BORN OF RAW TOBACCO AND NEVER REFINED, DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA EMBRACES ITS GRIT.
The Bull City has evolved into a new economic epicenter, where an entrepreneurial energy hums in the revitalized downtown and a creative class asserts its identity.
But the specters of segregation, urban renewal, deindustrialization and mass incarceration linger in Durham today. Crumbling communities are divorced from downtown, and plagued with congenital poverty and violence. Homicide was the leading cause of death for black males ages 20-39 in 2009 in Durham, and most murders were committed with a firearm. But the bullets don’t just stop against brick and bone; they tear through families, friendships, communities and generations.
This essay is an unfiltered look at the neighborhoods and families haunted by this violence. They are hard-scrabbling and sturdy, and refuse to be defined by their struggle or by tragedy. Those affected by violence have become part of a vocal, growing community composed of people from all walks of life, and they are transforming into conduits for change in their neighborhoods.
It is not easy to make the vital connections to these neighborhoods, so they are often overlooked and underreported. The resulting apathy can be just as fatal as bullets. Search the newspapers. The headlines read “Man Dies From Gunshot Wound In Durham,” but often the details are as thin as the pages.
The indifferent shrug their shoulders. Human beings are written off as drug dealers, as criminals, as poor; as black and brown and deserving of their fate. Their families are dripping with grief and left to navigate a bewildering legal system. Many of them can barely afford to bury their children.
This violence in Durham is a microcosm of a larger tragedy of violence in America. It is symptomatic of many social ills that we know how to fix. The solutions begin with fellowship and unity.