The new political action committee has already invested $2,600 for a telephone survey aimed at measuring voters opinions related to growth. Critics of the new political action group contend the survey is being used to gauge the best way to spin their message. The group will announce their endorsements for the County Commissioners race soon.

Alex Mitchell, president of South Durham Development, says the “mission is to foster a political environment in Durham that encourages equal opportunity, job creation, small growth, new business and industry, affordable housing and education while protecting property rights.”


The hitch with this new political action committee is its relationship with 751 South. Mitchell and business partner Tyler Morris are behind the project. In endorsing candidates, and shaping an agenda that promotes growth, they are pressing a political message for the purpose of personal gain. It’s a serious conflict of interest that demands public scrutiny, and forces an even deeper discussion regarding the credibility of the endorsement process.

There is no doubting the tight bond between supporters of 751 South and the Friends of Durham. Did those who support 751 South recuse when the vote to endorse was cast with the Friends of Durham? If not, can those endorsements be taken seriously if they are tainted by the potential of personal gain?

Voters should also consider the matter of campaign financing, and how cash impacts those important votes taken by members of the Board of County Commissioners. Neal Hunter, co-founder of Cree Inc and the cousin of Alex Mitchell, poured $8,000 to support Bowser in his bid to unseat Bill Bell as Mayor. How glued are politicians to those who feed their campaign coffers?

The forming of this new political action committee could be viewed as a split from the Friends of Durham. Those with more keen vision may regard it as a way to reposition the message of the Friends of Durham. The 751 South project exposes common ideologies linking the DCBP and the Friends of Durham. Sadly, the two groups have more in common than shared by the DCABP and the PA.

The formation of a new political action committee sheds the Friends of Durham of the baggage that has splintered relationships with the DCABP. By posturing a work viewed as a pro black agenda, the message of the Friends of Durham can be embraced by those who denounced the Friends of Durham due to their conservative outlook. The conservative political agenda is given a pro black spin, and thus a union is formed between Durham’s conservative political group and the committee charged with the task of promoting the concerns of black people.

The progressive PA is recast as a group antithetical to the concerns of black people, while the conservative message of the Friends is regarded as a message in common with that of the black community. The end result is a partnership that pits the PA against the Durham Committee, and the beginning of a new day that lifts economic development above a social agenda.

The door was opened when the race for County Commission became about race. The PA failed to recognize how race was being used to obliterate the natural bond with the DCABP. The Friends of Durham seized an opportunity. The forming of a new group to build on that natural bond between conservative minded folks and the black community. Those conservative want to make money, and black people want jobs.

To that I say, don’t believe the hype. Growth may not result in more jobs. This may be a case of being used to pitch a message. At the end of it all, the black vote is used by both ends to promote an agenda that fails to address the needs of black people.

This may not be about race. It may not be about more jobs. It is about liberals using black people and casting them to the side when they fail to dance to their music, and white conservative using black folks to help them make more money when the opportunity presents itself.

It’s time to retreat and talk about what all of this means.

It’s certainly not about race.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Rev-elution endorsements for Durham Board of County Commissioners

Update: After the posting of this blog the Rev-elution was contacted by Michael Page and informed Page will bring a resultion to the Board of County Commissioners denouncing Amendment One. Stay tuned for how that may alter the decision not to endorse Page.

I feel bad for local voters. After years of contending with the dysfunction of the Durham Board of County Commissioners, they have to cast votes for the most recent group of willing servants. They don’t have much to help them decide. If not for the endorsements coming from the local political action groups (The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, the People’s Alliance and the Friends of Durham) along with the nod from your hometown newspapers (The Herald-Sun, News & Observer and The Independent Weekly) picking from this line up would be as difficult as finding a four leaf clover in grass that reaches your buttocks.

The pickings are thin with this group. After careful deliberation the Rev-elution has decided to take a stab at endorsing those most fit to serve based on my set of criteria. My lineup is certain to differ from the rest. Ones race, age, gender and involvement in one of those political gangs didn’t factor into the selection process. A person’s ability to actually win the thing didn’t play a part. Most important on my to do list is a person’s ability to get along with the other children in the room.

A critical point has to be made up front. The Rev-elution has been brutal on the incumbents. I’ve called for voters to consider axing the whole bunch and elect a group more willing to behave in a way that doesn’t leave me wishing they would all take a trip with a one way ticket. There’s one thing the Rev-elution lacks patience over, and that is childish behavior and confrontation. With all that needs to be done in Durham County there is no time for children misbehaving. It’s called Rev for a reason, and it’s elution season.

With all of that on the table, let’s talk about those incumbents the Rev-elution thinks deserve a retirement party.

Joe Bowser. No one on the current commission is able to offer aggressive, meaningful policy options like Bowser. He’s the one in the bunch who has consistently demanded accountability among those who work in Durham County yet opt to live on the other side of the Triangle. He understands issues and keeps the commission focused on maintaining balance between those who have and those who wish they had. The problem with Bowser is his misuse of power.

His recent role in terminating Gerri Robinson, former DSS director, demands attention. The fact that Robinson’s actions were enough to land Robinson a pink slip is not justification for the way Bowser, and his gang of board members, kicked her out the door. If that wasn’t enough, they appointed one of the board members to replace her at the same meeting. The good in Bowser is not enough to overrule the bad that has resulted in a lawsuit, an audit that draws notice of complicity and a grave misuse of power.

Ellen Reckhow. Reckhow has served with passion and consistent leadership as a member of the Board of County Commissioners. Her external image is one of compromise and strength. Sadly, an email released by the Rev-elution uncovered the internal mess within the board that left the Rev-elution wondering if conflict resolution was needed to move things forward. Her lack of compromise, along with the rest of her pals, in selecting a replacement for Becky Heron reflected a stubbornness that forces the Rev-elution to say it’s time to go with the rest.

Michael Page. Those emails from Reckhow brought the Rev-elution to Page’s defense. Reckhow and Bowser played the tag team in deflating Page’s reputation. Bowser questioned his role as a minister. The Rev-elution made it clear that there is no place for attacking a person’s call to ministry. Page has done his best to keep the children in order, and spent more time in a corner fighting his way out than in being intentional around establishing a long term vision for county government. The big rift among many is Page’s position related to the 751 development. The Rev-elution says Page has to go due to his unwillingness to bring a resolution to the forefront regarding Amendment One. His lack of courage on this issue placed him on the bad side of the Rev-elution. Time to go.

Brenda Howerton. She came to the board as one thought to be a consensus builder. Like Bowser and Page, she is on the bad list of many because of the handling of that nasty 751 development project. Her recent responses to questions involving 751 expose a lack of substance when it comes to being able to define a position. She claims to be one desiring all the facts before voicing and opinion. After years on the commission, voters demand more than a conversation about feed me more information before I tell you how I feel. Her inability to engage around the issues speaks to a lack of preparation and understanding of the issues. Does she know what she thinks, and, if so, can she please tell us what that looks like. Bye, bye.

That leaves one on the board worthy of a chance to continue to play.

Wendy Jacobs. Jacobs get the nod from the Rev-elution for a number of reasons. After fighting to get on the board when Becky Heron retired, she has proven to be the gem among her peers. She does her homework. She is engaged with those from different camps. More than any of that, she has guts and thick skin. Would love to say more on that, but trust me. Two thumbs up.

Now that we have one left from the board of dysfunction, let’s deal with what’s left. I’ll start with the shocker.

John Owen. This kid has the stuff. I call him kid out of respect for what he brings, youthfulness, a fresh approach, an amazing understanding of the issues and a departure from business as usual in Durham. He argues that Durham is the youngest city in North Carolina with an average of 31, yet has the oldest average age of those in office at 61. Those in office may be a bit out of touch, and we need some new blood running the show. The bad news for Owens is he failed to get that much needed endorsement from any of the local PAC’S. The Rev-elution can see past the birth certificate. He’s among the best of the rest.

Fred Foster. Foster gets in by the hair of his chinny chin chin. The lineup of endorsements from the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and People’s Alliance makes him a lock to win. The Rev-eution is impressed with his service to Durham, but isn’t getting the warm fuzzy due to a lack of certainty regarding his position on the 751 development. He has indicated his lack of support, but comes back with “shucks, it may be what we need.” Sounds like playing both sides of the fence, and one thing the Rev-elution hates is a waffler. The good outweighs the bad, so he gets the nod.

Anita Daniels. Daniels gets the nod for reasons others hold against her – those old jobs in city and county government. She knows her way around the bureaucratic bull stank, and that could go a long way in minimizing the grueling transition from average Jane to big shot in county office. Daniels didn’t get the endorsement from the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and the People’s Alliance due to an inability to dig deeper in explaining her position. That combined with the old farts in leadership getting their way. She gets my vote with a few caveats: show us that you know the issues, and be more firm in taking a position. This was a close call due to her unwillingness to take a position on Amendment One. Show me some courage girl.

That leaves one spot left. What will the Rev-elution do? No one gets that endorsement this time. I’m leaving it vacant as I wait to see if Omar Beasley is able to get enough votes for the general election. If so, it’s possible he gets my endorsement. If not, Page could jump back on board with an endorsement. I’ll need to see a bit more courage from him as a leader, and an ability to communicate a broader vision related to the future of Durham County. Lead us dude.

The Rev-elution has spoken.

Zimmerman arrested: Is it over now?

Photo from US News.MSNBC

Finally. It’s over. Or, maybe it isn’t.

It seems like an eternity. The nation has been waiting for what appeared inevitable - the arrest of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin. On yesterday, Florida State Attorney Angela Corey announced that Zimmerman, 28, had been taken into custody and was awaiting arraignment on a charge of second-degree murder in the death of the 17-year-old. Zimmerman could face life in prison if convicted.

The unfortunate death of Trayvon has spurred outrage and a national debate about police profiling, the stand no ground law, gun control and racism. It has been the catalyst behind a national eruption of emotions. This tragic nightmare has become the platform for all that aisles black folks.

The message behind it all is simple. I told you so.

Black and white fingers have pointed in the direction of injustice with a resounding I TOLD YOU SO. What was told: that racism continues to destroy the lives of black boys. Systems are created to minimize and fracture the dreams of black people, and that all that progress taunted among those on the conservative right is a bunch of hot air blown to soothe white guilt.

This death has become a vehicle carrying copious agendas. Trayvon’s demise launched a movement that rekindled thoughts of past revolutions. This death fueled the pain of countless mothers and fathers. This death served as a collective I told you so budding in the hearts of those traumatized by what they felt was true. Black folks have not overcome yet. It’s the message rendered helpless by public policies and legislation that countered those claims.

Black folks have overcome. No we haven’t. I told you so.

So, is it really over, or has the real revolution for change just begun. Will Trayvon’s death move beyond an attack on a man who allegedly murdered a black teen for no other reason than his race? Will the focus be on Zimmerman’s trail, or will Trayvon’s death remain exhibit A in the case of black folk’s pain?

If the answer is yes, we will use this death to unveil America’s unfairness toward black folks, can it be said we use this miserable death to prove that I told you so? Can it be argued that we kill Trayvon, over and over again, by manipulating the calamity of his end to promote a larger agenda?

If Trayvon’s death is about the racism of Zimmerman, is it an act of justice to make Zimmerman’s bigotry to confirm America’s problem with race? Is it credible to take the errors of a few to gauge the intentions of all who carry the same hue?

If the answer is no, then how does this death serve us beyond the arrest and impending trail of George Zimmerman? Can death be used to inspire change? If so, how? Now that the arrest has been made, what happens with all that collective pain not ready to stop marching? How do you turn the faucet off when enough water hasn’t been poured to baptize the soul of America?

Maybe it’s time to ask a different question. We have been asking why Zimmerman hasn’t been arrested. Maybe it’s time to ask how many Trayvon’s do we know. Maybe we should collect names from across the country. How many black boys have died for no apparent reason? When we have those names and numbers; we can ask a more perplexing question. Why?

When you stop and think about it, the angst is connected to those questions. I told you so goes much deeper than Trayvon’s death. God knows we grieve for Trayvon and his family. How many more do we know? How many funerals have we endured? How deep is this pain?

It’s not over yet.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Economic development requires more than a promise


The closure of the TROSA Grocery confirms my suspicion regarding economic development in North-East Central Durham. People aren’t listening. People are out of touch. Far too many assumptions are being made. There isn’t a well-defined plan on how to stimulate growth.

That has to change.

That’s not a criticism of those who did their best to offer people a market within footsteps of the block once known as the hotspot for drugs and prostitution. Joe and Elaine Bushfan and former city councilman Dan Hill are devoted to bringing life back to the corner. Hill attended the church across from Joe’s Dinner and remembers the ice cream parlor, pharmacy and other businesses that drew customers from the neighborhood.

The death of tobacco and white flight changed all of that. The old Y.E. Smith School has remained vacant in wait of a project to reawaken what was a cornerstone of the community. Hope came when the city council approved an incentive plan that pours $236,000 to kick start the renovation of the school. The Maureen Joy School will vacate the space. It’s a partnership between the Self-Help Credit Union, the owners of the property, and the school. Self-Help will invest $10.4 million to restore the building.

The approval of the incentive plan unpacks a complex quandary involving economic development within the context of disparate agendas. In offering incentives to Self-Help on this project, the city council has, indirectly, extended support to a charter school. They’ve done so under the pretext that the project will stimulate growth in North-East Central Durham. Could it be that they have done so at the expense of public education?

This is a clear cut case of conflicting agendas. At the end of the day, the council opted on the side of economic stimulation. A more pressing issue is the correlation between the Y.E. Smith school renovation and the assumed stimulation of economic growth. Dan Levine, project manager for Self-Help, contends the project will result in the collection of $30,000 per year in new property tax revenue, and foster economic development and job creation. To that I offer, show me the plan.

There’s no doubt that the building is an eyesore that demands attention. The question is at what cost? Do we forfeit the integrity of public education for a promise?

Steve Schewel, former school board member and current member of the city council, opposed the incentive plan. He noted that, by state law, the Maureen Joy School is incapable of making a request for city funds. Given Maureen Joy will be the only tenant; the incentive plan is direct support for a charter school. The deal establishes a precedent that could come back and haunt the city council.

To that, Michael Goodman, vice president of real estate of Capitol Broadcasting Co. and son of company president Jim Goodman, came to the defense of Maureen Joy and the Self-Help Credit Union. He noted that the A.J. Flecther Foundation, which is led by his family, is backing the project with $275,000 going directly to Maureen Joy. That money will underwrite relocation expenses and equip the old building with a gym.

Goodman’s offer further obscures the significance of the incentive plan. The foundation isn’t funding economic development. It’s an affordable loan that supports the school. The support of the A.J. Flecther Foundation further strains the credibility of a proposal that uses public money to fund a charter school. Even more maddening are the assumptions offered devoid of specific plans regarding the stimulation of economic development and job creation.

Are we to believe the building will be enough to encourage other businesses to join the crowd? Did that happen after $16 million was invested to renovate the Holton Career and Resource Center? The upgrade has transformed the Driver Street community, but has it impacted economic growth and job creation? If not, why not?

What’s most telling in the promise coming from The Self-Help Credit Union is the lack of a conversation related to their participation in the revitalization of the North-East Central community beyond the renovation of the Y.E. Smith School. The same is absent from the statement regarding Goodman’s commitment from the Flecther Foundation. There’s a promise for growth and job creation, but no one has shown a plan that moves past this project.

Doesn’t the community deserve more than that? If those with deep pockets are willing to place an alternative school within the neighborhood, and, in doing so, create massive ambiguity surrounding the liaison between public money and ventures that impede our public agenda, shouldn’t we ask for more than a promise? Don’t we deserve more than a pitch for incentives?

What else will The Self-Help Credit Union offer North East Central Durham? What will the Goodman’s bring to the table? If the answer is a nice school with a promise, my response to the members of the city council is you have been bamboozled for a promise.

The citizens deserve more than a promise. Show me the money.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Political endorsements reflect an opportunity missed


Another opportunity has been flushed down the toilet. Most people missed it when it happened. Even more could care less.

It’s one of those things lost among the litter that keeps Durham fragmented by this thing called race. It was an opportunity missed. It was a chance to prove that changes within the Durham Committee on Affairs of Black People leadership would alter the level of communication and collaboration with the People’s Alliance. It turns out there is more to this story than problems with Lavonia Allison.

For years, members of the People’s Alliance have belittled the DCABP for failing to form a pact to assure the advancement of a progressive political agenda. The recent cycle of endorsements demonstrates bad blood that removes Allison from the conversation about why these two groups can’t get along. The arrogance and lack of compromise from the folks within the People’s Alliance sends a message that demands attention.

The best word to describe what happened is War. The beef began when members of the People’s Alliance refused to play nice. Members of the DCABP leadership team approached the People’s Alliance to build a bridge. It didn’t happen.

The rift between the PAC’s is over the 751 development project. The People’s Alliance has called for a full blitz in removing anyone in support of the plan. They regard the project a major threat to the ecosystem and are prepared to take no prisoners. Members of the DCABP claim the project will create new jobs in a troubled economy. It’s the same skirmish that divided the groups when Wal-Mart wanted to build on 15-501 and Southpoint was proposed for Fayetteville Road.

The People’s Alliance refused to negotiate with members of the DCABP. Their conclusion is simple - oust the three liable for pushing the development forward. Get rid of Joe Bowser, Michael Page and Brenda Howerton. All three are black, and members of the DCABP are concerned over maintaining a racial balance on the Board of County Commissioners. No deal. Let the door hit your back side.

To add further insult, the People’s Alliance endorsed James Dornfried over Orlando F. Hudson, Jr. for Superior Court Judge. Hudson has been on the bench since 1989, and Dornfried has never served as a judge. Many argue that Dornfried lacks the experience to become Court judge, and should spend some time as a District Court Judge before tackling the rigors of the Superior Court. That endorsement has many wondering about the motive behind the attack on Hudson. Is this about his handling of Tracy Cline or is there a bad smell in the room? The bad blood thickens.

Next up, the DCABP’s endorsements. Those endorsed for the Board of County Commissioners is significant, but even more telling were the reason behind their selection. Phil Cousins, the chairman of the DCABP, mentioned the 751 project as key in the selection process. Despite the mishandling in the firing of Gerri Robinson, the former director at DSS, the audit that concedes laws broken in that process and a lawsuit coming from that fiasco, the DCABP endorsed Joe Bowser.

Bowser and Michael Page have been entangled like two gemsboks clashing horns. Despite the controversy regarding their relationship on the board, both were endorsed by the Durham Committee. Brenda Howerton, the other black incumbent, also got the nod from the DCABP. They threw in Fred Foster, who received the endorsement from the People’s Alliance, to round out an all black slate.

The sentiment before the endorsements was that the DCABP would endorse Wendy Jacobs as a compromise for the People’s Alliance endorsing Michael Page. The more telling moves in this endorsement cycle may be about the strategies of both groups. Why did the People’s Alliance endorse Will Wilson, and why did the Durham Committee endorse Fred Foster, who was endorsed by the People’s Alliance?

Both are intriguing for different reasons. If the DCABP selected based on candidates positions on 751, and the People’s Alliance did the same, why would both groups endorse him? Is his position cloudy, or is he strong enough to overcome people’s concerns regarding that position? Could it be that Foster serves as a compromise candidate, or is he the People’s Alliance’s way out of being tagged for failing to consider any of the other black candidates on the slate?

Then there’s the Will Wilson issue. What was it that led to him getting the nod with the People’s Alliance? The obvious answer is his anti 751 position, but will that be enough to get him over the hump? What is it that led the People’s Alliance to go with only four endorsements, a strategy often used by the DCABP, and used again in this endorsement cycle?

The games played by both groups lends to a broader conversation related to what is best for Durham County. Has the war minimized the integrity of a process aimed at presenting voters the best candidates for office? These are questions commonly asked of the DCABP. The public has held contempt due to the DCABP failing to engage in dialogue aimed at solving the riddle of the best among those running for office.

Once again, it came down to the matter of race. This time it’s not the DCABP responsible for the war of race. The People’s Alliance failed to smoke the peace pipe.

And now we’re back to politics as usual in Durham.

An opportunity missed.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Why am I still a Christian?


It’s the day before Easter, and I’m cramming to pull together the last thoughts for my early morning sermon. After preaching Easter messages for close to 30 years, something seems different this year. My reflections related to the resurrection story have been altered by a series of events that forces me to ponder what it means to be a Christian.

Sadly, I’ve had to ask a question that some may feel odd for a man who has served churches in three states since the age of 19. I’ve grown up under the robes worn to cover the humanity of those called to teach sacred truths. Yes, I came to this faith after gaining strength enough to unload the shackles that robbed me of my authentic identity. The call came shortly after I found faith, and it didn’t take long for me to find myself in front of the people each week preaching and teaching the lessons of that man who came to set the captives free.

So much has happened over the years. From the rise to the top among those who do this preacher thing, to one ostracized for taking on agendas that go against the normal breed of Church Folks. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about all that has happened to force that radical shift. The fact is I’m comfortable with standing in solidarity with those deemed worthless by those who sing those hymns and cry onto the Lord each week. I regard this as the cross I must bear.

My point of contention is about what does it mean for me to be a Christian? More and more I’m forced to ask that question. I feel isolated from others who read the same text and sing the same songs. More and more, I’m forced to examine the credibility of my claim of service as a leader of faith. Put another way, I’m lonely. I’m lonely and hurt and confused due to the separation I’ve endured. I feel the sting of isolation. I feel the agony of glaring into that cup and asking, “Must I drink this Lord? Must I take hold of the ache of separation?”

This Easter is unlike the rest. I’ve asked why. What is it about this year that forces me to dig deeper as I ask the question I don’t want to consider – why do I continue to call myself a Christian when so many Christian reject me? Why remain faithful to an institution that revels in maintaining the contradictions of its claims? Why continue to deliberate over what it means to be a prophetic witness while depending on those Christians you are challenging to feed you?

The more I think about it, the more I’m forced to embrace the question I don’t want to consider. It is the question we all should ask. Not only on Easter, but every day. What is it about this faith that keeps us engrossed? How do we take hold of these teachings while so many around us are using it to demoralize others and create deep wedges between the families of God?

The more I face it, the more it comes to me. I know why I continue to be a Christian. I’m a Christian because I’ve become more of a Christian upon becoming less of a leader of the faith. In giving up the life of leadership, I’ve discovered the message of redemption. Isn’t that what the Good Friday message means? Something has to die before something can live. Our dependency on faith as a means of defining special favor has to die before we can see the worth of others, and take hold of what it means to love another beyond the way we perceive them.

I’m beginning to understand, more and more, what it means to be stripped for service. One thing is missing for me. It’s the reason I carry so much pain during this Easter season. I’ve been waiting and praying for the power after the crucifixion. I know the death that comes with saying yes to change. Yes, I have died for the teachings I hold dear. I have embraced what it means to be a Christian, but I continue to wait for the hope that comes after the death.

I need my resurrection.

How do you preach when death remains? Could it be it came and I missed it due to looking in the wrong place? Was it hidden behind my expectation? Is it possible that I’m living within my resurrection, yet cling to death because I’ve yet to understand new life?

If that is true my work continues. If not, misery follows the death.

Speak Holy Spirit. Speak.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

When vodou comes to church

Papa Legba is a veve symbol associatd with the sun, seen as life-giver and as the bridge between realms

It must be the spirit of the vey vey that moved the Bull Durham Blues Festival back to the Durham Athletic Park. Just when it seemed like the event wouldn’t be able to find a suitable home, maybe the vodou worked some magic.

My Christian readers may take offense at the suggestion that vodou rather than prayer paved the way for the move back to the place noted for some of Durham’s best memories. Don’t blame me for making mention of the power of the veve, a symbol associated with vodou, for evoking the move back to the best place to hold a festival. Take a close look at the symbol on top of the Hayti Heritage Center. It’s a veve.

How did that happen?

I mean, seriously, how is it that a vey vey tops what was the St. Joseph AME Church? The building was completed in 1915, and those church going members conceded to placing a veve where the traditional symbol of their faith normally stands. Vodou takes the place of the cross.

Given the name given the community surrounding the church – Hayti – it’s clear that those living and working in the community, back in the day, were moved by Haiti’s fight for liberation. It was on August 22, 1791, at a vodou ceremony, that the call for revolution was issued by a vodou priest. Dutty Boukman, the Hougan (vodou priest), was captured and executed, after plantations went up in flames.

Toussaint Louverture led the revolution that inspired slaves throughout the new world. It’s understandable why those engaged in building businesses and establishing a life free from the grip of their former owners selected a name that conjures thoughts of liberation. Haiti is the best way one could say, “we ain’t playing over here.”

The spelling is different, but the sentiment is the same. Durham’s Hayti was and is a symbol of black pride. But does that answer the riddle of why a vey vey was chosen to top the church in the heart of the community? I mean, that’s a move toward ecumenism way ahead of its time. It’s tough enough getting the Baptist in the same room with the Methodist, how did they agree, in 1915, to get a meeting of minds between the Methodist and the vodou?

It would be an insult to their intelligence to suggest they didn’t know. Someone may want to offer that they thought the symbol cute. Not hearing it. Or, could it be, that the people in Durham’s Hayti weren’t as uptight when it came to the practice of vodou? Maybe they understood that vodou is a merging of Catholicism and African religion. Maybe it was practiced among those who attended the church, and, if that is true, it may be a part of Durham’s religious history that no one wants to address.

What makes the presence of the vey vey so intriguing are the images inside the former church. The vodou symbol on the top is an interesting juxtaposition to the stain glass windows of the Duke’s on the inside. The Duke’s are immortalized in stain glass because they helped pay for the building. They poured money into helping getting North Carolina Mutual Insurance started. Those deep pockets funded the building of the White Rock Baptist Church and Lincoln Community Health Center.

That vey vey on top of the church says volumes about the black community’s racial and religious identity. The stained glass inside says loads about the relationships between the white people who helped fund black folks dreams and the people who gathered every Sunday to praise the Lord. The building held it all in balance in a way begging us to contemplate the implications of being grounded in such a complex communal identity.

The center continues to function while maneuvering around its varied interest. In one corner is a legacy of revolution swinging on top of the building. In another are the images of white privilege, power and money. In between it all are challenges to remain faithful to the interest that continue to support the work. Like the symbol on the top, so much remains hushed under the cloak of that’s none of your dang business. Sadly, generation come and go unaware of the significance of their history. Someone knew. Someone may know, but no one is talking about how vodou ends up on top of the church.

So, what happens when you have a union between vodou and an AME Church? It’s like two for the price of one. Maybe, just maybe, that’s what it took to bring the Blues Festival back to the Durham Athletic Park.

Only God knows.