Near the end of his life, Malcolm X pushed civil rights leaders to reframe their struggle as a campaign for human rights that included the right to self-determination. Gentrification — when market forces shift city neighborhoods into the control of the wealthy — can be examined in this light, since the voices of long-time and often poor and minority residents can be overlooked or suppressed in a push to “clean up” or renovate for wealthy, white families. In today’s Durham, gentrification is on dramatic display as former mill villages and warehouses are replaced by pricey condos, craft beer halls and locavore restaurants. How does a human rights lens shape the way we see our changing city? Who is making the decisions that will dramatically reshape this historically black and working-class city?

This year-long series was sponsored by the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Pauli Murray Project and the Forum for Scholars and Publics.

A picture of Durham

2015-2016 Events:

Melissa Norton, Gentrification and the Dynamics of Neighborhood Change
September 30, 2015,  FHI Garage, Smith Warehouse, Bay 4

Melissa Norton, Project Coordinator for the Durham Living Wage Project, defined gentrification, looked at the history of displacement and disinvestment in central Durham, presented original data on neighbourhood change to better understand where and how gentrification is happening, and proposed a range of tools to policymakers, communities, and individuals to help ensure an equitable and inclusive central city in the years to come. READ ABOUT THE EVENT.

The cultural life of Capital punishment

Claiming our Rights: Crest St. Resistance to Urban Renewal
October 27, 2015, FHI Garage, Smith Warehouse, Bay 4

Learn how one Durham neighborhood fought back against national policy and won. The Crest Street community resistance worked because of coalitions between community members, legal aid attorneys, and local political organizations. What can we learn from this story that is applicable today? READ ABOUT THE PANELISTS.

Our Right to Place: Visions of Durham’s Future
March 2, 2016, FHI Garage

How can we contribute to a more equitable vision of Durham’s future? In the next 10 years Durham will face pressure and opportunity because of the expected population growth. As housing costs go up in historically African American neighborhoods, how can we insure that people of color and the working class have a voice in the conversation, decision-making and visioning? Panelists included City Councilman Steve Schewel, SpiritHouse Director Nia Wilson, Architect Ellen Cassilly, and Mayme Webb-Bledsoe from the Duke Office of Durham and regional Affairs. Moderated by Barbara Lau, Director of the Pauli Murray Project. READ ABOUT THE PANELISTS.

For more information about gentrification, human rights, and some of the recent developments in Durham, please see the following articles:

Malcolm X, Gentrification and Housing as a Human Right By John Bartlett, Truthout

Is Gentrification a Human Rights Violation? by Saki Knafo, The Atlantic

20 Ways not to be a Gentrifier in Oakland by Dannette Lambert, Oakland Local

The View From Below by Brian Howe, Independent Weekly