Discussion on Community Safety (9/3/19 Ebenezer Baptist Church)

We began the meeting with introductions between people sitting in groups at 5 tables. Each participant spoke about specific neighborhoods and communities they feel accountable to. 

We then moved into an emergent strategies process with each participant writing the problems and solutions facing the neighborhoods/communities they spoke about. The overarching themes are listed below:  

Problems (In no hierarchical order): 

  • Violence and Trauma (particularly with our youth)

  • Gun violence

  • Police misconduct and brutality

  • Gentrification

  • Poverty

  • Environmental injustices

  • Reckless driving 

  • Racism

Solutions (In no hierarchical order): 

  • Gun control

  • Policy change

  • Culture shift

  • Political education & Training

  • Relationship building

The 5 groups took about 45 minutes to look through parts of the Durham Beyond Policing Safety and Wellness proposal and discuss what they liked and what was missing in the proposal. The comments are captured below: 

Table 1

Talked a lot about domestic violence and where it shows up in our communities and in the criminal justice system. Mapped out how to use de-escalation techniques. How can we intervene when domestic violence occurs when the police are the only form of de escalation we have right now. Why is that the only form of de escalation that we have and how do we create better deescalation points that don’t criminalize mental illness and further endanger the person who has been harmed

There is a need for substance misuse and mental health resources. 

Right now you have to actually put people in jail to give them access to these resources. 

Don’t punish people with mental health issues, Find other ways to deal with domestic violence 

Really liked the Cohoots example and S/O to what Ashley Canady is doing in her community to make it a Harm Free Zone. And the power of making in person connections. 

We understand that there can be calls to someone other than police but definitely someone who is professionally trained to deal with an issue. 

We believe that these resources don’t already exist because our society is addicted to punishment. We jump to punishment before treatment, love and care and helping people heal. 

Where do we put our resources. We need a culture shift. Our resources could be redirected. 

Table 2

What’s missing in the proposal

There is a lack of alignment from education to employment. We need skills development that guarantees people jobs with dignity. Young men in the neighborhoods who sell drugs say they do not have access to jobs. 

Talked about poverty, inequity and whether funding worker owned cooperatives could help to address that. There is a difference between training that allows for worker owned businesses to cycle money back into the Durham economy rather than funding corporations that move the money out of the community. 

There is a lack of services benefiting children with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). THe lack of care in the classroom leads to suspension or expulsion, leading to the cycle of School tp prison pipeline. There are only 2 equity officers in Durham Public School system that is made up of a majority of poor people and people of color. There needs to be more programs that support and care for young people . More availability of therapy for teens 

 There is a lack of tree canopy, in many low income neighborhoods and that is intentional. The resource inequity that we talk about all the time is even reflected in our tree canopy, and access to green playing spaces and access to nature that cleans our air and cools our environment. There is an evidence based link to why it is important to repair all of that. 

Appreciated resources that would have supported the police pilot got shunted to eviction diversion and paying part time workers a livable wage. We see those as root cause solutions that will help get us to a better place where everyone is safer. 

Table 3

We are in crisis mode. The community safety and wellness document is not written for crisis mode and should not be judged based on where we are. It is a management tool that shouldn’t be read as a crisis tool. 

Really like the cohoots model. It moves us away from everyone calling the police for everything

When we talk about communities managing their own stuff how do we talk about people who are not from those communities who come in and start problems? What happens when people approach people who are not a part of their community about the ways they are behaving. 

How do people define what it means to be community? 

It is no longer what it used to be because of gentrification and displacement. People don’t know who others who live in their neighborhoods are. There is a lot of talk about calling the police because of people walking through their neighborhoods it changes the way people think about neighborhoods. 

Even if we had unlimited resources, how do we mass train community? How do you get the masses to buy in? We are trying to change the minds of a generation. It will take a consecutive amount of consistent hours to see the manifestation of what we are trying to do. 

We need to get past the flower to the root and once we destroy the system that was not created for any of us and we create a system for what we need, how do we get folks to buy in? 

Table 4

Police have been made essentialized by our governments and institutions. For instance, when a person gets into a car accident, insurance will not even recognize your claim without a police report You are not legally obligated to call the police when you get into a care accident, but if you want insurance to give you money to get your car fixed, you need the police. What we need is a network of mechanics who work on rotation to say this is my shift to take care of folks who’ve been in a car accident. 

How have police been integrated into the needs of our society that they don’t necessarily need to exist for? 

Police have been used as a bandaid to address crime rather than what is the root of the actual problems in land justice and economic development. If we start from the understanding that the police are a reactionary force then we understand that there is nothing the police can do to get to the root of the problem. If they are only reacting to things that have already happened. 

We need to think about the gaps in resources when it comes to research around environmental justice and policies that are written from inadequate research that isn’t informed by Black people  in the struggle or neighborhoods. Recreation centers in our neighborhoods are built from old materials that were never renovated and we are breathing in asbestos and other toxins we are not taking that into consideration when we are looking at data and saying why is there elevated incidences of violence. 

We say environmental justice and use white supremist language that alienates us when at the end of the day the same corporations that are poisoning us here in NC are the same corporations using the toxins that were found in the round up where the man got cancer from doing his job spraying fields in Mississippi. We are doing research to say we don’t need more police but where is the research that says the reason for the increase of violence is that you are supporting corporations with funds that are bringing in pollution that are poisoning our communities increasing our rates of disease and mental capacity deficits.   

 Table 5 

We need wifi in low wealth neighborhoods. We need to slow down the process long enough for a task force to hold public hearings where the community can come out and tell their own stories. Give us enough time to organize. We need 3-4 months.

Understand that listening and action are 2 different things. You can tell your story and we can cry together but if there are no demands there will be no action.

Budgets are created in June. They were put together in December. Department heads come together with the city and county manager at the end of the year with their proposed budgets. If your project is not included in one of those then it will not get funded. 

We are at the right time right now to have an impact on what’s happening to us. So even though the money won’t be allocated until June we need to be in the budget in December. 

Our timeline to have a public hearing is now.

We need to engage the county. The city is in charge of the police department. But we have 2 things to deal with. Policy and resources. City takes care of brick & mortar (which includes the police department) But resources are managed by the county commissioners. We need to bring forth a marriage between the city and the county. We should also include the school board.

If you want politicians to listen to you, create voter registration in your neighborhoods. Create a database and tell the politicians how many people you have registered. Power listens to power and if you are not organizing power you are not going to get a good outcome.   

The proposal needs to be made more accessible for community members to read. There need to be different ways that people can access the proposal. Like a Community Safety Proposal line dance lol.

The proposal is not the plan it is a blueprint for what a task force could look like. All county commissioners have also gotten access to the proposal and Durham Beyond Policing is committed to presenting the proposal to the school board. 

We also used an exercise called the 5 Whys, root cause analysis, exercise as a way to determine one possible root cause of violence.

State the problem: Violence and Trauma (particularly with our youth)

  1. Why does Violence and Trauma exist

    1. Poverty

  2. Why does poverty exist

    1. Lack of good jobs

  3. Why is there a lack of good jobs

    1. Lack of equitable resource development and training

  4. Why is there a lack of equitable resource development

    1. People don’t want an honest democracy

  5. Why don’t people want an honest democracy

    1. Power

To solve one of the root causes that lead to violence in the community the people most impacted must have adequate resources and power. This can be achieved in part by voting  for elected officials who will work through a true democratic process and will take the needs of the community seriously. 

Black August 2019 "In Your Name"


Black August 2019 "In Your Name"

SpiritHouse Inc. is dedicating our 2019 Black August Haiku Practice to our ancestors. As we continue to amplify our collective call for reckoning and reparations we want to elevate the names of those people who chose to survive so that we can be here.

Every story has a prequel. The story, before the story we know, that has been shared across generations. It’s the origin story that reveals the context, realities, players and events that created the full narrative. In folklore, fables, comic books, scifi and fantasy, it is the origin story that helps the reader, the listener, the viewer understand each actor.

We all have an origin story; some we know and some that have yet to be revealed. For most of us, our ancestors reside there. Imbued with their spirits, our ancestors stories serve as a blueprint for our survival.

Here is how to participate:

A typical haiku follows the 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables rhythm. Of course you can break that rhythm and follow whatever vibration suits you, we’d ask that you remember that the purpose of these short poems are to honor our people who have historically and till today, had to find joy and practice sacred ritual in small secret places. We choose this haiku practice in the month of August to learn how to distill what we need to be communicated in its barest essence.

August has 31 days. You can choose one or as many ancestors that you would like to honor during this time.

Choose an ancestor

Write your haiku,

Speak their name and read their haiku out loud

If you feel moved, post your haiku on social media (FB, Instagram, insta stories, Twitter), so that those of us engaged in this collective praise practice can lift up their names with you. Please use the following hashtags #InYourName #BlackAugust2019 #BlackAugust575

Below is an example written my Mama Nia

For: Mildred Darden

petite and brown charge

you suppressed initiate

wistful innocence

#InYourName #BlackAugust575 #BlackAugust2019

Additional practice for the month:

Keep fresh flowers in your home

Burn sweet smelling candles and incense

Prepare family favorite foods

Call, visit and check on your elders

Write letter to family members (particularly family members who may be incarcerated)


Save The Date "For the Culture - Truth, Trial & Transformation.”

Please mark your calendar for our very first "For the Culture" gathering on October 24 - 26, 2019. We have lots of amazing things planned including a HFZ Culture/Practice/Ritual skill share, documentary film screenings, a community sing along and a "For the Culture" awards celebration. We can’t wait to share it with you!

Please mark your calendar for our very first "For the Culture" gathering on October 24 - 26, 2019. We have lots of amazing things planned including a HFZ Culture/Practice/Ritual skill share, documentary film screenings, a community sing along and a "For the Culture" awards celebration. We can’t wait to share it with you!

Murmuration: A lesson from starlings

Murmuration: A lesson from starlings

Tiny starlings move together in ways that confuse larger birds and prevent them from being picked off. There are no clear leaders here. Instead each bird interacts with a small group of birds (aprox 7) who are closest to it. This way of moving keeps them safe. Who are you moving alongside? What larger movements are you connected to? How do these movements keep you all safe.

"Made for NOW" Liberation Line Dance. SEE YOU AT 3

"Made for NOW" Liberation Line Dance. SEE YOU AT 3

One year after manifesting our Liberation Wakanda style (shout out to The Vault at The Palace International for the best Black Panther viewing party ever), we will continue practicing our liberation at Hayti Heritage Center/St. Joseph's Historic Foundation, Inc. with the "Made for NOW" Liberation Line Dance. 
We are healing our past. We are fighting for our future. We are manifesting our joy NOW. 
Don’t let the rain prevent you from getting a piece of this precious joy!

#manifestjoy #practiceliberation #hharmfreezone

"Art is Transformation"

We are so honored to have received this recognition of our cultural work from the Ford Foundation by way of our Cultural Alchemist brother Carlton Turner. We know that Toni Cade Bambara’s words, “the role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible”, are more applicable today than ever before, and we are grateful to be a part of a community of visionaries whose imagination makes transformation possible every day.

A Meditation for Black Women

A Meditation for Black Women

A meditation for Black Women was written by Monet Marshall. Produced and read by Nia Wilson

Casualties – An Unfiltered Look at America’s 40 Year Drug War

by Nia Wilson

In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared his administration’s “War on Drugs.” Through significant fear mongering and grandstanding he increased the size of his federal drug control agencies and pushed punitive policies that aimed to eliminate drugs, our “public enemy number one,” from the United States. Years later, in 1982, President Ronald Reagan pledged his administration’s commitment to the same war, declaring “illicit drugs to be a threat to U.S. national security.” At the time less than 5% of the country felt that drug use was a top priority for the nation. However, in a very short time, and by using many of the tactics of his predecessor, President Reagan increased his drug war chest, by billions of dollars, and continued the all out war.

Declarations of war, a state of armed conflict, hostile combat and a destructive battle for power are never to be taken lightly. Powerful regimes have crumbled after these prolonged violent clashes.  In the end, the spoil and the story belong to the victor, while the devastation of the people, caught in the middle of the violence, is either minimized or absent. Regardless of where we may stand, an unfiltered look at the families in places like Sudan, Palestine and Iraq are evidence that the people’s suffering is real. Poverty, displacement, children losing parents, high rates of infant mortality and indiscriminate violence have left these, war torn, communities unstable and under a constant threat of collapse.

This is the non-negotiable price of war.

And so, what of this 40 year drug war being waged in communities across the U.S.? Has it followed the same patterns of the other wars we have named? Are there clear victors and casualties here? Has some threatening power been shifted or neutralized?

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. A significant number of those who are incarcerated are casualties of the drug war.  We would be hard pressed to find anyone, in this country, who does not agree that this war has almost entirely been waged in poor Black communities. According to Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow- Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, “The drug war has been brutal—complete with SWAT teams, tanks, bazookas, grenade launchers and sweeps of entire neighborhood . . . This war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of Color, even though studies consistently show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates.” The impact on the families living in these neighborhoods is as real as it is in Sudan, Palestine and Iraq. According to the sentencing project, 1 out of 3 Black males can expect to go to jail or prison in his lifetime and 1 out of 15 Black children have a parent in prison. There are neighborhoods, in this country, where entire families have lost their rights to work, find adequate housing, go to college or to vote for people and policies that can make their lives better. And yet, we continue expecting these communities to thrive.

As we near the conclusion of Black History Month, it is paramount that we take an unfiltered look at the havoc the drug war has wreaked on poor and war torn Black communities. As we lift up the successes of those who’ve beaten the odds we must also uncover the truth about why so many others have not.

This February- April, in Durham NC, SpiritHouse Inc, as part of our Harm Free Zone initiative, is hosting a city-wide study of Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow- Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” Local churches, community groups, law students and business owners have committed to studying and discussing the book together, and on April 9th we will host a city-wide gathering to continue unraveling the complexity of this issue, and its impact in Durham.

If you are interested in participating in this book study and attending the city-wide gathering please see below or contact  Tia Hall at Tia@spirithouse-nc.org  for more details. SpiritHouse is proud to be leading this initiative in Durham.

We hope all who are interested will join us!

Selma 50th – The Sankofa Moment

by Nia Wilson

March 13, 2015 – One week ago, four members of SpiritHouse Inc., left Durham NC, to join our Southern Movement Alliance (SMA) comrades, in Selma AL, for the 50th Anniversary of the  Edmund Pettus Bridge crossing. This historic weekend was a commemoration of the first of three marches, from Selma to Montgomery, to secure voting rights for Blacks in Alabama. The violent, state sanctioned, retaliation on March 7, 1965, by the Alabama State Troopers, led to that march forever being known as “Bloody Sunday.”

On our arrival, we paid tribute to those who marched and survived unimaginable beatings on that day and we joined our fellow SMA anchor organization, The Ordinary People’s Society (T.O.P.S.) to lead their annual Backwards March across the same historic bridge. T.O.P.S. whose goal is “to create, build, promote and maintain a better humanity by remaining open to the needs of people in our society,” has been leading the Backwards March, in Selma, since 2007 because, as founder Rev. Kenneth Glasgow says, “we have to go back and get some things right before we can move forward.”

As we drove from our hotel through Montgomery we talked about the similarities between the Backwards March and the West African Sankofa proverb. The Sankofa which literally means “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot,” is symbolized by a mythological bird that is flying forward while looking back in the opposite direction. In its mouth (or sometimes carried on its back) is an egg that represents the future.

Black people separated and displaced across the diaspora have been returning to fetch lost pieces of ourselves for generations. After the abolition of slavery, it was not uncommon for formerly enslaved and runaway Blacks to return to the places where they had been held captive in hopes of finding the loved ones they had lost, or reconnecting to the land that had absorbed so much of their blood and sweat. Today, many of us continue this journey by participating in events like the Selma 50th, joining ancestry.com or sending swabs of our DNA off, searching for pieces that will make us whole.

And so, from Durham to Alabama, between Erykah Badu, J. Cole and the O’Jays, we talked about the omitted stories left behind in Selma and across this country. How many  incarcerated family members, LGBTQ brothers and sisters and women experiencing domestic and sexual violence, remained silent for the sake of the movement? How have these gaps in our individual and collective histories impacted our community? And what lessons are waiting for our retrieval?

In his speech, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, President Obama spoke about how far we have come since 1965. He said that he “rejected the notion that nothing has changed” [in this country], and that “to deny our progress, would be to rob us of our own agency.” He acknowledged that there is still more work to be done, and referenced what has been happening in Ferguson as evidence of this. However, what he, and other presidents before him, failed to do, is to address those whom he/they intentionally abandoned for the sake of the most palatable progress.

Today, America’s 40 year Drug War, which began just after the Civil Rights Era, has placed over 7 million (mostly poor, mostly Black) people under correctional control, stripping them of the very rights to jobs, education and housing, that were won by their elders. Today, according to a Malcolm X Grassroots Movement report entitled “Operation Ghetto Storm,” every 28 hrs a Black person (mostly men between the ages of 15 and 35) is killed by police officers, security guards or vigilantes claiming self- defense.” Today, Trans women of color are being murdered at an alarming rate of almost one per week.

And today, young people, poor people, LGBTQ and formerly incarcerated people, who have been pushed to the furthest edges and made invisible, are refusing to remain silent. These brilliant souls have learned from the lessons hidden in the retrieval and are not only telling their own stories, but they are uncovering and telling the stories of their past kin left behind. They are claiming justice for all as a human right with the understanding that it will not be accomplished until we include everyone in the process. Bravo to T.O.P.S and the people of Selma for embracing ancestral wisdom and reminding us to fetch and learn from our past.