Why “North Durham Mutual Aid”?
Our project’s initial name was “Northgate Response.” As we built relationships in other neighborhoods, we expanded our name to “Colonial Village / Northgate Park / Braggtown Mutual Aid.” But this was confusing and a mouthful. It was also politically problematic, because it seemed to present the boundaries of these neighborhoods as necessary, thereby obscuring the contested character of these boundaries. For example, this post from DataworksNC shows a map made from Braggtown residents’ understandings of their neighborhood’s boundaries, which overlap with much of what the residents of Northgate Park and Colonial Village usually understand as their own neighborhood’s territories. The history of Braggtown involves the afterlives of slavery, as Braggtown’s residents include the descendents of many formerly enslaved people at the nearby Stagville Plantation. The history of these neighborhoods’ relations with each other also is bound up with Jim Crow segregation, as the Braggtown neighborhood was historically black while Northgate Park, for example, was initially built as a whites-only neighborhood with houses that had racial covenants.
The racial-capitalist history of these neighborhoods continues today, with stark inequalities and de facto segregations between the neighborhoods, complicated with forces of gentrification as well as with the greatly increasing population of Latinx immigrants in the past two decades. These phenomena are also starkly evident in the area west of Northgate Park, past Duke Street, as many blocks of apartment buildings around Brogden Middle School house hundreds of working class, mainly black and Latinx residents who are generally disconnected from the “community” in Northgate Park. By centering the established names of neighborhoods, we also obscured the existence of our neighbors who do not live in clearly defined neighborhoods.
In response to these problems with our current name, we adopted a new name, “North Durham Mutual Aid,” which we hope will help us build stronger relationships with more of our neighbors. This name keeps a geographic identity but has expandible, flexible boundaries. The name not only distinguishes our area from the established neighborhood of Old North Durham but also it suggests that we are creating a new community (and a new world!) through building relationships across the inequalities and segregations of our established neighborhoods and non-neighborhood-identified areas.