A Letter from Nuestra Gente to Durham/ Una carta de Nuestra Gente a 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

Una carta de Nuestra Gente a Durham

Querido Durham,

Nuestra Gente del PA (People’s Alliance) es un grupo de personas en acción de alianza y afinidad que se formó el la primavera del 2018. Nuestro propósito es apoyar la agenda progresiva de PA para la comunidad Latinx (Latinos/as). Para crear un espacio abierto para nuestra comunidad y ampliar nuestra voces y argumentos de participación con el PA.

La comunidad Latinx es frecuentemente referida como una comunidad singular, pero no lo es. Nosotros, como otros grupos de personas, no somos un monolito. Porque somos muy diversos, a menudo no estamos de acuerdo en algunas especificaciones, tenemos en común el compromiso para apoyar y abogar por nuestras comunidades con la estructura política de Durham, específicamente con la gente de People’s Alliance.

En noviembre del 2018 para apoyar la participación de diversas voces, desarrollamos formatos y normas de nuestro grupo para hablar y votar en consenso. Discutimos la estructura y membresía del grupo. Balanceamos los beneficios de un espacio seguro para que los miembros de la comunidad Latinx podamos hablar abiertamente y los beneficios de una comunidad abierta donde todos pudieran participar. Hemos tomado la decisión de permitir una participación abierta de grupo y no creamos una estructura de membresía porque no hubo un consenso con las especificaciones de la membresía de Nuestra Gente.

El 14 de agosto del 2019, tuvimos una reunión para hacer recomendaciones para la reunión de respaldo político del 21 agosto del PA PAC (el comité de acción política del PA). Para que un candidato o la propuesta de bono de vivienda justa reciba nuestra recomendación, se debe de recibir el 80% de los votos por parte de nuestro grupo. Llegamos al acuerdo que individuos podían presentar sus propios comentarios en la reunión de apoyo. Nuestra Gente presentó nuestras recomendaciones como grupo en la reunión de apoyo. Varios miembros de Nuestra Gente hablaron como individuos en dicha reunión. Uno de ellos fue Rodrigo Dorfman.

Inmediatamente después de la reunión de respaldo político de People’s Alliance, muchos de los miembros de Nuestra Gente estaban extremadamente preocupados por los comentarios hechos por Rodrigo Dorfman en respuesta a los comentarios realizados por Nia Wilson en su respaldo político para Joshua Gunn. En agosto 28 se llamó una reunión de emergencia para hablar acerca de las preocupaciones de nuestra participación en la reunión de apoyo. Durante la reunión de emergencia se le solicitó a Rodrigo que se disculpara por sus palabras en la reunión de apoyo. El correo electrónico que él escribió a Nuestra Gente, que ahora es público, fue su respuesta al proceso. Queremos ser claros que Nuestra Gente explícitamente rechaza los sentimientos y falsedades expresadas en la reunión de apoyo y en su correo a nuestro grupo. Lo que Rodrigo Dorfman dijo en su declaración en la reunión del People Alliance, y lo que él escribió en su correo, no refleja ninguna posición oficial de Nuestra Gente. El hablo y escribo como un individuo en ambos casos.

La mayoría de los miembros de Nuestra Gente no sabían que el correo se había compartido más allá del grupo y erróneamente creyeron que podría haber tiempo para hablar sobre dicho asunto en nuestra reunión regular del 25 de septiembre. Como resultado hubo un atraso. Nosotros entendemos que el silencio puede ser percibido como complicidad. Nosotros entendemos que por no responder rápido esto causó daños adentro y afuera del grupo. Conjuntamente, Nuestra Gente cree en la accesibilidad para todos los miembros de nuestra comunidad. Nuestra Gente tiene una estructura de organización plana y no tiene un líder. Algunos miembros no tienen correos electrónicos, el privilegio de asistir y participar es nuevo para el proceso democrático en los Estados Unidos, o no hablan el idioma de poder de este país. Por respeto a nuestros valores, procesos y diversidad de nuestros miembros, nuestros procesos dependen de las probabilidades de rapidez de las redes sociales y correos electrónicos.

Sin embargo, como grupo, debemos reconocer que la comunidad Latinx percibe creencias en contra de la raza negra. Las opiniones que Rodrigo Dorfman ha compartido son un síntoma y señal del trabajo que debemos de hacer. Nuestra Gente sabe que necesitamos crecer y desarrollarnos como comunidad para transformar las creencias sobre razas y tener equidad en nuestras prácticas. Al final de nuestra reunión en agosto, se solicitó por medio de varios miembros del grupo que nos someteriamos a un entrenamiento de equidad de razas junto con otros pasos para más adelante honrar todas las identidades que sostiene la comunidad de Durham, la cual incluye la comunidad de Afro-Latinos/as. Como comunidad nosotros podemos, y debemos mantener prácticas anti-racistas.

Nuestro corazón está roto por el dolor que esto ha causado a nuestros vecino de la raza negra en Durham. Lo sentimos mucho. Nuestro deseo es continuar con la rendición y el proceso de curación , y nos gustaría hacerlo en colaboración con la comunidad de raza negra de Durham cuando ellos digan que están listos. Nosotros sabemos que en estos momentos es nuestra responsabilidad construir un puente para la unidad.

Nuestro grupo se reunió el 18 de septiembre del 2019 y anónimamente se votó para terminar la participación de Rodrigo Dorfman en Nuestra Gente. Este es un paso a lo largo de nuestra jornada de trabajo que rectifica lo que esto ha iluminado. Creemos que sus palabras y acciones no tiene lugar en nuestro grupo. Esta carta ha sido escrita en consenso de los miembros presentes en la reunión de emergencia:


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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