As neighbors in North Durham, we stand in solidarity with the protests to defend Black lives. We support the uprisings in response to the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the spread of the movement across the nation and the world under the banner of Black Lives Matter. To go beyond mere words, we invite you to join us in building community-based forms of accountability and safety as alternatives to policing in our neighborhoods.
Our communities have a responsibility to reckon with, and break from, our historical and ongoing complicity with white supremacist institutions. Some of our neighborhoods were created with racially restrictive deeds that prevented Black people from owning homes (e.g., Northgate Park and Glendale Heights – see BullCity150). From the period of Jim Crow through the present, segregated neighborhoods have been patrolled by police and neighborhood watches who have defended white property and criminalized Black and Brown people. These institutions have valued property over Black and Brown lives. They have reinforced segregations, inequalities, and structural racism that have made Black and Brown people disproportionately vulnerable to illness and premature death. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these inequalities and everyday violences have intensified, as seen in the racially disproportionate statistics of who is suffering from COVID-19 (around 80% of the cases in Durham have been Latinx or Black people – see Durham Public Health).
As a way for us to help each other survive during the pandemic, we created a mutual aid group across our neighborhoods in North Durham. Mutual aid is when people come together to help each other meet their needs, with an understanding that the dominant systems aren’t sufficient. Through mutual aid across the segregations of our neighborhoods, we’ve found a small way to begin to redress historical inequalities and injustices. We’ve been enacting a mode of sharing resources that is alternative to the dominant mode of commodifying the necessities of life and property ownership. (For more info, see North Durham Mutual Aid.)
As the police are fundamentally defenders of property, we question their necessity and are seeking alternative means for safety and accountability in our communities. Although mutual aid offers a way to survive and prefigure alternatives to the dominant system, it is not enough on its own to dismantle inequalities and the institutions that reinforce them. For that, we need organized resistance, such as the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, as well as working to create alternatives to policing—such as community-based ways of addressing problems like conflicts, mental illness, and sexual violence—across the city and within every neighborhood.
For our neighborhoods in North Durham, we have recently started a group for creating projects of community accountability, safety, conflict resolution, and transformative justice. We do not know yet what forms these projects will take. Our first steps are to engage in research, discussion, and building relationships with each other and in collaboration with existing efforts, such as the Durham Beyond Policing coalition and SpiritHouse.
We invite you to join us! If you are interested or have any questions, please email us at NorthDurhamAlternatives@gmail.com .