I saw a white woman, walking a dog while pushing a baby in a carriage.
Things have changed in Northeast Central Durham since my days as the facilitator of the NECD project. Back in 1995, the corner of Angier Avenue and Driver Street was known for boarded-up houses, prostitutes and drugs. The 95-block area was the most crime riddled in the city with a pile of root causes that demanded massive attention.
I looked to my left as I waited for the stop light to turn green.
Things are not the same.
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It was that time of the day just before the sun sets to be replaced by the moon. That time when the street lights come on to warn children to get home before more bad things begin to lurk in the streets. I anticipated seeing the type of images that made that corner a bad place to be when the sun goes down.
The woman pushing the baby carriage seemed undaunted by a neighborhood that once challenged the courage of people who grew up playing near that corner. The echoes of gunshots and the sight of young people positioned to sell drugs was enough to keep them home at night.
She walked with a confidence that gave new meaning to that corner. She was untainted by past news clippings regarding those murdered within steps from where her dog barked while seeking a place to fertilize the earth. The woman bent over and placed the dung in a green plastic bag.
The light turned green and woman waved at me in a way that suggested a deep pride in the place she called home. The green bag in her hand hinted to a determination to keep her community clean. She would not leave a mess for others to step into and smell. She did her part.
The grocery store managed by TROSA is gone. So is Joe’s Diner with its famous foot-long hot dog. The “East Durham” sign in front of the Angier Avenue Baptist Church rekindled memories of talks involving funding the streetscape aimed at stimulating economic growth on that corner.
The changes on the corner are mingled with images of work left undone. Like something special rising from the ashes, squat houses are now dwellings with two parents, children, a dog and maybe a cat. A few houses remain waiting for an investor with a vision. The sign of growth is dispersed among images of blight.
Little by little, the blight is fading away.
I turned onto Guthrie Street to canvas the neighborhood. I noticed a once boarded-up house for sell. The asking price startled me – $410,000. There were others ranging from $241,000 to over $300,000. It takes money to move into a community once known as a place to avoid at night.
I chuckled when I saw a large Green Bay Packers flag displayed on a house on Driver Street. I don’t know many black people who root for the Packers – the Panthers, the Cowboys and the Redskins, but not Green Bay. I don’t know many black people who hang flags.
Signs of poverty remain, but the cost to live there has changed.
I turned left onto Driver Street and then right onto Angier Avenue. Heading west, I wondered, where does a person with limited income live in Durham? What will happen when the people with more than enough make it impossible for the poor to stay?
Now heading west on Main Street, I took notice of the massive growth downtown. I tilted my head back in search of the top of the massive building under construction across from the 21C Hotel.
One thing is for sure. The people living in Northeast Central Durham won’t be living there.
My God! Help me find a place to live.
Carl Kenney is the executive producer of “God of the Oppressed’, an upcoming documentary that explores black liberation theology. He is the author of “Preacha’ Man” and “Backslide.” He can be reached at: Revcwkii@hotmail.com