Commitment to Anti-Racist Action

We condemn the murder of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. The killing of Black residents in police encounters occurs around the world and also right here at home. We remember Kenneth Bailey Jr., Frank Clark, Ondrae Hutchinson, Shaun Christy, and Willard Scott who have all died tragically in encounters with local law enforcement since 2016.1

These deaths and countless others have given rise to a wave of protests responding to centuries of careful, intentional  advancement of white supremacy. We are saddened and angered by the casual brutality and indifference shown by those in positions of authority. We see the violence  against our Black friends and community members. Black Lives Matter, but “matter” is the minimum. Black lives are worthy, they are deserving, they are needed.

We are hopeful that a tide is turning in the work to dismantle a fundamentally racist system. We know that Planning is a part of the system that does harm to Black residents in Durham. Just a few examples include the destruction of Hayti for “urban renewal” and Highway 147,  locating trash incinerators in Black neighborhoods, and only planting street trees in White neighborhoods. There are countless other examples to be identified and actively dismantled.

In our work under ENGAGEDurham and with the Comprehensive Plan we are committed to anti-racist action. We acknowledge the charge from members of the Black community to continue this activism long after this moment has passed. These are the first steps we are taking, but not the last ones.


  • Dedicating time for each person in the Planning department to spend in anti-racist learning and discussion and complete an anti-racist learning curriculum over the next 6 months.
  • Completing a departmental racial equity action plan through the work of the Department’s Racial Equity Workgroup.
  • Advocating for anti-racist policies in our work across the organization with other departments.
  • Publishing on the ENGAGEDurham site case studies and first-person stories on the history of Planning in Durham and how it has caused harm.
  • Sharing a future news post highlighting community voices from the first round of engagement on the issues of overt and structural racism in Durham.
  • Completing an assessment of hiring practices and adopting new anti-racist procedures for hiring in the Planning department to ensure staff reflect the demographics of Durham.2
  • Revising the Durham Planning Academy to prioritize participation of Black and Brown residents, further highlight the role of racist policies in our history, and share/hear ideas for new anti-racist Planning policies.
  • Working to implement the Equitable Community Engagement Blueprint and further refine strategies for truly equitable engagement by listening to Durham residents.
  • Including an Equitable Development framework in the Comprehensive Plan. This framework seeks to bring everyone into the development process, to stop gentrification, to build Black and Brown wealth, and to ensure that all residents benefit from growth and development in Durham.

We urge you, especially White residents, to take action against racism in Durham, to educate yourself, to talk to your friends and family, and to find a lane where you can contribute. It is hard work and we all have a part to play to recognize and dismantle structures built for the promotion and continuation of structural racism. We all have a role to play in building a community in which we live in collective freedom. There’s a lot of work yet to come.


1 From Durham Beyond Policing – Proposal for Community-Led Safety and Wellness Task Force

2 Racial breakdown of Durham City/County Planning Department: 17% Black, 6.4% Hispanic, 74.5% White, 2.1% all other races


Call to Action from Outreach Team members:

Reconciliation with others should be everyone’s order of the day.

– RevDeb

Being against racism is not the same as being anti-racist. Being against racism is a belief; being anti-racist is taking action. I hope all white people will strive to be anti-racist – calling out racist language and actions, educating yourself on white privilege and demanding our government correct racist policies and disparities.  Be prepared to lose friends in the process. It’s worth it.

– Elisabeth Harper Wiener

Slavery is the most evil thing that America has done to black people. There can be no more double standards in America , as well as; that no man is above the law. Not even police that put their knee in black people’s necks. The system that black and brown people have lived under for years is the white man with his knee in our neck. Equity and receiving just due reparations that our ancestors never received need to be set in place for all the wrongs white people have done to us. More affordable housing for blacks to be homeowners, more store front black businesses through out Durham; free college ; quality health care for all black people even with preexisting health conditions; our own banking systems; and the list go’s on because these are just one person’s ideas; there are millions more to follow my statement. You can’t just talk about this issue anymore this has been talked about since our so called freedom. Now it is time for white people that have been in control to be about fixing what you created since slavery. Until black and brown people are treated equal in every way we are not a part of the land of the free.

– Outreach Team member

If we are honest with ourselves, each of us white folks knows enough of what is wrong with our racist society to begin taking action to right wrongs. Let’s join together to dismantle racist practices, policies, norms, and views – and call them out when and where we see them. EngageDurham and the Race Equity Action Team can bring their networks to the table to list the offending practices and then to mobilize to attack these injustices, one by one, until they are wiped out and destroyed. To continue talking, and not acting, is not to hear the present cries of the pain of our black and brown brothers and sisters, from 400 years of mistreatment, a travesty of the ‘American dream.’

– Ethel Simonetti

If Durham truly believes that Black lives do indeed matter then the city has a moral obligation to address the harm continuously done to Black residents through systemic policies that promote gentrification, over-policing and siphoning of talent and resources. It requires much more than slapping slogans on plywood or sharing carefully crafted public statements. Budgets are moral documents. Now is the time for Durham to work towards fully defunding the police and invest in organizations that have been doing the work for years to address harm in our community without police intervention. Reallocate those resources to ensure safe, affordable housing, jobs and access to food and healthcare to all of our citizens, particularly the most vulnerable. Anything less is performative.

– Outreach Team member