Durham County

Bull City Politics: Telling the ‘less happy parts’ of Durham’s history’

Major the Bull statue in downtown Durham.
Major the Bull statue in downtown Durham. dvaughan@heraldsun.com

Durham’s 150th birthday as a city is coming up in April 2019, and there will be a big celebration. Or rather, a lot of small celebrations.

One hundred and fifty of them, city leaders want.

And they’ll get rolling at this year’s Durham Holiday Parade on Saturday, Dec. 8 downtown. Former council member Eddie Davis is the city’s public historian for the commemoration.

The City Council is contracting with the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau for some of the celebration, including the “150” logo, organizers and events.

Some council members want to make sure it’s not just Durham’s selling points that are promoted.

Council member DeDreana Freeman said at their meeting Monday night that “first nations” people and people of color should be part of telling Durham’s story. At a recent work session, she said there were people in Durham before the city was founded, referring to Native Americans living here.

She also wants to make sure those working on the sesquicentennial are paid a living wage.

Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson also has said the 150th birthday observance should include all of Durham’s history.

“We can have a tendency to gloss over the less happy parts of history,” she said. We should make sure we don’t do that.”

Durham Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson speaks at a City Council meeting on Monday, August 6, 2018. Julia Wall jwall@newsobserver.com

Majority women

The Durham City Council is majority women, with Freeman, Johnson and members Javiera Caballero and Vernetta Alston outnumbering Mayor Steve Schewel and council members Mark-Anthony Middleton and Charlie Reece 4-3.

At council meetings, members are joined on the dais by the city manager and city attorney as well, who are both men. On Monday night, Deputy City Manager Wanda Page filled in for City Manager Tom Bonfield. That brought the number of women on the dais to five. And at the lectern giving the quarterly police report was Durham Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis.

Alston, Davis, Freeman, Johnson and Page are all African-American, making five top city leaders in the room all African-American women, a majority.

Durham Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis, left, at lecturn, addresses Durham City Council on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. Left to right on the dais are Council member Charlie Reece, Council member DeDreana Freeman, Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson, Deputy City Manager Wanda Page, Mayor Steve Schewel, City Attorney Patrick Baker, Council member Vernetta Alston, Council member Javiera Caballero and Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan dvaughan@heraldsun.com

Outtakes: Cook Out and Bull City

At the end of Monday night’s meeting, the council was considering a minor change to a land-use map when the chain restaurants nearby were mentioned. Reece had some thoughts.

Cook Out is one of his favorite restaurants, he said.

Not to leave out other local favorite fast food destinations, Bojangles’, Krispy Kreme and Popeyes were all mentioned by council members, too.

The City Council installed the Youth Commission at its meeting Monday night, and council members came down from the dais for a group photo with the teenagers. Before parents’ cameras clicked, council member Middleton asked: “Should we throw up the horns?” He meant make the bull horns hand signal of two fists together with thumbs out. Everyone complied.

“Bull City!” Schewel said.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan covers Durham government. Follow her on Twitter at @dawnbvaughan and the hashtag #BullCitypol for all Bull City Politics.
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