Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Places in Durham I will miss

Join Carl W. Kenney II at the Beyu Café to say goodbye on Sunday, September 22 from 4:30 pm – 7:00 pm.

Leaving Durham is much tougher than I thought.  I knew it would be hard to say goodbye to the city that helped mold me into the man I have become.  Shucks, I don’t even recognize the dude who came to Durham in 1988 to attend divinity school at Duke.  He got lost in between pretending and self-discovery.

I get on a plane headed to Columbia, Missouri on October 5.  My life will transform into something unlike I’ve known before.  I’m certain I’ll find new battles to wage.  I’m not so sure about who will partner with me in the quest for justice.  I’ll take it one day at a time.

Until then, I reflect on Durham.  The past week has been rapt with personal reflection of the people and places I will miss.  Many have reached out to share their hope and regret.  Others have told me they will be present on Sunday for the farewell party at the Beyu Café.

The Beyu Café.  They don’t have one of those in Columbia, Missouri.  There’s so much I will miss.  So much that I will never be able to replace.

It’s what makes Durham unique. 

So, I came up with a list of the places I will miss the most.  Each has more than a few special memories.

10. Blue Coffee Café.  This one makes the list because of Gwen.  I love that woman.  I love her faith and determination.  I love that she fought through the tough year’s downtown to stay in business.  I love that she has a business in the heart of downtown that has become a hub of all forms of activity. 

9. Duke Gardens. The garden has been my get away spot since I landed in Durham.  Many poems have been written there.  I’ve often imaged getting married there, but, dot, dot, and dot.  Insert missed opportunities.

8. The Carolina Theatre.  It would be higher on the list if Connie Campanaro was still there.  We formed the type of bond that made me aware of the power the arts has in changing minds.  I may miss Connie more than the theatre, but great memories were formed there. Oh yeah, I feel in love there.

7. Bull Durham Blues Festival.  I remember the old days when the festival was held at the Durham Athletic Park.  Everyone was there.  I always left thinking, “this is what makes Durham special.”  I crave the festival returning to its glory years.

6. Bimbe Festival.  I first attended the festival in 1992 when Carl Washington, former director of Durham’s Parks & Recreation Department, asked me to attend to pour libations.  Washington became my best friend until his death.  I attend each year to remember and reflect on his passion for social justice and our friendship.

5. Beyu Café. One day Dorian Bolden, the owner of Beyu, shared his vision for Beyu.  At the time he was working as a barista at Alivia’s at Brightleaf Square. I listened, but filed the conversation in a pile with other pipe dreams.  Did he prove me wrong!  The Beyu Café has become Durham’s hotspot for live jazz.  I love the place because of Dorian.

4. The Regulator Bookshop. John Valentine and Tom Campbell, owners of the Regulator, have been good friends.  They keep both of my books on the shelves and offer consistent encouragement when they see me on 9th Street.  They give meaning to “support local.”

3. Parker & Otis. It’s the place we gather for our Saturday Morning Breakfast Club.  What can I say?  These folks have both changed and saved my life over and over again.  They have loved me through tough seasons.  To say I love them is an extreme understatement.  Members include: Mike Woodard, Naomi Quinn, Heather Linton, Pat Hoffman, Chuck Watts, Amy Laura Hall, George Vaughn, Ken Duke, Bill Goldston, Al Thorn and Pete Eastman.

2. Sincerely Yours Salon.  Glenda Jones, owner of Sincerely Yours, maintained my locs (not dreadlocks.  They are not dreadful) from the beginning until the end a few months back.  The process of locking my hair led to an internal transformation that redefined my life and ministry.  Glenda loved me through the process by offering support and insight that will be missed.  Our friendship, like my hair, is proof that some things may be cut from your life, but the things that matter the most never fade away.

1. Market Street Coffee House. Also known as my office, the former Bean Traders on 9th Street is the home of the “Bum’s Club”.  The club was formed by me and Owen Flanagan, the James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Neurobiology at Duke University.  Members of the club are those who give the impression that they are bums while producing great work. Flanagan is that brother from another mother.  We refute the notion of race and talk about differences in hue.  After my surgery, Flanagan took me into his home to take care of me.  My greatest regret in leaving is that Owen is in China teaching until Christmas.  My office defines me like no other place.  There are so many friends there – too many to count.

Each place is connected to people.  That’s what I will miss about Durham - the love and support of a community.

Durham is home, and nothing can take that away.



  1. I'm sorry I can't be there. I'll have to be there in spirit. As you know, Carl, I've moved away, too. And I can tell you that there is both sadness and excitement in change. I missed you all terribly when I left. But if it's any consolation, for every Durham person and place that is so irreplaceable, there are new people and places that have their own unique value. If you are open to what's new, it can be a real growth experience. There is always the need to fight for justice, but do not forget to notice the many joys and the great beauty out there that makes it's worth the fight. Good luck in this new venture. And keep in touch. Love and respect-- Pat

  2. I've really enjoyed your posts from Durham. I even followed your advice and bought the Mumia video although I haven't had the courage to watch it yet.

    I hope you keep posting from your new home.

    Your voice is too honest to lose.

  3. As I have told you several times, I will definitely miss you here in the Bull City. You have given me needed advice, some that I didn't always listen to - yes I can have a stubborn streak as well - but in whatever my endeavors have been, such as working with the various music festivals in town or helping with the Hayti Film Festival and various other projects, you have been there as a friend and a supporter...And I know that although you will be many states away, I can count on keeping in touch with you and us working on new projects both here and throughout the country if not the world....