I wanted to start a mini-series about how people, who are both in and out of our social circles, are contributing to civil engagement in the local community on behalf of others. First to kick this mini-series off is David Dixon, a native of Salisbury, NC and a graduate of UNC Charlotte from the class of 2015. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Africana Studies, History, and Political Science.
He is 1 of 17 members of the inaugural group of the Racial Equity Taskforce, a committee under the Durham City Council. The Taskforce was established just this past June of 2018 and their mission is to:
“engage with the broader Durham community to address issues of racial equity through education of inequitable circumstances, research of best practices and issue policy/funding recommendations to address racial inequity in the community and governmental entities.”
In general, what first got you interested in being involved in civic groups and the political world?
I wanted to understand the things going on around us politically, economically, etc. Off of the politics, seeing black men and women being murdered by police and seeing no punishment or seeing people lose their houses due to gentrification made me want to get involved. I studied History and Political Science in undergrad and with that historical background, it gave me insight on how African Americans were treated from decade to decade and how much things haven’t really changed. Society hasn’t gotten much better from years ago.
I was also politically involved in college, working to get people registered to vote back when Alma Adams was running for her first term of her office.
So what prompted you to head to Durham-specifically after graduation?
Actually, when I first graduated I got evicted from my house within 48 hours of me getting my degrees. So I kinda had to figure something out, but I actually have family in Durham and I was able to sort of leverage some of their relationships to start working with the Democratic Party in Raleigh. I was serving as their Compliance Director, which is essentially overseeing compliance with campaign finance law. With that, it was able to plug me deeper to some of politics and politicians of the area.
I know you all have just been confirmed, but are there any preliminary goals that you all have?
We haven’t met just yet. I think I might’ve been the last person to be sworn in. The chairperson of the Taskforce is actually the dean of North Carolina Central University’s law school. The first meeting should be here in November, they haven’t sent out a notification just yet, and then we will meet monthly and if not, hopefully twice a month.
Instead, what are some short-term personal goals that you hope that the Taskforce will begin to accomplish?
So Durham right now is dealing with- as most black areas of the country are- a huge issue of gentrification. A lot of the neighborhoods on the south side of Durham, some old historic black neighborhoods, are all kind of being uprooted as newcomers come in for job opportunities. Realtors are buying up these houses that are condemned or in disrepair and are flipping them specifically for the incoming, millennial, job-seeker market. So one of the things I really want to do is help curb that gentrification such that the houses that are being built or rebuilt will be affordable to some of the black people that have lived in these neighborhoods for generations.
Specifically, there is an area called Campus Heights that is literally right across the street from NCCU, and Fayetteville Street is opposite the school, so…the Durham Historic Preservation Society sent a petition to the National level to add that neighborhood to the national list of historic sites. The issue is that a lot of information about this whole process isn’t being given to the residents of that neighborhood, which are black people. Now that it’s added to this register, the houses have to be kept up to a certain standard. What happens when those houses aren’t [kept to that standard] is the individuals that own them will be fined an “x” amount of dollars an “x” amount of times until those houses are repaired or the bank will literally come in and take that house from those families. So what I really want to do is just try to put things in place that will help the black folks that live in these neighborhoods be able to afford their houses. It makes no sense for us to be losing property that we’ve owned for generations.
It makes no sense for us to be losing property that we’ve owned for generations.
Do you think Durham has a shot against pushing against gentrification among other elevating disparities so that it won’t be like another D.C.?
I definitely think we can make it happen with us just being here in the South. You see how resilient we are as a people in the South compared to everywhere else. We deal with blatant racism, kind of on a everyday basis. I don’t think anywhere else in the country deals with that kind of racism (whether it be policy or whether it be people’s actions). I don’t think most of the country regularly deals with that type of hyper-level racism. I definitely think we will be able to overcome it. It just takes us as millennials, especially us as people of color regardless of age, to really pay attention to what’s going on around us.
The main thing in my mind is just making sure that we, as the next generation of leaders, and doctors, and teachers, and lawyers, and politicians, pay attention. Anybody under the age of 30 needs to keep their ear to the pavement, and just be aware of what’s going on around you. I think a lot of the time we often get lost in the thinking of “We have to be out doing everything”, “I have to go protest”, “I have to go vote”, “I have to go teach other people about policy”, and “I have to go to city council meetings”, but that’s not the case. It’s good that you can put on those multiple hats, but you really only need to do one or two things really well. And that needs to be voting and educating yourself/others. If you do just those two things consistently well, you will see the benefits in the community.
David is definitely somebody to keep an eye out for with his work in the Durham area. To check out more of his work and keep up with the movement, follow him @davidtheque
The views expressed in this article are the interviewee’s own and do not necessarily reflect kltrd.’s editorial stance.