Effie Steele, board president of Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, starts many of the monthly gatherings with: “We are the ones we are waiting for.” Instead of turning to others, she reminds those who come to talk about nonviolence in Durham that it is also their responsibility to address it.
For RCND’s most recent lunch roundtable at Shepherd’s House United Methodist Church, she said: “We are the ones we are waiting for to make us safe in this city.” The topic was Bull City United, the group of violence interrupters that launched in Durham this past fall in the Durham County Department of Public Health.
Bull City United is modeled after Chicago’s Cure Violence. Bull City United leaders and interrupters appealed to the Religious Coalition for support and shared information about what they’re doing in two areas of Durham so far — McDougald Terrace public housing and on the Southside.
“We need the church to get involved. We need the pastors to get their congregations to join forces when we go into the street and fight crime,” Steele said.
Dorel Clayton, supervisor of Bull City United, said their three outreach workers and three violence interrupters all lived lives conducive to violence at one time or another. For Clayton, his mother grew up in the Fayetteville Street projects, he said, but went on to be a county employee. But Clayton would visit those same projects where his grandmother still lived, and his friends were there, too. He did things to fit in, he said.
“Long story short, I spent 10 years in prison,” Clayton said. He said the hardest part was his children coming to see him, which helped him realize he didn’t want to live that life anymore.
Now Clayton works to stop violence in Durham. Bull City United helped with an Easter egg hunt at McDougald Terrace and a cookout for the Southside community.
“We provided a lot of information, so it wasn’t just about the fun part,” he said. The cookout included a bounce house, music and giveaways, but he had his table set up, too.
“We like to believe that because we are on the ground doing the work, we are changing the narrative a little bit at a time,” Clayton said.
By going back into the communities where they came from, they serve as models for change, he said. Bull City United is moving into office space at McDougald Terrace.
Outreach coordinator Keshia Gray said they were once part of the problem and they want to be part of the solution as well.
“People remember you,” Clayton said. After prison, he started working in peer support, which led to Bull City United. “I’m no longer defined by my faults and what I did in the past.”
Clayton said they can’t save everybody, but they’re doing their part.
Interrupter Chuck Manning said that interrupters have to keep it real and let people know they’re not alone.
“I give the guys a little bit of my story, a little bit of myself. I’m kind of known around the Durham area from my previous life, and it helps me,” Manning said. “Violence interruption work is very stressful sometimes, but other than that, I get a lot of gratitude...When you’re putting out love, people recognize it.”
Durham Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden attended the Coalition meeting and thanked Bull City United for their work she has seen on the Southside.
“Stay focused; keep up the good work. You’re doing great work,” Cole-McFadden said.
Steele, who has lived in McDougald Terrace, thanked Bull City United for caring enough about Durham to put their lives on the line.
Bull City United
Durham County Department of Public Health
Facebook: Bull City United