Dear Durham People’s Alliance Members and Friends,
The Board of the PA is writing to you, our members and supporters, to invite you to join us in reflection and action in this moment. The deaths of people of color at the hands of police across our nation are resonating in painful ways for our community and generating important conversations about how we will choose to let these tragedies shape the future of Durham.
For forty years, People’s Alliance has organized and acted in pursuit of a more progressive vision of our city - a place where all people can live well. We are, unfortunately, far from that vision today; the Board believes this is a critical moment for our members to come together with other progressives in the community to engage in conversations about the work that will move us closer to a Durham for all. In these conversations, we are committed to reflecting on what we can learn from individual or collective actions that we may have taken in the past that are standing in the way of that progress, and looking forward to the role we can play in dismantling a system of white privilege, violence, and oppression against people of color in our community.
We have recently seen the conversation about police violence come to life in our city in the Facebook post made by City Councilwoman Jillian Johnson last month and the responses community members had to her statement (you can view details about her post here). Our Board members believe that Jillian’s post acknowledged the real experience of many people of color in our country and city with police, an experience born from systemic racism that influences (if not shapes) all our institutions. The result is that many experience police actions as state-sanctioned violence. We cannot deny the reality of this experience for many of our neighbors. To do so is to choose blindness over empathy, revisionist history over truth. Our Board also believes that Jillian’s statement is consistent with how she has always represented her positions and reinforces the reasons we believe her voice and leadership are critically important on our City Council. We also heard the many people in our community who vehemently disagreed with Jillian’s statement.
We know that the members of our PA community are committed to a progressive vision of a Durham where all people can live well. But we also know that we come to this work with diverse beliefs about how we move toward that vision, beliefs that are largely shaped by our individual lived experiences. As a community organization, we want to create a space for our members to do the personal work of educating ourselves about these issues and how they are experienced by people with different perspectives than ours and to engage with each other in a dialogue about how we can collectively work for a Durham for all.
A call to action for our members: People’s Alliance will be hosting a series of living room conversations that will include readings and discussion about systemic racism, white privilege and public safety reform in Durham. If you are interested in participating in a living room conversation, please click here to indicate your interest, preferences in meeting time and share any input you have on the content of these convenings.
These conversations are just one of the ways in which we encourage our members to take action in this time. As an organization, PA will continue to seek ways to create spaces for our members and the community at large to engage in meaningful dialogue around the issues most critical to the future of Durham. As a Board, we will continue our work in building a Durham for all, which includes our commitment to:
Listen to, and stand in solidarity with, organizations led by people of color in our community
Host educational events for our membership, including the living room conversations and Progressive Issue Forums that are currently planned to discuss Pre-K For All and living wages
Continue our Internal work with our Board and Action Teams to develop and apply a lens of racial equity to all of the work we do
Consider how we can more consistently pursue our commitment to racial equity in our approach to electoral politics.
We welcome our members and others in the community to reach out to us with your thoughts on how PA can best work toward our vision of a city where all people can live well. As we reflect on 40 years of PA in Durham, we know that this is a critical time for our community to have challenging conversations, do the hard work of reform and fight every day for the future Durham we want to live in.
The People’s Alliance Board,
Vernetta Alston, Eric Boven, John Davis, Kendra Montgomery-Blinn, DeDreana Freeman, Dabney Hopkins, Marion Johnson, Mel Norton, Destini Riley, Carl Rist, Lanya Shapiro, Ryan Smith, Sondra Stein, Sara Terry, Magan Thigpen, Tommie Watson