‘Little piece of heaven’: Durham activists create plan for Black economic zone

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – For a month, a group of activists camped out in front of the Durham Police Department. They demanded the city take money from the police budget and put it towards helping Black and brown communities.

After not getting the results they asked for, the group is now taking matters in their own hands as they plan to build the Brightwood Black Economic Development Zone in east Durham County.

About 20 volunteers started clearing out the 4 to 5 acres where the plan is to put in an open-air market, a treehouse library, an amphitheater, a community farm, tiny homes, and a place for after-school programs.

“I hope to create a little piece of heaven for Black people,” said Skip Gibbs, an activist behind the project and a member of the Other America Movement (OAM).

Gibbs said there is a problem with Black poverty in Durham.

“Black people have not been integrated or included into the economy,” Gibbs said.

He said this lack of opportunity for Black people is one of the root causes of Black crime in the city.

“These people are living in a time of desperation. They’re living in a time of hopelessness,” Gibbs said.

After failing to get the funds they wanted from the city after occupying the Durham Police Department, a Duke professor donated this piece of land in eastern Durham County for their cause.

Already on the property is an old barn that the activists plan to transform into an open-air market where Black vendors can come to sell their goods.

He said they are no longer seeking funding assistance from the city of Durham. Instead, he said they are seeking funding through a grassroots movement and he is hopeful they will be able to make this happen.

“It’s just a bunch of people saying that we are tired of telling people that our lives matter,” Gibbs said. “We’re just going to take control of it, take control of our own destiny. It’s a trying time, but I’m pretty sure, I’m pretty confident that we’re going to push through it and make this a reality.”

Gibbs said the activists right now do not want to release the location where this economic development zone is located. He said they have applied for a permit with the city-county planning department to get the process started.

Gibbs said they have a meeting with the planning department next week.

If you would like to donate to the Brightwood Black Economic Development Zone, Gibbs said you can send them donations on Venmo. Their Venmo name is OAM-Durham.

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