Beginning as a study group (Nov 2008-July 2009), People’s Durham moved into a founding process (Aug 2009-Jan 2010) to create an organization able to provide leadership and strategy for new kinds of organizing in our city.
Drawing on the experiences and ideas of New Working Class Organizations and Left power-building strategies throughout the Americas, People’s Durham is a project for building working class power where we live—Durham, North Carolina, & the South—with the struggles and leadership of low-income folks, people of color, and women at the center.
Our work for 2011 had three main project areas:
- Building our new educational justice organization, the Committee for Democratic Education through the local budget struggle, a new literacy program, and this year’s Freedom Summer Internship Program.
- Developing a voter engagement program in targeted neighborhoods throughout Durham.
- Working in a statewide coalition to defend the public sector.
Committee for Democratic Education
The Committee for Democratic Education exists to help make heard the voices of students, teachers, school workers, parents, and community members in order to be the decision making body for Durham public education. We need to be in charge of making the decisions about our school system that directly affect us, our families, and our communities. We see that in the current conditions of this political climate, our voices are not valued. But we value and need to make heard the voices of those who have been historically (and systematically) denied an opinion: people of color, low-income folks, women, queer folks, and immigrants. Our goal is to build an organization that is lead by these/us folks in order to gain the decision making power for Durham public schools.
Stand Up Durham was a coalition formed in the spring of 2011 by students, parents, teachers, and other school workers, Stand Up Durham to continue the important work of the Umbrella Coalition. Stand Up Durham called on the School Board and Superintendent Dr. Eric Becoats to examine all options for closing the budget gaps, especially options for raising revenue that force Durham County residents with more resources to pay their fair share. Balancing the budget on the backs of poor and working class families is not an acceptable way for the Durham Public School system to do business.
Our Political Project
Our primary political work in 2011 consisted of building an organization in at least one precinct in Durham, and participating in a statewide coalition in defense of the public sector.
Part of this work included a “Tax the Top” week of action, May 22nd through May 28th of 2011. Actions were organized by People’s Durham to pressure Governor Perdue to veto the existing budget and to find a way to preserve jobs and public education. The week included a State Budget Teach-In in Durham, supporting the NAACP’s actions at the state house, and holding visibility actions to draw attention to the wealth transfer taking place.
Freedom Summer School
We also had our second Freedom Summer School, a week-long intensive program where we got together with 25 of our members to develop our organizing skills and political analysis. Read more about this program in these articles.
In 2010 our work similarly centered around these three project areas:
- The Umbrella Coalition: Our work with students, UE 150 Public Service Employees Union and school workers against budget cuts and towards a fully funded, just, and democratic education system and public sector.
- The Durham Freedom Summer School: Our leadership development summer training program
- People’s NC: Our civic engagement work around the fall elections for members of the state legislature
The Umbrella Coalition
Last year the North Carolina state legislature made cuts that led to laying off thousands of educators and school workers in k-12 schools. Cuts to community colleges have meant little to no classes during the summer at a moment when people are enrolling in record numbers. Meanwhile, public universities raised tuition and cut teachers and other workers. The same story repeats itself in services to children, in public hospitals, and in services for the disabled. The result is the dismantling of the public infrastructure that is the foundation for our communities.
This year, as local and state elected officials are proposing more cuts, People’s Durham is building a coalition of students, school and public workers workers, and community members to demand real solutions to the budget crisis. Find out more on the Coalition’s webpage…
The Durham Freedom School
Flowing from our commitment to develop the leadership of people of color, low-income working class people, and women, People’s Durham held a 5-week summer organizing training for youth in our first year. To find out more about our Freedom Summer School program check out these articles.
Elections offer a unique time and opportunity to share our message broadly and amplify the issues and voices of our communities. In November 2010 in addition to electing a new US senator, North Carolinians voted for the entire state legislature. This was a chance for us to take the lessons and stories that we’d built locally around the budget struggle to the state-level.