The Bull City has always had a way of making headlines. Starting with the tobacco empire then onto Black Wall Street, major strides in the the Civil Rights Movement, greivously misreported crime, the downtown renaissance and :::POOF::: next thing you know Durham's the Tech Hub and foodiest city of the South. The underdog had come out on top and the former neighsayers flooded in for the jobs, entertainment and eats. Classic heartwarming story, right?
Durham. It's complicated.
In the age of mass digital media, content has become king and the internet is awash in a deluge of puff pieces. At the same time an international publication deemed Durham "the hippest city in the South," the gauntlet had been dropped IRL (in real life) in the most heated Mayorial race in the Bull City's history with the issues of racial equity, gentrification and affordaBULL housing at the forefront.
Durham. It's a tale of two cities.
A city known for it's rich history, grit and unapologetically BULLish ways is being reduced to listicles and highlight reels online. While the same estalishments garner recycled accolades, the number of minority businesses in center center dropped to the single digits. There's one black owned building on Black Wall Street in 2018.
While the Bull City can escape the clutches of foreign content farms, it hasn't been able to escape the clutches of transplanted exploitation creating homegrown content farms that make gains off of unpaid contributors. If exposure paid the bills Durham wouldn't have an unbudging, high level of poverty.
Durham. It's not going anywhere.
Fortunately, Durham's been authentic before authentic was a buzzword and, as a whole, it seems the locals aren't interested in progress exclusively for progress's sake. The locals aren't interested in being puff piece fodder. They're interested in making a future where everyone has equitable access to real, lasting success. The untapped talent of the Bull City has been overlooked far too long. It's not about speaking up for the voiceless. It's about passing the mic.
Durham. It's not interested in lip service.
An echelon of change agents have come to the forefront using the Bull City classics for success - art, education, grit, grind and community. When you cut through the haze of the hype you'll discover one such change agent humBULLy clearing the path for those to come and digging in his heels against the ravaging of the Bull.
Meet Durham Native, artist, public servant, disruptor and non-profit professional Derrick Beasley.
"I was raised in Durham, but took a 12 year hiatus to study Sociology at NC A&T SU, Public Administration and Policy Analysis at Georgia State University and then to do organizing work in Atlanta. I returned home to Durham in January 2015."
What do you do in Durham?
"I am a visual artist, public servant and non profit professional. I am 1 of 4 cofounders of the collective Black August in the Park that hosts an annual event by the same name that brings over 7,000 Black people to the city center in the name of Black liberation.
"We host two other similar events call the Black Market and a Black Farmers Market. I work full time for Student U, a college access organization as a College Success Coordinator. I work Part-time for Village of Wisdom as the Black Genius Brand Ambassador. Lastly I serve on the City of Durham's open space and trails commission and try to involve myself in local political efforts to bring about equity in the city. Sometimes I organize bike rides. Sometimes I drink old fashioneds at Bar Virgile."
What stands out to you the most about Durham?
"Durham is very much the tale of two cities. Right now what stands out the most in Durham is the growing inaccessibility of its development to its longest tenured residents. Every day there seems to be a new trendy bar or condo or food truck plaza and every contract cycle my rent goes up. There are record evictions month to month and many of the Black people I know from my childhood do not see a place for themselves in the new development.
"Durham is also pretty diverse and you see it from our civic boards to the small business scene, especially when you expand beyond the city center. Durham is a place where you can come start something and people will likely give it a chance. Durham for the most part... and especially in comparison to other cities is progressive and doesn't stand for the BULL sh*t around racism and inequality. If you do some f*ck sh*t, you will get called out at worst and "called in" at best. Durham is a place that I hold to a high standard, because it's my home and because I believe the best of humanity can blossom here if we let it."
What changes would you like to see in Durham?
"I want to see Durham shift from trying to attract cool people and companies from all over the country and world and really invest in making the city dope for everyone who is already here. To me, this is what could elevate Durham beyond the other "progressive" cities it so often gets compared to. We need more infrastructure to make the new Durham accessible. Progressive; left of center; liberal isn't good enough. Durham needs to be revolutionary."
This book is done and sitting on your coffee table. Your page is bookmarked. Someone comes to visit you who has never been to Durham before. They open up the book to your page and your words serve as their first introduction to Durham. What is the ONE thing you want them to know right off the bat?
"Durham is creative, diverse, entrepreneurial, innovative, revolutionary, progressive. Durham is for everyone, but If you aren't coming to contribute to the culture... if you are coming to take more than you give or talk more than you listen... if you aren't centering our most marginalized populations when you get here... if you are coming to exploit Durham's heritage Blackness or "edginess" for your own gain... please turn back around."
As to which BULL in the Bull City is Derrick's fave, well you'll have to wait to find out in "The Bulls of Durham" living history book. I will say this, only he and G. Yamazawa mentioned this BULL as their favorite.
See more of what Derrick Beasley has to say about the Bull City, as well as 100 other Durhamites in the newly released mini-book, "Welcome to the Bull City - A Prelude to The Bulls of Durham."