A Letter from Nuestra Gente to Durham

Dear Durham,

Nuestra Gente del PA is a People’s Alliance action team and affinity group that was formed in the spring of 2018. Our purpose is to hold the PA accountable to their commitment to our Latinx community's progressive agenda, to create and open political spaces for our community, to amplify our voices, and to augment our participation within the PA.

While the Latinx community is often referred to as a single community, it is not. We, like other groups of people, are not a monolith. Because we are so diverse, we often do not agree on specifics, what brings us together is a commitment to support and advocate for our communities within the political structures of Durham, specifically within the People’s Alliance. In November of 2018, to support the participation of diverse voices, we set the norms of our group to speak and vote in consensus. In discussion of the structure and membership of the group , we weighed the benefits of a safe space for Latinx community members to speak openly and the benefits of an open community where all could participate. We made a decision to allow for open participation in the group and did not create a membership structure because there was no consensus around the specifics of membership in Nuestra Gente.

On August 14, 2019, we held a meeting to make recommendations for the August 21 PA PAC endorsement meeting. In order for a candidate or bond to receive our recommendation, they had to receive 80% of the votes from our group. Prior to the endorsement meeting, we agreed that individuals could present their own comments at the endorsement meeting. Nuestra Gente presented our recommendations, as a group, at the endorsement meeting. Several members of Nuestra Gente spoke as individuals at the endorsement meeting. One of those individuals was Rodrigo Dorfman.

Immediately after the People’s Alliance endorsement meeting, many of the members of Nuestra Gente were extremely concerned about the comments made by Rodrigo Dorfman in response to Nia Wilson’s support of Joshua Gunn. An emergency meeting was called on August 28th to discuss various concerns with our participation in the endorsement meeting. During that meeting, Rodrigo was asked to apologize for his words from the endorsement meeting, and the email he wrote to the Nuestra Gente listserv, that is now public, was his response to that process. We want to be clear that Nuestra Gente explicitly rejects the anti-black sentiments and falsehoods expressed in the endorsement meeting and in his email to our group. What Rodrigo Dorfman said in his statement at the People’s Alliance meeting and what he wrote in his email does not reflect any official position of Nuestra Gente. He spoke and wrote as an individual in both cases.

The majority of Nuestra Gente members did not know that the email had been shared beyond the group and erroneously believed that we would have time to directly address his harmful message at our regularly scheduled September 25th meeting. As a result, there was a delay. We understand that silence can be perceived as complicity or dismissiveness. We understand that our inability to respond more quickly has caused harm in and outside the group. As a collective, Nuestra Gente believes in accessibility to all members of our community. Nuestra Gente has a flat power structure and we do not have a leader. Some members do not have email, the privilege to attend and participate, are new to the democratic process in the United States, or do not speak the language of power in this country. Out of respect for our values, processes and diversity of our members, our process is at odds with lightning speed of social media and emails.

However, as a group, we must acknowledge that the Latinx community holds anti-black beliefs. The beliefs Rodrigo Dorfman has shared are absolutely a symptom and signal of the work that we must do. Nuestra Gente knows that we need to grow and develop as a community to transform our beliefs on race and have equity in our practices. At the end of our August meeting, it was requested by various members of the group that we undergo racial equity training along with other steps to move forward so that we may honor all the identities that the Durham community holds, which includes Afro-Latinx. As a community we can, will and must hold ourselves accountable to the work of practicing anti-racism.

Our heart is broken over the pain that this has caused our Black neighbors in Durham. We are sorry. Our desire is to move towards accountability and healing, and we would like to do so in collaboration with Durham’s Black communities when they are ready. We know that in this moment it is our responsibility to build a bridge for unity.

Our group met on September 18, 2019 and unanimously voted to end Rodrigo Dorfman’s participation in Nuestra Gente. This is one step in a long journey in the work to rectify what this has brought to light. We believe that his words and actions have no place in our group. This letter was written in consensus with the Nuestra Gente members present at our emergency meeting.

Ivan Almonte
Carolina Alzuru
Cecilia Barja
Susana Diaz
Pablo Friedmann
Alexana Garcia
Megan McCurley
Mercedes McCurley
Sandro Mendoza
Ana S. Nunez
Aidil Ortiz
Yesenia Polanco

Durham's 2019 Housing Bond Referendum

Durham Housing Authority’s oldest public housing community project will not be redeveloped with Housing Bond funds.
Durham Housing Authority’s oldest public housing community project will not be redeveloped with Housing Bond funds.

Durham voters will be asked to support a $95 million housing bond this November. City of Durham leaders claim that the bond referendum passage is critical to improving homelessness services and tax relief programs as well as establishing necessary funds for creating and preserving affordable housing projects. Proponents of the housing bond tout more funding for eviction diversion, employment training, and eliminating restrictions on homeowners to build additional housing options on their property.

Bond opponents believe that Durham’s affordable housing crisis requires a bigger ask of taxpayers. Many opponents voice a need to imagine bolder, more innovative ways to decrease food deserts, increase low-income entrepreneurship, and incorporate green technology in our city’s affordable housing plans.

It is estimated that the bond will cost the average Durham homeowner between $40 and $60 annually; in return, these revenues will lead to more than 2,800 affordable rental units and for-sale opportunities. Even without the $95 million in bond revenue, city officials confirm that affordable housing projects will move forward, but these projects will not keep pace with the rate of displacement and the city’s growing affordability needs.

One notable provision confirmed by Anthony Scott, Chief Executive Officer of the Durham Housing Authority (DHA), is the $2.5 million commitment in bond funds to train DHA residents in construction skills. This will help DHA residents become more marketable candidates in finding meaningful employment in connection with the construction of more affordable housing in Durham. This provision is aimed at providing well-paying jobs to DHA residents while also providing experience and skills that can serve DHA residents long after the projects are complete.

One growing concern is over the order in which certain properties will be developed. Most of the properties slated to be redeveloped with bond funds will be in downtown, even though the largest properties in dire need of redevelopment are not in downtown Durham proper. DHA properties such as Fayette Place, McDougald Terrace, and Hoover Road will not be redeveloped with funds from the housing bond. McDougald Terrace is one of the oldest public housing communities in the state of North Carolina, yet it did not make the cut. DHA spokespeople note that it makes more fiscal sense to wait until market conditions improve before prioritizing McDougald Terrace. Still, a growing number of community members are unsatisfied with this rationale.

City leaders have committed to having multiple public hearings and meetings throughout the fall for Durham residents to voice their concerns.

Keep an eye out for People’s Alliance Action Alerts for more information on events and resources to help you to make a more informed decision around the $95 million affordable housing bond referendum.

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You Can Vote now independent nonprofit

Contributed by Jennifer McGovern and Mark Hellman of The People's Alliance Fund Board of Directors

You Can Vote transitions from project of The People’s Alliance Fund to independent status

You Can Vote has become an independent nonprofit with Kate Fellman continuing to serve as its Executive Director. The voter education and registration project was started within Durham People’s Alliance by Kate in 2013 working as a volunteer.

Since the work of You Can Vote is strictly nonpartisan, the project moved under the wing of The People's Alliance Fund in 2014 to take advantage of the Fund's tax-deductibility for donors. You Can Vote grew spectacularly within the Fund over the next five years under Kate’s leadership, from one staffer covering two counties to a large staff currently serving 12 counties and from a budget under $20,000 to one over $500,000. You Can Vote has registered over 30,000 voters in that time, thanks largely to the work of the more than 2,000 volunteers it has attracted and trained and the skill of the staff in finding high-traffic venues for them to engage potential voters.

Fund president Mark Hellman congratulated Kate and the Board of Directors of You Can Vote (YCV) for meeting all the requirements over the past year to establish YCV with the Internal Revenue Service as an independent tax-deductible nonprofit.

"The People’s Alliance Fund is delighted by You Can Vote’s growth and success and will continue to support it financially and morally, as it has since YCV’s first full year of 2014," he said. "The tremendous nonpartisan work of the You Can Vote staff, board, and volunteers is vital to democracy in North Carolina. And because North Carolina is a swing state in national elections, it is also vital to the future of democracy in the United States," he added.

The members of the initial Board of Directors of You Can Vote are president Susan Yaggy, vice-president Duncan Yaggy, treasurer Marty Belin, secretary Angie Santiago, and at-large member Tania Walker.

YCV’s goals for 2020 are to double the number of volunteers it trains and mobilizes and to increase the counties it serves from 12 to 20, according to a new video at the You Can Vote homepage (https://www.youcanvote.org/).

You Can Vote’s association with The People’s Alliance Fund made donations to it tax-deductible for individual income tax purposes. It also permitted You Can Vote to solicit and secure grants from charitable foundations located in North Carolina and across the country.

A large part of the Fund’s support was provided by Fund treasurer Jennifer McGovern. She managed You Can Vote’s finances on a volunteer basis as its annual budget grew more than twenty-five times its initial size. Durham People’s Alliance staff person L’Tanya Durante provided crucial administrative assistance in this task under a cost-sharing arrangement between the Fund and Durham People’s Alliance.

The People’s Alliance Fund will continue to sponsor The Durham Living Wage Project (https://www.durhamlivingwage.org/) and to award quickly decided micro-grants to volunteer-led progressive projects in Durham and surrounding counties, including eligible activities undertaken by Durham People’s Alliance action teams. Visit the Fund website at https://www.peoplesalliancefund.org/ to learn more.

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