Monday, January 23, 2023

The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People faces legacy with new possibilities

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Walter Jackson says the future of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People (DCABP) is in the hands of a group of capable young people.

Those young leaders join seasoned organizers to form a team prepared to continue the legacy of North Carolina’s oldest Black led group engaged in the empowerment of Black people.

The installation of new officers and committee chairs takes place during the DCABP annual meeting on Sunday January 29 at St. Joseph A.M.E. Church, 2521 Fayetteville Street beginning at 3:00 p.m.

Formed in 1935 by C.C. Spaulding, president of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, James E. Shepard, founder of what became North Carolina Central University, Rencher N. Harris, W.D. Hill, R. L. McDougald, J. T. Taylor and Louis Austin, publisher of The Carolina Times, the group of men referred to as “a committee of influential Negroes” formed a powerful coalition that distinguishes Durham from other communities.

In 1936, while Black men were being lynched across the nation for simply being Black, 78 percent of Black people registered to vote in Durham, NC. The DCABP facilitated Black political and economic activism that helped build one of the nation’s leading Black Wall Streets.

Today, the label of being “a committee of influential Negroes”, points to divides within the Black community – the haves versus people without, young versus older and heterosexual versus alternative sexual and gender identities. There's also an influx of new people unfamiliar with the DCABP and its rich history.

For decades, discussions involve whether the credibility and sway of the DCABP has declined due to dwindling membership, a lack of collaboration with other groups and rumors of persistent infighting.

Jackson obtained a bachelor’s degree from UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media after he graduated from Durham’s Hillside High School. He’s a Vietnam War veteran and former reporter for the Durham Morning Herald and the Charlotte Observer. He founded Ideas Coffee House after retiring from Standard Oil.

The Rev-elution engaged in a Q&A format interview with Jackson to consider his vision for the DCABP. 

Rev-elution: Some argue the influence of the DCABP has waned over the past two decades due to changing demographics combined with the increased influence of Durham’s People Alliance. Is this a fair assessment?

There is an old saying that the proof of the pudding is in the eating.  There are probably many ways of looking at and trying to assess the influence of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, but one of the most common ways of looking at its influence is just looking at the people who are serving in significant elected and appointed positions in our city and county.  Few cities in America can compare with Durham in having the quantity and quality of officials who represent us well that we have in Durham, and I don't think the situation has ever been better in that regard. Can The Durham Committee claim all of the credit for that?  No, certainly not.  Would we have the same results without the presence and influence of The Durham Committee?  My answer to that would also be no, certainly not.  So, I would say any reports of the waning of The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People are greatly exaggerated.  Going into our 88th year, we still have a lot of work to do.  

Rev-elution: What is your vision for improving the DCABP’s position as a powerful voice in support of Durham’s Black citizens? How does this influence show up beyond elections?  

That is a great follow up to my previous response.  Even though people's thoughts about The Committee do often revolve around election results, there is so much more, and we intend to continue to work to make our voice and presence felt and heard in many ways, including continuing to stake out positions on major issues and make our support of or opposition to various policy matters well known to public officials, and work to hold them accountable to the electorate.  We want to make sure that we are making a difference in the lives of residents in very meaningful ways, including housing, education, economic development, health and public safety and other ways that affect people's daily lives.  

Rev-elution: Is the DCABP engaged in establishing a position that affirms LGBTQIA residents? If so, how is that position communicated and how will it be used to promote an inclusive mission?

Although I think we are and want to be an opinion leader in our community, the DCABP also largely reflects the priorities and will of our community.  We have certainly supported a number of candidates who are themselves LGBTQIA and/or are closely aligned with the values and priorities of such residents, I have no knowledge that we have ever engaged in establishing a position on this, among all the other challenges that we are facing as a community.  The fact that we have not obviously does not mean that we will not, but with all the other great challenges facing our community I would be somewhat surprised to see this matter percolate to the top in the short-term future.

Rev-elution: The DCABP was founded and supported by powerful Black business owners. As the influence of independent Black business owners’ fades, so has the influence of the DCABP. What adjustments do you envision to offset expanding concerns rooted in economic disparity (gentrification, affordable housing and a wealth gap)?

First, I am going to repeat that I challenge any assertion that the influence of the DCABP has faded.  And even though I might somewhat know the answer to this question I'm going to come back with a retort than might resonate in the African American community:  "Says who?"  We absolutely do have great concerns about economic disparity in Durham, however.  That concern is obviously part of a national and international problem of economic disparity, but we will certainly be most focused on Durham and what can be done here.  As opposed to the idea of me and our new leadership team trying to come forth with our own answers to complex questions like these we are looking at engaging the vast pools of talent and expertise we have available to us within the Durham Committee and partner with other organizations and educational institutions to work on devising strategies that will work best for Durham.  The problem is deeply rooted in our national and even international history, and it is not something that will be solved quickly and easily, and is probably going to be with us on some level for even decades and centuries to come.  That might sound pessimistic to some, but to me it reflects the reality of a situation that none of us created.

Rev-elution: What actions will DCABP take to expand and support diversity in membership? Specifically, youth, people living in public housing, people with disabilities and people of color who don’t identify as Black American?

We have many challenges before us, and diversity issues of the type that you mentioned are certainly part of the package of those issues.  The world has changed and continues to change, and that applies to the Durham Committee as well.  The Durham Committee of today is not the Durham Committee of yesterday, and almost certainly will continue to change.  Some might see those changes as happening too fast, and others might see them as happening too slowly, but we are certainly changing and adjusting.  We have seen an uptick in membership in just the last few weeks, and I predict that that membership increase is going to continue and accelerate.  More younger people are coming into the organization, and some of them are taking on key leadership roles.  We have not had an opportunity to collectively address many of these issues, but watch what we do much more than what we say we are going to do.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating.


DCABP officers for 2023: Shea Ramirez, serving as Second Vice Chair, Thelma Glenn White as Third Vice Chair, and Dr. Tara Fikes will begin a new term as Executive Secretary.  

DCABP committee chairs for 2023: Angelique Stallings will continue to serve chair of the Civic Committee, and Rosa Anderson will continue to serve as Civic Committee Vice Chair.  Attorney Cassandra Stokes will be serving as new chair of the Political Committee, and Jadda Richardson serving as Vice Chair.  Dr. Wanda Boone will continue to serve as chair of the Health Committee, and Attorney Stephen Valentine will be the new chair of the organization’s Legal Redress Committee.



Friday, November 11, 2022

2022 Carolina Youth Mentoring Symposium explores the "courage to thrive"

Atrayus O. Goode, president & CEO of Youth Mentoring Collaborative (YMC) grew up in a household plagued by drug abuse. His background shapes his understanding of how Black and Brown students navigate traumatic experiences while attempting to get an education.

“Meeting my first mentor through the 100 Black Men of America afforded me the social and emotional support I needed to chart a different course, ultimately becoming the first in my family to attend college," Goode said. “That experience launched me into a lifetime journey of exploring how relationships, especially in a mentoring context, can bring fulfillment through noticing, caring effectively, and moving to action for yourself and those you love.”


Youth development experts from across the country gather on Saturday, November 12 at Friday Center, 100 Friday Center Drive, Chapel Hill, NC for the annual Carolinas Youth Mentoring Symposium to discuss ways to expand mentoring programs that promote health and well-being of families most impacted by systems of oppression. The YMC office is located at Provident1898, a Black-centric coworking community located in the historic NC Mutual tower. 


Goode says mentoring has the potential to disrupt patterns of disparity, while also perpetuating structural oppression through how programs view marginalized groups as targets of grant proposals instead of human beings.


“Instead of acknowledging how communities have been systematically stripped of power, many nonprofits—especially those focusing on mentoring and youth development—treat recipients of their services as needing to be saved from poor life choices,” Goode said. “For people on the receiving end, these invalidating environments create feelings of internalized inferiority that lower expectations, harm self-esteem, and ultimately impact their well-being.”


This year’s symposium features topics that elevate the power of identity-affirming mentoring relationships. Goode says YMC is exploring Healing-Centered Mentoring, an approach that examines the youth experience through varied perspectives to identify ways mentoring can promote mental wellness, while reducing structural barriers to mental health services.

Goode said Covid-19 exacerbated the mounting youth mental health crisis as school systems across the country continue to be overwhelmed with students experiencing elevated levels of stress and anxiety.


“But while the pandemic was hard on everyone, pre-pandemic realities for black and brown students disproportionately worsened pre-existing mental health conditions, hitting them and their families harder,” Goode said.


Participants at the symposium will be educated on several topics including advocacy, youth power and critical mentoring.


“Symposium attendees will have the chance to network and learn from each other, with the goal of taking knowledge back to their organizations. A new feature for this year's event is our youth track,” Kanalyn Jackson, vice president of training and organization at YMC said. “This track will have session topics around building relationships, entrepreneurship, working music industry, and the opportunity to connect and have fun.” 


Malenia Swinton, vice president of community engagement at YMC, said mentoring programs across the country, and specifically in North Carolina have experienced significant mentor and mentee attrition. Not being able to meet in person for mentoring session, funding and sustainability and mentor morale are contributing factors that negatively impact programs.


“However, we've seen mentoring programs rise to the challenge and fill gaps in services in their communities,” Swinton said. “Communities are reprioritizing young people and their mental health, pouring more resources into mentoring programs and other initiatives that support the health and well-being of youth.”


Swinton believes the symposium will serve as a catalyst for attendees to become more invested in the mentoring movement.


“By bringing together some of the brightest and most forward-thinking leaders from government, education, business, and beyond: we hope the Symposium plants the seed for even more meaningful and impactful mentoring relationships,” Swinton said. 

Hannah McKinney, manager of communications & storytelling at YMC, said the story of mentoring is about radically changing the lives of youth and their families.

 “Unfortunately, one in three young people grows up without a person or people that they can rely on. In this story, the problem is that historically disadvantaged and underserved youth lack reliable, supportive adult relationships,” McKinney said. “The solution is goal-based mentoring relationships with adults who can support their development. Who wouldn’t be swayed by a story like that?”

Friday, July 1, 2022

Herschel Walker and other Black men "pickin' and grinnin" like Amos and Andy

commentary - I consider it an honor being a public intellectual within the tradition of Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, E. Franklin Frazier, James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon, St. Clair Drake, Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Make no mistake, I’m not as prolific in my work. I do claim responsibility connected to a rich tradition – Black men who read, process and write about the impact of race on the lives of Black men and women.

I could name a legion of Black women. Zora Neale Hurston, Anna Julia Cooper, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Ida B. Wells, Maria W. Stewart, Francess Ellen Watkins Harper – who shape how I view the intersected nature of race, class and gender as they apply to groups and individuals in systems of discrimination. They help me in considering how my being a heterosexual, Christian, man provides a level of power beyond the limits of being a Black man.

I revere the work of Black women, but this is about my bond with Black male writers, past and present.

Why does it matter?

A few names come to mind. Herschel Walker, Republican candidate to represent Georgia as a U.S. Senator. North Carolina Lt. Gov Mark Roberts and Jahnmaund Lane, who unsuccessfully, as a Black Republican, took a shot to become mayor of Durham. Insert Negro please.

The three Black men listed have things in common. Yes, being Black is on that list. Yes, being a man is on that list. Yes, being a Republican forces rapid headshaking followed by an onslaught of name calling akin to “Uncle Tom”, “Sellout” along with being a disgrace to grandma and “them” for forgetting where you come from. It’s on that list.

Lane took center stage among other Black men representing alt-right, conspiracy minded Republicans, after seeking membership on Durham’s Human Relations Commission. Durham’s progressives followed with public scorn bearing witness to being way past being sick and tired. Lane’s public reputation took a hit after White Progressive Twitter (something like Black Twitter without real street cred) reminded people of what happened before and after soldiers enlisted in Donald Trump’s army and showed up at the U.S. Capitol to allegedly lynch Vice President Mike Pence for failing to abide by Emperor… I mean former President… Trump’s, command.

Pictures of Lane postured in front of a Trump flag circulated on social media after his wish to serve on the Human Relations Commission became public.

There is all of that – the foolishness of a Black man - given all grandma, granddaddy and Black folks history books (because Black history doesn’t show up in many of the other books) tells us about enduring hardship through many dangers, toils and snares. Nope, I’m not talking about singing “Amazing Grace”. For context and meaning, sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as reference to Black folks been through more than a trip to the stereotypical escape at the corner liquor store.

Thus, my fascination with Black scholars and their work.

Real talk involving work that escapes the regurgitation of words aimed at whitesplaining the Black experience of racism in America. Real work beyond pickin’ and grinnin’ like “Amos and Andy” as a subplot in an ongoing drama created to degrade Black people. Real talk to counter the pigeonhole of Black folks being greedy, dishonest and schemers in a world created to instill white wealth and comfort. Do I need to say it, again? Negro, please.

My gurus of Black intellectual thought continue to battle the futility of overzealous Black capitulation. They consistently subdue the temptation to embrace the lure of demeaning rhetoric that abates the effects of the history and continuing quandary of white folks pitching a narrative that it’s only in our imagination. How many times must I say Negro, please?

The Black gurus of Black conscious thinking challenge the simpleminded ways of some white people. Why Herschel over Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock. Put some respect on that name – Warnock with an earned Ph.D. – versus a barely literate Black man? He play feetball. Insert proper spelling for the folks who don’t know the difference.

The Georgia senate race pits one Black man against another. What type of Black man are white folks interested in supporting after an educated Negro became President of the freaking United States? Can we insert fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me?

Is this the payback for smart Black folks making white folks feel stupid? Help me understand how that’s not true after Mark Roberts got enough votes to become North Carolina’s Lt. Gov. Google him to confront his homophobic, sexists, “Leave it to Beaver” back in the old days thinking political ideology. Somebody please find his people! One more time for the folks not keeping pace. Negro, please.

Are these Black men the anti-Obama? Even more, is there an attack on smart Black men?

These “Amos and Andy”, behind-the-times thinking Negros find themselves on center stage singing and dancing like minstrel show performer wearing black face makeup.

Stated before picking up another book with more than 500 pages to help me explain why all of it is a damn shame.


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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Historic Hayti redeveloment cost more than 40-acres and a mule


The Biltmore Hotel and the Regal movie theater on Pettigrew Street in 1947

What’s the cost to rebuild Durham’s Historic Hayti community after the freeway bulldozed the once vibrant Black community?

It’s more than 40-acres and a mule.

Hayti expands beyond the 19-acres proposed for redevelopment by the Durham Housing Authority (DHA) at Fayette Place. It spreads down Pettigrew Street connecting to Roxboro Rd. It covers space now occupied by Ponysaurus Brewing and the Durham Police Department headquarters. It extends to property on Dillard Street, the home of The Fruit, an art space and creative playground. It includes Hi-Wire Brewing, Durham Bottling Company, Smashing Boxes and remodeled office space on Ramsuer Street.

Development in Historic Hayti began shortly after downtown redevelopment advanced to alter the face of Durham. The site of lavish apartments, and fine dining eateries, wait for transplants lured by the city’s new reputation. The expansion continues beyond the downtown corridor as developers seize hold of rich opportunities.

What about old Hayti?

In 1982, the editor of the Carolina Times warned of the consequence of impending growth. The paper accused city planners of having their sight on the old Hayti district connecting to downtown Durham. Much of that land remains waiting for future development. Parts already redeveloped add to tension related to what could have been and what should become of the former Black housing and business district.

“This is a battle of power and money. The stakes are high. To city planners, the area compliments plan to rebuild downtown. In their judgment, the old Hayti is fertile ground for planning houses to give the revitalized downtown people a 24-hour life,” The Carolina Times said.

Bull House Apartments occupy space near where the Regal, a 500-seat movie theater built and operated by George Logan in 1927, and the Biltmore Hotel, built in 1923 by Dr. Clyde Donnell stood as monuments of Black pride across from Union Station on Pettigrew Street.

The Pettigrew Street section of Hayti connected with Durham’s downtown, within walking distance of the famed Black Wall Street on Parish Street. To fully understand the life and culture of Durham’s Black community prior to the flattening of Hayti, it’s critical to envision the impact of property beyond the area now designated for Hayti development.

West Parrish Street, along with portions of Hayti on the North side of the Durham Freeway, formed a hub of Black-owned businesses that flourished beginning in early 1900s.

“To-day there is a singular group in Durham where a black man may get up in the morning from a mattress made by black men, in a house which a black man built out of lumber which black men cut and planned; he may put on a suit which he brought at a colored haberdashery and socks knit at a colored mill; he may cook victuals from a colored grocery on a stove which black men fashioned; he may earn his living working for colored men; be sick in a colored hospital, and buried from a colored church; and the Negro insurance society will pay his widow enough to keep his children in a colored school,” W.E.B. Du Bois writes in his 1912 essay “The Upbuilding of Black Durham”.

Hayti encompasses more than the space between Durham Freeway and a few blocks past North Carolina Central University. The sadness regarding efforts to resurrect a once thriving Black community regards the limited scope attached to a once thriving Black community.

Hayti includes the Heritage Square retail center, land close to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Scientific Properties, a company owned by Andrew Rothschild, brought Heritage Square in 2007 for $4 million. In 2019, two LLCs, 401 E. Lakewood LLC and 606 Fayetteville LLC, fronted by investors from Austin, Texas, purchased the property for $12.5 million.

Food World Market and Subway occupy space on the 9.58-acre property. The new owners wait as the value continues to increase on land with flexible zoning that allows for retail, multifamily, office and mixed-use development up to 150 feet high.

Before relocating to New York after a failed attempt to purchase the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance building, Rothchild proposed a mixed-use development promoting a walkable live-work community. Opposition from Larry Hester and delays by the City Planning Commission ended a promising plan. It didn’t help that Rothchild is white.

Corinne Mabry, a member of the planning commission, told a reporter with the News & Observer she “was not going to sell her people down the river,” a recap of Durham’s epic destruction of the Hayti district.

The rebuilding of Hayti involves the allocation of more than 40-acres and a mule. Recovery involves more than acreage currently identifies as the former Hayti district. Hayti redevelopment comprises Pettigrew Street, Heritage Square, parts of downtown Durham and land extending past Main Street.

The damage triggered by a freeway aimed at developing the Research Triangle Park came with the annihilation of more than the 19-acres were the former Fayette Place stood. Conversations involving Hayti should extend beyond the goals of DHA. These conversations should involve the gains made by white led businesses on land in the historic Hayti district.

It's time to address the full magnitude of Hayti’s destruction. It’s time to ponder how city leaders participated in the corrosion of Black prosperity beyond a few blocks named as a redevelopment district. Hayti reborn involves the rebuilding of Black affluence inclusive of Durham’s downtown district.

The price for redevelopment cost more than 40-acres and a mule. Add the cost of interest and the loss of land beyond the reimaged plan of city leaders after the freeway destroyed Black dreams.


Friday, June 24, 2022

Durham City Council member rescinded vote of "Stop the Steal" particpant raises questions regarding assumptions of democracy and inclusion

commentary – Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal says Durham residents elected her to serve all people. Not a few based on their political positions. Not the people she agrees with, but all people.

Local critics challenge O’Neal’s willingness to bring all residents to the table after her vote to add Jahnmaud Lane, a robust supporter of former President Donald Trump, to become a member of Durham’s Human Rights Commission. O’Neal joined DeDreana Freeman and city council newcomer Monique Holsey-Hyman in support of adding Lane to the 17-member commission.

Controversy erupted when Councilwoman Jillian Johnson posted comments on social media regarding Lane’s attendance at Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

Holsey-Hyman responded by rescinding her support for Lane.

“His values and approach to conflict-solving conflicts with my own,” Holsey-Hyman said. “I absolutely want Durham residents to know that I am willing to welcome all different perspectives and diverse opinions, and I believe they all work for a better good.”

O’Neal says time spent listening to and getting to know Lane impacts how she views his right to participate in local government. Lane campaigned against O’Neal as a candidate to become Durham’s Mayor in last year’s municipal elections.

“He’s not as bad as people think,” O’Neal said. “Black men often get labeled for being loud with unpopular opinions. It’s important to get to know a person beyond what they believe.”

There’s a critical difference between Holsey-Hyman’s decision to rescind her vote and O’Neal’s statement regarding inclusion. O’Neal’s approach moves beyond the politics of a decision after considerable outrage. For many, it’s hard to accept O’Neal approach given the aftermath of what happened at the Capitol on January 6.

“Not everyone who was at the Capitol participated in what happened,” O’Neal said. “We have to be careful with assuming guilt because a person is in the crowd. How many people have been in places where things popped off outside of their control?”

Listening to O’Neal’s position reminds me of her years of service as a judge. She provides perspective regarding authentic inclusion. It’s important to consider all sides of the case prior to making a ruling.

“I don’t agree with his views. I don’t have to agree,” O’Neal said. “It’s called the Human Rights Commission. It matters that we hear from all humans, not just a few.”

O’Neal discussed the images from January 6 and their impact on her decision. She said not everyone at the Capitol is guilty of insurrection. Lane says he walked away from the rally after people stormed the Capitol.

Lane undoubtedly supports the belief that Trump lost the election due to voter fraud.  He’s among the myriad of Trump enthusiasts comparing the January 6 rally with protest following the death of George Floyd. Lane has outlandish political views derided by most Durham residents. He’s a Black Republican advocating the rights and power of white, heterosexual Christians. He promotes an agenda with a pride contrary to everything reflective of the typical position of the Black community.

Lane embodies the social and political ideology that most Durham residents despise. We’re quick to discount his massively insulting perspective. It’s easy to censure his voice. We chide him for his outlandish views in this season of extreme polarization. We make him the personification of Trump’s hostile takeover.

We can do that. We have the right to denounce the opinions of all people who follow Trump’s evil empire. We can label them, censure them and pronounce them guilty until proven innocent.

There is a more relevant question. Is this democracy?

Lane is among the group who travelled to the Capitol to “Stop the Steal”. He came to participate in democracy. What happened next may not have been what he planned. If so, there are courts to determine the consequences of guilt.

There’s a picture of Lane standing in front of the Capitol on January 6. What does the picture say about that day? Is Lane guilty of insurrection or is he simply guilty of being at the wrong place at the wrong time?

Lane is guilty of holding views contrary to most Durham residents. Most of us don’t agree with his assumptions regarding government. Most of us pray for people like Lane to go away.

Then, we’re reminded of democracy. The best of our decisions happens due to the debate.

I don’t have to agree with you. I don’t have to like what you say. There’s a part of me that prays for you to go away; however, this is a democracy.

I may not like it, but it helps if I take time to listen.

Don’t blame me. Blame the conventions of American democracy.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Carolina Times reports the story of Hayti's vanished dreams

The history of Durham’s Hayti community and the impact of urban renewal screams on the pages of The Carolina Times.

When presented with the proposal to build a freeway through the heart of Durham’s Hayti community, Black leaders promoted an opportunity to advance economic development.

“Not only are we in favor of the urban renewal part of the measure, but we are in favor of the bond issue in its entirety,” Louis Alston, publisher and editor of The Carolina Times, wrote on Sept. 22, 1962. “To be against it would place us in the position of limiting progress which is entirely out of line with the role this newspaper has endeavored to play during its approximately 40 years of experience.”

Alston conveys concern regarding white voters’ opposition to Durham urban renewal.

“If the bond issue is passed in its entirety, it will have to be passed by a solid Negro vote plus that of the few progressive and fair-minded white voters who are noble enough to rise above the level of prejudice and narrowness in supporting it,” Alston writes. “Frankly, we see no need of Negroes kidding themselves about the inevitable position the race holds in Durham.”

In the Sept. 15, 1962, issue of The Carolina Times, Alston warned Black voters of the possible defeat of the Urban Renewal Bond.

“As badly as the urban renewal project is needed for the future development of Durham as a whole, the mere fact that the anticipated improvements will be devoted for the most part to a Negro section is a kiss of death,” Alston writes. “The mass of white voters of this city will not respond favorably to any movement that means the betterment of the Negro’s lot. This has been proved again and again and there is no prospect that the condition will take a turn for the better on October 6 or soon thereafter.”

Ninety percent of Durham’s Black residents voted in support of the bond that displaced 600 Black residents and106 Black-owned businesses. Voters believed urban renewal would trigger massive economic progress in a community suffering due to a decline in population.

“The time has come when progressive white and Negro citizens here must rise above the program of race hatred, prejudice, bigotry, envy and jealousy that is now being advanced by Durham’s usual busy bodies when measures of progress are proposed,” Alston writes in his Sept. 22 editorial. “They must stand together, or Durham is certain to continue the state of stagnation and small pace progress it has experienced during the past 25 years which has seen it drop from the state’s fourth city in size to the fifth in position.”

Support for the urban renewal project dwindled after members of the White Rock Baptist Church scrambled to find a new location for their church edifice after the ravaging of their historical edifice.

“With many of Durham’s leading business and professional men and women, occupying positions on its roster of officers, the members of White Rock awakened one morning to find themselves out of doors, so far as having a place of their own in which to worship,” The Carolina Times reports on May 23, 1970. “Thus, they were forced to resort to the use of facilities at North Carolina Central University and a sister church, during the interim of the raising of their old House of Worship and the erection of a new edifice at another location.”

The Carolina Times challenged the members of St. Joseph AME Church to consider legal action in preparation for their forced relocation.

“Because of the critical situation experienced by White Rock, we feel it our bounden duty to sound a note of warning to the minister, officers and members of St. Joseph’s to get about their Father’s business, at once, and set their House of Worship in order, to determine whether surrounding circumstances of the present structure will eventually demand that they seek an outright new location as well as the erection of a new church edifice or be allowed to remain at its present site,” The Carolina Times states on May 23, 1970. “In the case of St. Joseph’s which has on its membership roll nine or more lawyers, as well as a member of the Urban Renewal, we would recommend that every legal angle be explored to determine whether the church has any chance of holding the Urban Renewal organization to its original proposal, which would have provided the church with sufficient area for parking at the present location, or whatever growth or development it may desire in the future.”

The May 23, 1970, article in The Carolina Times serves as a reminder of both the power and limitations of two of Durham’s most influential institutions – St. Jospeh AME Church and White Rock Baptist Church. The strain of urban renewal impacts the entirety of Durham’s Black community. The challenge to the members of St. Joseph “to get about their Father’s business” recognizes the massive power within the congregation.

Urban renewal transcendent the burden among poor Black residents devoid of the resources to battle the consequence of displacement. The demolition of White Rock’s historical edifice radically shifted the conversation. The Carolina Times, the leadership of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and Black residents recognized the smell in the air. They inhaled the aroma of a decaying community.

The Black community felt the pain of being hoodwinked.

Vivian Edmonds assumed control of The Carolina Times after her father, Louis Alston, died in 1971. The tone in editorials shifted from approval to extreme disdain.

“If ever an injustice and dastardly scheme was perpetrated on black folk in Durham, it seems to have been the so-called Urban Renewal Program,” The Carolina Times reports in the June 18, 1977, edition. “Outside of a few affluent families who seem to remain non-committal, the rest of the black folk who have been and are being affected, have renamed the fiasco “Black Removal” and tell some wicked stories of treatment.”

Stories of unfair treatment and dismal payments pack the pages of the Black-owned newspaper.  Edmonds offers The Carolina Times as an example of negligence in relocating businesses.

“Ours happens to be one of the last of three businesses left to be ‘relocated’, out of approximately 106 that made up the once flourishing Hayti section of Durham, which were affected by the so-called ‘urban renewal’ programs,” the June 18, 1977, editorial claims. “If our experience is typical, then God forbid what has happened to others.”

The Carolina Times called for the launching of an investigation into the entire urban renewal program.

“If it is found that people have been cheated – no matter how far back in this program -they ought to be paid,” the editorial states. “If black folks have been sold down the river by their own, then they, and the world, ought to know it. If they have not, then such an investigation would put a stop to the heinous stories that abound.”

On Sept. 11, 1982, 20 years after the start of Durham’s Urban Renewal project, The Carolina Times reported negotiations between Durham city planners and eight Black business owners seeking relocation.

Paul Norby, former director of Durham’s planning department, contracted with the Durham Black Business and Professional Chain to plan how to fit these businesses into a Hayti redevelopment proposal.

Ervin Allen, Jr., executive director of the Black Business and Professional Chain, related disappointment with city officials because the eight businesses weren’t involved in the contract planning process. Allen said the process lacked foresight making it impossible to fulfill the terms of the contract within six months “because it would take that long to get the businesses into discussions.”

“The businesses refused to let the Chain see their financial books,” The Carolina Times reports. “These same businesses had consistently refused to let city planners see their books as a requirement for relocation.”

The businesses are: The Carolina Times, Imperial Barber Shop, Dreamland Shoe Shine, Thorpe’s Barber Shop, Green Candle Restaurant, E.N. Toole Electrical Contractors, Service Printing Company and Midway Sport Shop.

On Dec. 5, 1981, The Carolina Times reports five businesses remain housed in a temporary facility known as “Tin City”, built in 1969 with a goal of lasting 18 months while preparing to relocate displaced businesses.

“To resolve this last barrier to the redevelopment of NCR-54, the city has taken two important steps. First, it has rewritten the Urban Renewal plan for the area in such a way that renewal of the area no longer will have to be restored comparable to its early composition or even to provide needed services for the community,” The Carolina Times reports. “Secondly, the city’s plan calls for a $40,000 contract with the Durham Business and Professional Chain to ‘assist’ the relocatees to move into the commercial development east of Fayetteville Street. It appears that the city is willing to ‘assist’ with construction of a building, only if it is located in this area.”

The eight businesses involved questioned the Black Business and Professional Chain awareness of the original urban renewal concept and believed that plan to be completely compromised by the city’s revised plan.

“This plan offered very little time for community input and the plan was not publicized at all,” The Carolina Times reports. “A full discussion of its implications would have been almost impossible.”

The Hayti Development Corporation (HDC) was formed based on the suggestion of the Economic Development Sub-Committee of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. HDC proposed a plan making Hayti an extension of downtown.

The plan proposed converting the old Service Printing Company building into a museum, bookstore, restaurant and office space surrounded by a park. HDC proposed a hotel-restaurant complex, a large grocery store, a variety store, specialty store, barber/beauty shops, pharmacy, hardware store and a retail clothing store south of the expressway.

After reviewing HDC’s proposal, city planners proposed hiring a consultant to consider the recommendations. Nat White, Jr., executive director of HDC, expressed concern that city planners asked the wrong questions.

“We’re looking at implementation,” White said in the Sept. 18, 1982, edition of the Carolina Times. “The study should say how a particular development can be made to work rather than simply saying it won’t work.”

The Carolina Times accused city planners of having their sight on 54 acres of prized land in the Hayti district with easy access to the Research Triangle Park.

“This is a battle of power and money. The stakes are high. To city planners, the area compliments plan to rebuild downtown. In their judgment, the old Hayti is fertile ground for planning houses to give the revitalized downtown people a 24-hour life.”

Aftermath of faded dreams

A decade after the formation of Hayti Development Corporation, White endured a scandal forcing him out as Executive Director, ending the dreams of Black leaders.

On January 14, 1979, the building that Housed The Carolina Times burned to the ground. Not much survived the fire. The entire back stock of papers vanished in the flames along with all those dreams. Authorities suspect arson, a sad ending to a long legacy of reporting in Durham’s Hayti community.

Edmonds didn’t stop working. A new issue showed up on the Thursday after the fire. Hayti residents didn’t give up. They keep working to rebuild and rekindle the community’s hopes and dreams.

Henry McKoy, a faculty member and director of entrepreneurship at North Carolina Central University, leads the charge in renewing those dreams. He calls it a rebirth – like the words of the prophet, Maya Angelou – “you may trod me in the very dirt. But still, like dust. I’ll rise.”

What does renewal look like for Black people? Is it the gift of new public housing? No.

It’s the gift of being heard.

“All of this is to say that city council and city planners have always been reluctant to let blacks have a say in how their former black community should be rebuilt,” The Carolina Times reports on Sept. 18, 1982.

Listen to the prophets speak.


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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Proposed Durham Housing Authority Project raises concerns involving broken promises.

When Durham Housing Authority (DHA) board members were tasked with replenishing housing after the demolition of Fayette Place, a collision between a painful history and affordable housing goals converged during a public hearing.

The tension of more than 50 years of neglect became the central topic of a Durham City Council Public hearing to discuss plans to develop the 19 acres in the heart of the Historic Durham Hayti neighborhood.

The DHA board selected Durham Community Partners – a venture team of F7 International Development, Greystone Affordable Development, Moseley Arcitects, BL Wall Consulting and Gibane Development – to build 774 housing units where Fayette Place was demolished in 2009.

“Displacement of the people is a crime of which the city of Durham will repeat if this process to reward this developer the contract doesn’t stop now,” Angel Dozier, curator of Be Connected Durham, said. “After 60 years of the unaddressed harm done to this community, by a highway having been built straight through the downtown of the Hayti community of East Pettigrew St, a contract offered with no connection to the history of this community, or the lived experiences of the people, will only cause further harm with worse consequences we have yet to see.”

Protest erupted after DHA board members rejected North Carolina Central University Professor Henry McKoy’s proposal. Members of the community submitted a petition asking DHA to rescind the approved plans in favor of Hayti Reborn’s hub for Black businesses.

“We’ve done thousands of surveys and hours of community conversations,” McKoy said. “What came out of that conversation is people want more than to be housed. What came out of those conversations is people want opportunities for upward mobility. What they wanted most of all are opportunities for kids to have a future. A future that provides for economic prosperity.”

McKoy said his criticism of the $470 million approved development plan shouldn’t be construed as him being a sore loser. Of the proposals graded on a 100-point scale, McKoy’s received 52 points, the lowest among the ten submitted to the board.

The DHA developed Fayette Place in 1967 as “replacement housing” after Durham Freeway 147 displaced residents of Hayti. DHA sold the property to Campus Apartments, a Philadelphia based acquisition, development, and management company, in 2007 for $4 million after DHA needed money to pay back Housing Urban Development (HUD) for improper use of funds. Campus Apartments planned to convert Fayette Place into housing for North Carolina Central University students.

After receiving numerous complaints from residents due to the vacant property, former Mayor Bill Bell pressured Campus Properties to demolish the buildings in 2009. Due to a series of crimes at Campus Crossing, a Campus Properties development housing NCCU students, the developer backed out and sold the property back to DHA in 2017 for the same amount sold in 2007.

The site became the focus of conversations involving affordable housing during the 2019 city council election. A $95 million affordable housing bond was placed on the same ballot. Members of Durham Congregation, Associations, and Neighborhoods (CAN), an Industrial Area Foundation faith and community-based organization, pressured Anthony Scott, chief executive officer of DHA, and candidates for elected office to commit on a timeline for construction on the Fayette Place site.

An Overdue Conversation

“Seems like in the late 60’s or 70’s the City of Durham along with the Department of Transportation drove a knife through the chest of Hayti and Hayti has been bleeding ever since,” Dewey Williams, a 15-year Durham resident, said during the public hearing. “What I see in Hayti tells me the city does not care about Hayti. If you would compare the community around Duke with the community around central (NCCU) you would see a great difference.”

Stories about good old days in historic Hayti are the common theme of the night. The 19 acres of vacant land conjures thoughts of what used to be and what can be with the proper vision.

What took so long?

The site wasn’t elevated in conversations regarding Black business revival before being sold to Campus Properties in 2007. No one raised the topic before Bill Bell forced the demolition of buildings in 2009. After sitting for more than 10 years, members of CAN, the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and concerned residents failed to mention the possibility for Black business renewal during the movement to endorse affordable housing on the site.

Affordable Housing led the list of vital concerns among Durham voters. Black economic development failed to generate interest among voters during Farad Ali’s campaign for Mayor against Steve Schewel in 2019. Ali, president and chief executive officer at Asociar, campaigned on a platform to enrich Black equity and inclusion in business.

The Historic Fayetteville Street Master Plan

Denise and Larry Hester lead conversations regarding economic development concerns in the Historical Hayti district. The Hester’s own Phoenix Square Shopping Center and developed the failed Rolling Hills project before the city took over to rebuild a gentrified nightmare.

The Hester’s opposed Southside development where houses sale for more than $500,000. The couple warned the Duke University backed project would lead to higher taxes for Black residents, forced displacement and gentrification. Their outrage followed efforts to classify the area blighted – the first step in decreasing the value of the housing market. Self-Help Credit Union backed labeling the area blighted in a plan to use Southside and Rolling Hills as a template for a white takeover of Black spaces.

The Hesters envisioned the coming of out-of-town developers altering the landscape of Historic Hayti. Members of the city council rejected their request for $25-50 million for a streetscape project on Fayetteville Street. The council blamed the Hesters for the failed second Rolling Hills project.

“I believe that in the past, past decisions made about Rolling Hills were made by well-meaning people – but the fact of the matter is, it’s a failed project,” Elaine Armstrong, a former Rolling Hills homeowner said during a December 2007 city council meeting. “And I think that now, after about four years, people who live there have reason to believe there’s some new hope with the discussions about the new development.

During that 2007 city council meeting, the council approved $6 million to buy up Rollings Hills and properties in St. Teresa’s and the Southside neighborhood. The city budgeted $3.7 million for property acquisition and $1.2 million for relocation cost.

The Rolling Hills project mirrors the proposed project across the street at Fayette Place. The Hesters continue mobilizing business owners and residents in the Fayetteville Street Corridor.

Check out the Fayetteville Street Corridor Report

Where is NCCU

Absent from Monday’s meeting are sanctioned representatives from NCCU. It’s critical to imagine the Hayti district between Pettigrew Street and Hillside High School. This area includes significant pillars of Historical Hayti – St. Joseph AME Church, White Rock Baptist Church, Hillside High School and NCCU.

Foreseeing a project aimed at recapturing the once vital Black district involves more than the Fayette Place site. Building on the dream of a revitalized Hayti is best served in partnership with NCCU.

Time to Breathe

Aidil Ortiz, a principal at Aildisms, a consultancy focused on supporting government departments, non-profits and communities, encouraged people in the crowd to breathe – much needed after a long night of considering the sway of a tainted history. The breaths began a new process. More than healing – a chance to envision new possibilities.

“We have to find a way to get to the yes,” Mayor Elaine O’Neal said after recounting her own memories of walking down Fayetteville St. during the heydays of Hayti.

Those streets paved with Black business. A place nurturing the dreams of Black children. A home enriched in the pride of Black hued brothers and sisters.

DHA offers a proposal for a small area in historic Hayti. Henry McKoy provides a vision for more than public housing. Others arrived with the burden of their memories – stories of displaced families and businesses.

The story is left to be told.

Next step, the emergence of an empowering Black agenda.