Opinion

Hey Amazon! Come to the Triangle; we are the future – Pierce Freelon

Pierce Freelon
Pierce Freelon

Dear Amazon:

You don’t need a city. You need a Triangle.

The future home of Amazon HQ2 needs to be as multifaceted as your business. We are in good shape here in North Carolina, at the intersection of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. We have all of the qualities you seek in a home base, and more.

Let’s look at this from a few different angles:

We have a diverse and quickly growing tech industry, world-class hospitals, the most exciting rivalry in sports, an amazing network of tier one universities, our barbecue is the best on Planet Earth, and our southern hospitality is legendary.

The Triangle is made up of three cities, each with its own distinct personality.

Creative nucleus

I was born and raised in Durham – the creative nucleus of the South. We have been called one of the Top 10 cities for millennials and for people of color in tech by Fast Company Magazine, and we’re ranked the No. 1 Best City in America for Millennials in a Growella Study. We are the South’s Tastiest Town according to Southern Living; have been called North Carolina’s Hippest City by Vogue; hip-hop legend Big Daddy Kane called Durham, “Brooklyn in the South”; and thanks to the efforts of concerned citizens to radically beautify public spaces, our city now comes with one less Confederate monument!

Raleigh, our capital, is home to big corporations, quality museums, parks, and national attractions, including the North Carolina Museum of Art, Carolina Ballet, a major sports arena for the Carolina Hurricanes and the forthcoming N.C. Freedom Park. In the state with the most historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the country, Raleigh is home to the first HBCU in the South, Shaw University. Our music festival scene has blossomed in recent years, with Art of Cool and Moogfest in Durham, but it was Raleigh’s Hopscotch Festival (which Solange headlined this year) that sparked the movement. We invite Amazon HQ2 to A Seat at the Table.

The third leg of the Triangle is Chapel Hill. More than a college town and the home to the oldest and most historic public university in the country, Chapel Hill is a beautiful community with a deep history. Chapel Hill has one of the best public school systems in the country, one of the older planetariums on American soil, a vibrant music scene, and a robust and free transit system. Chapel Hill complements Durham’s creative energy and Raleigh, our capital.

Ahead of the curve

The Triangle is more than a city. We are the Future. We have always been ahead of the curve. Durham is the birthplace of Black Wall Street, a thriving hub for African American enterprise in the early 1900s, anchored by the first Black-owned bank and insurance company in the world. Raleigh's Shaw University is the birthplace of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an important Civil Rights organization responsible for sparking the iconic sit-in movement that desegregated lunch counters across America. In 1968, Chapel Hill became the first predominantly white municipality in the South to elect a Black Mayor in Howard Lee. We are proud of our diverse heritage and visionary ancestors, especially now in the midst of renewed racial and economic tensions and inequality in our country.

With these legacies in mind, we’ll need a few things from you to ensure that we grow in ways that reflect our values. We need you to invest in our HBCUs and public schools; fight gentrification and invest in affordable housing; invest in renewable/green growth; create living-wage opportunities for working folks outside of tech; and be an ally to marginalized groups in the struggle for social justice and civil/human rights. We are so proud of our diverse heritage. It is one of our greatest attributes. We can help Amazon grow in ways that champion equity, diversity, and sustainability, just like we have historically done as a bold, innovative southern community.

We get it. You’re looking for a new dancing partner and you're being selective. We know a little something about the Big Dance here in North Carolina. We have more NCAA basketball championships in a 30-mile radius than anywhere in the country. And we invite you, Amazon, to win with the Triangle offense. We’re offering you three times the charm, three times the growth, and three times the quality of life. We are high-tech, creative, and diverse and have the best sports, hospitals, universities, agriculture and arts in the world. You don’t need geometry to calculate the area of this Triangle!

Pierce Freelon, a former mayoral candidate, lives in Durham.

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