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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.