Durham County

Bull City Politics: Middleton wants more African-American men on racial-equity panel

Durham City Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton, pictured here awaiting the start of a City Council meeting on Monday, August 6, 2018.
Durham City Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton, pictured here awaiting the start of a City Council meeting on Monday, August 6, 2018. jwall@newsobserver.com

The city’s new Racial Equity Task Force won’t get started until it includes African-American men, too.

The only African-American man on the Durham City Council, Mark-Anthony Middleton, missed the council’s preliminary vote on appointees to the new task force. But he noticed that none of the nine African-American men who applied for 12 positions made the final list of people slated for final approval at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The council had decided to add a 13th spot for an African-American man, but Middleton said during the meeting that’s not enough.

For a Southern city, having only one African-American man on the task force is a shortcoming, he said. Durham’s population is about 40 percent African-American. Multiple African-American women were named to the slate of appointees. There are three African-American women on the City Council.

“As the only African-American male on this board, I am particularly sensitive and locked in on the what the composition of this board will be if we take action tonight and fill this 13th position even if it is an African-American male,” Middleton said. He asked for a delay and further discussion.

“I think it’s a valid concern,” council member Vernetta Alston agreed.

The council will take up the issue again during its Sept. 20 work session.

Durham City Council member Vernetta Alston, left, and Council Member Mark-Anthony Middleton, right, await the start of a City Council meeting on Monday, August 6, 2018. Julia Wall jwall@newsobserver.com

At least one of the people on the preliminary slate will definitely be on it: Superior Court Judge Elaine O’Neal, who is currently interim dean of the N.C. Central University School of Law, is Mayor Steve Schewel’s pick for chair, and he gets to decide. O’Neal is an African-American woman.

Others on the preliminary slate are Tia Hall, Vanessa J. Hines, Jessica C. Luginbuhl, Cameron L. Smith, Kaaren M. Haldeman, Emily S. Coward, Jovonia Lewis, Howard N. Machtinger, Daniel R. McKinney, Katie J. Mgongolwa and Cecilia S. Polanco.

The Racial Equity Task Force is a new advisory board for the city. Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson said it was one of her priorities this year, along with participatory budgeting, which just formed a steering committee.


Sept. 4 was retired N.C. Rep. H.M. “Mickey” Michaux’s birthday. He turned 88 this week, and Middleton wished him a happy birthday during the council meeting.

“I’m sure he’s out somewhere turning up right now,” Middleton said.

North Carolina Rep. H.M. "Mickey" Michaux Jr. is pictured in 2017 telling stories about Louis E. Austin, founder of the Carolina Times newspaper. Bernard Thomas bthomas@heraldsun.com

He might have been right. When Michaux gave his farewell speech at the N.C. General Assembly this year, he ended it with a mic drop.

Bull City Politics is an occasional Durham politics column by government reporter Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan. Follow her on Twitter @dawnbvaughan and the hashtag #BullCitypol.
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