Dear Durham City Council,
When asked about the meaning of Freedom, Assata Shakur once said, “ I know more about what Freedom isn’t than what Freedom is.” As this country celebrates Juneteenth, which symbolizes Freedom, these words capture the sentiments of many citizens of Durham NC. As a Black man in America in 2022, I still might not know what Freedom is, in terms of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, but I know what Freedom isn’t. Freedom isn’t having to worry about your spouse being shot while driving home from work. Freedom isn’t having to wonder if your children will make it home safe from school. Freedom is not being afraid to sit out on the front porch with your family during a warm summer evening because of fear of a drive-by shooting, No, this is not Freedom. But this is the reality in Durham.
So, the question before us is how do we obtain true Freedom in the Bull City ? We first must be honest about how we got here.
Although many people discuss, at length, the root causes of violence in Durham, few people acknowledge that it is the ghost of urban renewal that haunts us and prevents us from sleeping at night. As early as the 1960’s citizens predicted that the results of snatching people from their homes and relocating them ( economic ethnic cleansing) would create the very conditions from which we suffer today. Few will admit that many of the young people who are both doing the shooting and lying dead on city streets are the grandchildren of the victims of the sinister urban renewal plot. So, what we see in the city today is a case of the chickens coming home to roost. It is the iniquity of the fathers of this city being visited on the third generation.
So, how do we ensure Freedom and Equality for all of Durham’s citizens?
The road to making Durham a kinder and gentler city starts with atonement. We cannot correct the sins of the past by pretending that they never occurred. In over 60 years the victims of urban renewal have not received as much as an apology. I am asking for a formal apology from the City of Durham for their participation in the urban renewal process.
Secondly, I am asking for financial reparations to be paid , specifically, to the victims of urban renewal and their families.
Only, when these conditions are met can we begin to repair the damage of urban renewal. Then all of us can experience true Freedom.
As Donny Hathaway once ,soulfully , sang, “take it from me someday we’ll all be free.”
Min. Paul Scott, founder
Black Messiah Movement
PO Box 15123
Durham NC 27704