Thursday, November 16, 2023

Howerton's strong leadership deserves another term as chairwoman

(Members of the Durham Board of County Commissioners: Brenda Howerton, Nida Alam, Nimasheena Burns, Heidi Carter and Wendy Jacobs)

COMMENTARY - Members of the Durham Board of County Commissioners will soon vote on their board chair. It’s hard to imagine not extending the services of Brenda Howerton.

The best way to describe Howerton’s work is heroic. Howerton, along with former chair Wendy Jacobs, resuscitated the life back into county government after the exit of former County Manager Wendell Davis. Together, they teamed up to rekindle confidence when the brutal back and forth reminded residents of stories involving the Hatfield and McCoy feud near the Kentucky side of Tug Fork.

Many residents forget the massive tug in the soul of local harmony after Davis accused a member of the board of acts and statements viewed as racist. Residents may remember the disgusting conduct that pitted members of the board against many Black citizens weary of the motives leading to the decision to end a Black man’s career in county government.

People reasoned Davis had to go for not being progressive enough for Durham. A member of the board of education derided his upscale attire. A member of the city council blasted that Black man for spewing a racist trope to degrade Davis.

Howerton stood alone in support of former County Attorney Lowell Siler’s recommendation to employ the services of The Robert Bobb Group, a minority-owned national consulting firm, to help Durham County wiggle out of the mess created by members of the board. Nimasheenda Burns, the other Black woman on the board, sided with those critics and her colleagues on the commission incensed by Bobbs time as an appointed Emergency Financial Manager of the Detroit Public Schools between 2009-2011.

Siler seemed humiliated during the virtual meeting questioning both his leadership and judgement. That moment ended Siler’s public service as county attorney after a stroke. Siler died on Sept. 8.

The board never received the type of consulting recommended by Siler, The International City/County Management Association and the independent investigator hired by the county to consider the actions of both Davis and a member of the board.

Durham County endured the impact of Covid-19. The board faced challenges after members of the Durham County employees racial equity core committee made demands of the board following the end of Davis’s contract.

Members of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) cohort outlined a strategy that includes: (1) board members attending racial equity training, (2) improved interpersonal relationships on the board, (3) request that the board “employ racial equity tools to its future decision making processes and future moves to add a racial equity directive as a high level, guiding principle to each of County Government’s five strategic plan goal areas, in order to avoid disparate impacts among not only its managers, but its employees and citizens”, and (4) request that the board engage in an open town hall to address inequity and race relations in Durham and in Durham County Government.”

Durham had to replace its county manager during a time of extreme hostility. Members of the board faced the lingering effects related to the loss of their competent and popular county attorney. The board faced challenges from a community divided on the budget for public education.

Howerton provided strong and consistent leadership. Jacobs relinquished her role as board chair to support Howerton in ways that model unity. Both deserve recognition for shifting the culture within both county government and in Durham County.

We’ve come a long way since the last election. As residents consider the slate of candidates who will file for office over the next 30 days, keep your eyes on who the commissioner selects as the chair.

I seriously recommend staying on track. The Durham locomotive is headed in the right direction thanks to Howerton and Jacobs.

All in favor say Aye

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

No evidence Durham Councilwoman Monique Holsey-Hyman extorted developer for campaign contribution


Durham, NC - The fight to prove her innocence comes with thoughts of things taken away.

“I don’t think you understand what it is to get to a point to want to help people for someone to try to take it away in the matter of a minute,” said Durham City Councilwoman Monique Holsey-Hyman during a press conference announcing the end of a probe by the State Bureau of Investigation.

“I was the last person asked what I wanted to do. I was never asked did I do it, did I not do it,” said Holsey-Hyman.

On Tuesday, Durham District Attorney Satana Deberry released a statement clearing Holsey-Hyman of soliciting a bride from Jarrod Edens, a local developer.

The SBI conducted interviews with Mayor Elaine O’Neal, members of the city council and staff. Holsey-Hyman cooperated with the SBI after providing documentation proving her innocence.

“Jarrod Edens, on the other hand, avoided every attempt SA (special agent) Deming made to interview him,” said Deberry in her statement. “Edens did not answer calls nor return messages left by SA Deming."

According to Deming, Edens, who triggered the controversy with a complaint to Sara Young, director of the Durham city-county planning department, lost interest in the investigation after four city council members – Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton, Javier Cabellero, Jillian Johnson and Leonardo Williams, voted to approve his 192 unit development.

“Nobody ever asked me anything. I knew I didn’t do anything, and I wanted the truth to come out, but I did not want my life to literally be turned upside down,” said Holsey-Hyman.

The same four council members who approved Edens’ project voted to send the developers complaint to the SBI.

“There was a majority vote. The investigation was not at my instigation. The censure was nothing I was going to find on board,” said O’Neal.  “In talking about what we were going to do, I did not say what my position was. I did not think it belonged to me. I did let them know I was not in favor of going to the SBI.”

O’Neal said she recommended hiring an outside attorney to investigate the charges made against Holsey-Hyman.

“As a lawyer, you know, based on the information I had, the alleged facts that I was given, it was pretty much conversations. There were no forensics, there were no reports that were new,” said O’Neal. “It was basically he says, she says and basically phone records. That’s not an extensive investigation in my opinion. A competent attorney could have handled that.”

O’Neal said Holsey-Hyman and Freeman, who is running for mayor against Williams, “have been accused of things that are false, untrue and outward lies.”

She addressed the incident recorded by WRAL-TV at the end of the March 23 city council work session

“Let me first say I was never assaulted. Anyone who spreads that is telling a lie.  I was never assaulted,” O’Neal said. “What I did see when I rounded was the hands of councilman Williams on councilwoman Freeman who was then saying get your hands off of me.”

O’Neal’s version of what happened counters reporting by former IndyWeek reporter Thomsai McDonald.

While in the adjoining room, Freeman threw down the items she was carrying, including a bottle of water, and “went after,” or tried to physically attack Middleton, according to the eyewitness source who asked to remain anonymous,” McDonald reports.

“Instead of landing punches on Middleton, Freeman ended up punching council member Leonardo Williams twice in the face. The eyewitness source says Freeman also struck mayor Elaine O’Neal once in the face when the former judge tried to intervene.”

Antonio R Wood, Sr., pastor of Evans Solid Rock Church for All People in Wake Forest, NC, witnessed the exchange. He says Freeman, Williams, Middleton and O’Neal are the only other people to witness the exchange. The WRAL-TV video shows Wood standing in the doorway during the confrontation between Middleton and Freeman.

“Another woman was about to go back there before the mayor told her to leave,” said Wood. “No punches were thrown. Only person with hands on was Leonardo Williams on Freeman. He claimed she hit him. She didn’t.”

O’Neal said Holsey-Hyman and Freeman endure being tested by fire.

“On that particular day, councilwoman Freeman, it was the last straw. It was as my sister said, the last button on Abraham’s jacket,” said O’Neal. She couldn’t take it anymore.”

Williams released a statement defending his actions after O’Neal gave her version of what happened that night.

“I intervened to stop a physical altercation,” said Williams. “In the process, I put myself in harms way and while unintentional, I was hit, and put my hands up to block further hits.”

There are two versions of what happened between Freeman and Middleton. There’s the version reported in the IndyWeek with an anonymous witness. That version requires accepting the source being Middleton or Williams.

The alternative narrative demands believing Freeman, O’Neal and Wood, the pastor who stood at the door.

The outcome of the upcoming municipal election may be won based on who voters believe isn’t telling the truth.

“It’s gonna be up to the court of public opinion to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not,” said O’Neal.  “I don’t have any dogs in this race anymore. I’m not running for office, but I stand to tell you to pay close attention. Believe people when they show you who they really are.”

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

An election is coming, an election is coming: Get ready, get set, vote

The Durham Municipal Election is rapidly approaching with 12 people vying for three city council seats and eight people hoping to become mayor.

Early voting for the municipal primary begins on Sept 21 and ends on Oct 7. The Oct. 10 primary will narrow the field of candidates for city council to six and mayor to two for the Nov 7 general election. Early voting for the general election begins Oct 19 and ends Nov 4.

Durham voters have a lot to consider before casting votes. These candidates for both city council and mayor are a mixture of present council members, former council members, candidates who tried before and lost and people unknown to most residents.

What is the average voter to do beyond gauging who to select based on campaign signs or the endorsement of their favorite political action committee? Most voters are detached from the working of city government beyond the fight recorded by WRAL-TV after a council meeting.

How do you pick from a group you barely know? Who do you trust when what matters most is discussed less than the personal battles defining the work of the city council?

Durham City Council elections take place every two years with the mayor on the ballot every election. At-large council seats are on the ballot this year. Terms for ward seats expire in 2025.

In 2021, voters overwhelming supported Elaine O’Neal to become Durham’s first Black woman to serve as mayor. Her win responded to a call to defund the police. Rev. Mark-Anthony Middleton and DeDreana Freeman were re-elected riding the coattail of O’Neal, a former district and superior court judge. Leonardo Williams, owner with his wife of Zweli, a Zimbabwean cuisine restaurant, defeated A.J. Williams, a 34-year-old community activist, by 300 votes. A.J. Williams lost despite loads of funding and the backing of Durham Beyond Police and Durham for All, grassroots coalitions effective in mobilizing a diverse community of younger residents.

The 2019 election centered Mayor Steve Schewel campaign for affordable housing against Farad Ali, a former member of the city council and CEO of The Institute for Minority Economic Development. Ali advocated for shared economic prosperity.

Jillian Johnson, Charlie Reece and Javiera Caballero, who replaced Schewel after he became mayor in 2017, joined forces to form the Bull City Together Platform as incumbents on the council. Ali endured criticism for his business connections while Johnson, Reece and Caballero were celebrated for promoting a progressive agenda.

History informs the context for the upcoming municipal election. If affordable housing and police funding are the narrative for the previous elections, what’s on the ballot this year?

Civility Matters

The shout heard around the Triangle measures the communal rage felt by many Durham voters. In March, allegations of malfeasance against Councilwoman Monique Holsey-Hyman during a work session carried over to Freeman accusing Mayor Pro Tempore Mark-Anthony Middle of bullying Black women and allegedly accidently striking Councilman Leonardo Williams in the face.

A lack of civility among members on the council impacted O’Neal’s decision not to pursue a second term as mayor. Bickering during council meetings lends credence to no current council member (Williams and Freeman are both campaigning to become mayor) having the ability to effectively facilitate council meetings.

Durham voters should consider the impact of a culture of incivility in voting for mayor. Who among the candidates processes the demeanor essential in managing a crowd of people with opposing perspectives?

It Takes Four Votes

Bearing in mind all the bad related to establishing a coalition like the 2017 Bull City Together Platform, the name of the game is winning four seats on the council. In Durham, the mayor is the symbolic head of the city and a member of the city council but has no executive authority. The city manager oversees the day-to-day operations and implements the policies and manages the budget approved by the council.

When casting your votes, consider how the positions and perspectives of each person align with the rest of the team. The work of the council is not the life of lone rangers. Ideally, they should build together in ways which reflect the general consensus of local residents. They represent voters, not their own views related to what it means to hold a position of power.

Each vote is an affirmation of a collective mission statement. It isn’t a popularity contest.  Each vote signifies how we, as a community, understand and support how infrastructural changes advance or impede the work of our city.

Growth or Slow it Down

Voters should ponder the consequences of growth. Are we building for the people who are coming, or is growth benefiting the people who are already here?

Are we positioning growth in celebration of what Durham has always been – an incredible city with a rich legacy of inclusive prosperity?

We are one of the homes of Black Wall Street - where dreams come true transcendent of race, gender, gender identity, place of origin, religion or past mistakes. Are we building for a future imbedded in the life, culture and witness of what brought us to Durham – what keeps us in Durham? Or, are members of the city council favoring zoning changes and other policies to entice and satisfy the desires of the people who aren’t here?

Before you vote, decide. What is your vision for Durham? Are you willing to accept more growth? If so, at what expense? Who wins when we keep building? Who loses when the growth results in an invasion of richer, white people with limited knowledge of why many people celebrate “Dirty Durham”.

They are welcome to come, but not at the risk of losing our happy home.

Shared Prosperity

Again, considering where we’ve been helps frame where we’re going. Voters rejected Farad Ali in 2017 due to his business connections. The claim that Ali and Joshua Gunn, a former Durham Chamber of Commerce executive and hip-hop recording artist who lost in a bid for city council in 2017, were too business centered missed the mark in fully understanding and affirming the goals of Black and Brown economic mobility and inclusion.

It is problematic to measure Black capitalism using the same constructs as white centered, institutionalized capitalism. Black capitalism is rooted from a place of survival for both individuals and a community massively impacted by the weaponizing of white centered capitalism.

They are not the same thing.

Ali called for the implementation and execution of strategies aimed at facilitating shared prosperity. If voters embrace continued growth coupled with ongoing gentrification, the widening of white versus Black and Brown economic disparity and shifting demographics reflective of more white and fewer Black and Brown residents, are we becoming a community different than what we’ve come to celebrate.

Voters should consider policies which protect our desired image. What is our community brand? How do votes by members of the city council assure the sharing of prosperity? Should we care?

A few things to consider as you prepare for the upcoming primary and subsequent general election.

Next up, a summary of the people running for mayor and city council.


Friday, July 21, 2023

Patrick Hannah decides to place family needs above becoming Durham's next mayor

Statement from Patrick Hannah

Dear Family, Friends & Durham Community,

I hope this note finds you well. Thank you for your kind words, encouragement and support over the past 2 weeks. It is with mixed emotions that I write to inform you that I will not be running for Mayor of Durham at this time. While I am deeply committed to serving our community and have a strong desire to contribute to its growth and prosperity, I must prioritize my family responsibilities at this juncture.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to have had numerous opportunities to serve our city, state and nation in various capacities. From my time working at The White House - 

Office of Legal Counsel during the Lewinsky Trial to my role as Chairman of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority during a global pandemic. I have been tested and gained invaluable experience in navigating complex policy, legal and administrative matters. These experiences have shaped my understanding of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for our city.

As Vice President of the Durham NAACP and a Board Member for the Durham's Partnership for Children, I have witnessed firsthand the importance of community engagement and collaboration in advancing social justice and ensuring the well-being of our youngest citizens. These roles have reinforced my commitment to creating a more inclusive and equitable Durham for all.

During my tenure as a law clerk in the North Carolina Senate - Office of the President Pre-Tem, and as a corporate attorney for a Fortune 70 company, I have gained a deep understanding of the legislative process and the intricacies of corporate governance. These experiences have provided me with a unique perspective on the intersection of public policy and private sector interests, which I believe is crucial for effective leadership in today's world.

Additionally, as a Community Organizer for Voices for Working Families, I dedicated my efforts to creating job opportunities for our community. I firmly believe that a thriving economy is essential for the well-being of our residents, and I have worked diligently to advocate for policies that promote sustainable growth and uplift those who have been marginalized.

Despite my passion for public service and the desire to contribute to the betterment of Durham, my family priorities require my undivided attention. As a dedicated spouse and parent to two children, one with special needs, I must place my family's needs at the forefront for the time being.

Please know that this decision has not been made lightly. It is driven by a deep sense of responsibility and love for my family. However, I remain committed to serving our community in whatever capacity I can, and I will continue to advocate for the issues that matter most to Durham citizens.

I am grateful for the support and encouragement I have received throughout my journey, and I am certain that Durham will continue to thrive under the leadership of dedicated individuals who share a vision for a stronger, more vibrant community. I have no doubt that our city will continue to progress and prosper, and I look forward to playing a role in that future when the time is right.

Thank you for your understanding, and I remain committed to working alongside you to create positive change in Durham.


Thursday, July 20, 2023

Durham Councilman Leonardo Williams Declares Candidacy for Mayor

The campaign will kick off at the Black Wall Street historic marker on Parrish St. in Downtown Durham on Friday, July 21st at 12 pm

 From Leonardo Wiliams campaign staff

 DURHAM, NC -- is set to enter a transformative new era as Leonardo Williams, a small business owner, City Councilmember, and former Educator of the Year has officially announced his decision to run for Mayor.

 The announcement of Councilman Williams’ candidacy has already gained significant momentum, with an outpouring of support from community leaders and residents.

“I’m proud to announce that I am filing to run to be the next Mayor of Durham. Over the last several weeks, I have received many messages of encouragement. I thank you all for your support already.” Councilman Williams said. “I love Durham. This city has given me and my family so much. This campaign isn’t about me. It’s about what’s best for our city now and creating a legacy for the future. I understand there have been moments of uncertainty in our City Council, but behind the smoke screen, we have been able to achieve tremendous feats. We’ve made great progress in my time on the Council, and I

am proud to be consequential in that work. However, Durham’s next transformation is just beginning. As a city, we do face serious challenges, yet our opportunities are far greater. We need thoughtful solutions and actionable outcomes to tackle our challenges and seize our opportunities. I’m prepared to be your mayor, Durham. I’m running because I believe that together we can create the future that Durham deserves.”

About Councilman Leonardo Williams

Born in Hobgood, NC, Leo first came to Durham as a student at NC Central University where he met his now wife, Zweli. At NCCU, Leo was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest intercollegiate, historically African American fraternity. Additionally, Leo was actively involved in student government and a member of the renowned NCCU marching band while he pursued a degree in Music Education. 

After graduating, Leo became a public-school teacher in Durham where he led band programs, was honored as one of the youngest Teacher of the Year, and mentored dozens of aspiring young musicians. One of his formative experiences as a teacher was in his first year when he asked a class of 42 students how many had visited another state. Only three had. Leo saw an opportunity and a need. He organized a fundraising drive that raised enough money to take 32 students on a field trip to New York City. This experience solidified Leo’s belief that there is no better investment than giving young people opportunities to grow and expand their horizons. 

In 2008, he joined the board of the NC Foundation for Public School Children, where he was quickly asked to serve as executive director. In his capacity as executive director, he vastly expanded the budget, scope, and impact of the largest foundation supporting public school students in the state. In his capacity as executive director, Leo saw the challenges public school students face and worked with national, state, and local partners to provide the best possible education to all North Carolina public school students. Leo and Zweli embarked on a new challenge in 2018, opening the first Zweli’s restaurant location. Not only did Zweli’s succeed and then survive COVID-19, but they also now own three locations in Durham, one in Zimbabwe, and they employ more than sixty staff. Leo and Zweli are committed to not only paying a living wage but paying their team to a level that will allow them to thrive. Each full-time job they have created pays a minimum of $20 an hour, and they exclusively hire local artists to decorate their restaurants.

Leo knows the challenges that come with creating and running a business. When he decided to pursue a seat on the Durham City Council in 2021, there were no small business owners, a perspective that was sorely missed. Running as a true outsider, Leo ran a clean campaign focused on investing in Durham’s youth, ending gun violence, creating more economic opportunities, and increasing equity throughout the city. 

Since being elected to the Council, among his accomplishments, Leo has focused on a citywide apprenticeship program to enhance workforce development and address the 27,000 job vacancies in Durham, helping to bridge people to better wages and housing. He has led the Taskforce on Black Men and Boys to establish concrete recommendations on addressing gun violence. He has also passed a historic budget without raising taxes and supporting our first responders. His vision for the future of

Durham is shaped by (1) diverse housing options that allow for stable, safe, and affordable homes, (2) robust economic development initiatives, (3) an infrastructure that will support multimodal transit options and expanded connectivity, and (4) an environment that is built and sustained by us all. Leo and Zweli live in Ward 3 with their son, Izaiah, and their pup, Dovi!                                                                                                                                            

For updates about Leonardo Williams’ campaign and to join the mailing list please visit or follow him on: 

Facebook: LeoForDurham

Twitter: LeoForDurham

Instagram: LeoForDurham


Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Durham City Councilwoman DeDreana Freeman files for mayor with a goal of moving past "the drama"

DURHAM, NC, July 19, 2023 - Durham City Council representative of Ward 1, DeDreana Freeman, steps forward to announce candidacy for Mayor of Durham on July 18, 2023.

“I am proudly running to represent the people of Durham, a city I’ve grown to love and my family calls home,” said Freeman. “As Durham’s mayor, I would engage in more dialogue and guide efforts towards ‘working families’ and populations of youth and seniors who don’t get a fair shake. I hope that the people will continue to have faith this coming November. Their support of me as mayor would be tremendous in fueling efforts that have just begun.”

DeDreana Freeman is a non-profit leader with over 20 years of experience in North Carolina and presently serves as the Director of Partnership Development for CornerSquare Community Capital, a subsidiary of the North Carolina Rural Center. Freeman leads outreach and engagement efforts in 17 states, including Washington, DC in support of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) to increase community investments through small businesses and entrepreneurs. 

Since joining CornerSquare in 2022, DeDreana has successfully built a network of strategic partners, fostering trust and collaboration with key stakeholders. Prior to that, she served as the Special Assistant to the President of Durham Children's Initiative, for which she has spearheaded plans to support families and their children from birth to college and/or career.

"During her six and a half years on the city council, Freeman has been a formidable advocate for the residents of Durham. She consistently works to address social, economic, and environmental justice issues that often plague marginalized communities," states a press release to Rev-elution. "With proven leadership and dedication to creating a more equitable and inclusive Durham, DeDreana Freeman is the ideal candidate to lead the city forward."

Freeman enters the race after enduring public tension with some of her peers on the city council.

“It would be so simple to just fade into the background; however, I am committed to the work ahead and had to move past all the drama to be the person my mother, daughter and sons need me to be,” said Freeman. “My family loves Durham and serving means doing what’s in the best interest of Durham at all times.

For details or additional information regarding her campaign, visit

Monday, July 17, 2023

Patrick Hannah, Former Chairman of Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority, Explores Mayoral Run for Durham, Prioritizing Infrastructure, Economic Development, and Community Well-being

DURHAM, NC, July 17, 2023 – Patrick Hannah, known for his extensive experience in infrastructure development and economic growth as the immediate past chairman of Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority, has announced his consideration of a mayoral run for Durham. With a strong track record in job creation and dedication to addressing critical issues such as crime and housing, Hannah brings a wealth of knowledge and a commitment to driving positive change in the community.

Hannah's experience as chairman of Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority has been characterized by his unwavering focus on infrastructure development, ensuring that the region's connectivity and transportation networks are optimized for economic growth. Spearheading numerous projects, Hannah has consistently aimed to create job opportunities, foster economic prosperity, and enhance the quality of life for residents.

 Recognizing the importance of economic development, Hannah has actively sought partnerships with local businesses and organizations to attract investments, boost job creation, and cultivate a thriving economy. His efforts have resulted in substantial growth and prosperity for the region, making him a respected figure in the business community.

However, Hannah's vision for Durham extends beyond infrastructure and economic development. With his background as a former law clerk in the White House, he possesses a unique understanding of the complexities surrounding crime and housing issues. He recognizes that these challenges require a comprehensive approach, combining effective law enforcement strategies with initiatives aimed at affordable housing and community support.

If elected as mayor of Durham, Hannah intends to utilize his expertise and experience to tackle these issues head-on. He envisions a safer and more inclusive city, where residents can feel secure in their homes and communities. By fostering collaboration between law enforcement agencies, community organizations, and local government, Hannah aims to implement innovative solutions that address the root causes of crime and housing instability.

As Hannah embarks on his mayoral exploration, he pledges to engage with the community to better understand the specific needs and concerns of Durham's diverse population. Listening to the voices of residents, business owners, and community leaders will be at the heart of his campaign, ensuring that his policies and initiatives are informed by the people he aims to serve.

Patrick Hannah's potential mayoral candidacy is fueled by his unwavering commitment to creating a prosperous and harmonious Durham. With his impressive background in infrastructure development, economic growth, and legal expertise, he is poised to be a transformative leader who can bring about meaningful change.