Updated: Apr 17
"What we don't Repair, we Repeat." I remember hearing this phrase a lot growing up, but it has never been more resonant than it is today. It is a call to action to acknowledge and address the mistakes and injustices of the past, in order to prevent them from being repeated in the future. However, I look at my beloved Hayti community and fear that if we don’t move more swiftly to repair the harm caused by past injustices, our fate will be fatally cemented within a never-ending cycle of disparity for the Black community.
My father’s once-thriving business stood in the heart of Hayti for decades. He was a contributor to the economic landscape of Durham during challenging times for the city and amidst a fury of racial injustices plaguing the Black community. To think that some 50 years later, we are still trying to recoup all that was lost is disheartening, to say the least. I recall the promises that were made to many business owners, like my father, that the construction of Highway 147 would bring new jobs and economic opportunities to the area and improve the overall quality of life. These were unfilled promises for many Hayti residents. And today, we stand in the relics of these unfilled promises as this neighborhood once again becomes the center of attention in a fight to control Durham’s national and economic footprint as the city attempts to balance a complex interplay of history, development, and ongoing social and economic changes.
I am proud to be the Director of Hayti Reborn. We are a grassroots organization of Hayti neighborhood residents and stakeholders committed to being a voice at the table. For the better part of the past two years, we have been working vigorously to honor and preserve the rich history and heritage of the Hayti neighborhood while also promoting economic development and empowerment for black residents and businesses. As part of DHA’s plan to redevelop Fayette Corridor, which sits in the heart of the Hayti community, Hayti Reborn submitted a proposal in response to the City of Durham’s Request for Proposals for Developer Partners to the DHA Downtown and Neighborhood Plan. Our proposal was subsequently rejected, and DHA entered into an agreement with Gilbane/Greystone/F7 for the redevelopment of the Fayette Place Site. Despite feeble attempts from DHA to appear that the community’s voice was an important component in this decision, Hayti Reborn remained vocal about concerns regarding DHA’s lack of transparency in the selection process and not doing enough to involve residents and community organizations in the planning and development process.
The Fayette Corridor development is so important because it will reshape the entire landscape for generations of Durham residents. Taking heed to the voice of the community appropriately balances these concerns. We will continue to fight for residents who have lived in the area for many years and may feel a strong attachment to the history and character of the neighborhood, and may be concerned about changes that could alter the area's character or contribute to gentrification and displacement. We will also fight for younger residents who are focused on the need for new development and amenities in the area, such as affordable housing, improved transportation options, and community spaces for gathering and socializing.
We call on all Durham community leaders and stakeholders to work together to find solutions that address the needs and concerns of all members of the community while also promoting equitable and sustainable development that benefits everyone in the area. The way we can ensure this is done is to continue to engage in open and inclusive community dialogue, prioritize affordability and equity in the development process, and seek out creative solutions that reflect the needs and aspirations of the community as a whole. At this crucial time, we stand on the precipice of a real opportunity to RESTORE, REVITALIZE and RESURRECT Hayti and the community’s faith and hope in the powers that reign over change in Durham.
IF NOT NOW, WHEN?