Report Back from Durham, North Carolina

 There’s no justice, just us: The Durham Report

We in Durham who joined in the national call out for a rally in support of Trayvon Martin and against white supremacy at 6 pm on Sunday want to thank you all for coming out. The sorrow, energy, the courage and the outrage we all expressed was something to behold.

Like our original call stated (, we never believed the courts could deliver anything resembling justice. Because of this, justice must be conducted in the streets. To that end, we support any and all demonstrations of people power and rage against the system that oppresses and dehumanizes all of us. We invite anyone to  make a call to action, at any time. We cannot expect anything from a court system that continues to lock up black and brown youth and others, warehousing them in the filthy jails and prisons because of the color of their skin, and the want of some cash. “No justice, No Peace” we shouted Sunday, and then again Tuesday, but we must take that chant seriously. Because there was no justice or peace to be had before the verdict came down at 10pm ET Saturday. And there can be no peace so long as Trayvon’s life is valued at nothing and so many hunger for food, health, meaningful work, and a life worth living.

The verdict reopened a wound for Black Americans, but for the many thousands of poor and marginalized black and brown folks that wound is opened fresh daily by the conditions where they live, the so-called job market, school, or the police. The verdict was business as usual. TV talking heads and cracker pundits have said that it shows the system is working. Indeed, the system is working. And it is high time to stop business as usual and time to shut down that system.

Now is not the time for sorrow, it’s the time for rage

In the early days after Trayvon’s death, there were vigils and prayerful gatherings. But a similar call now, as the National Action Network is making, seems odd to say the least. We support any and all rallies, speak outs and marches anywhere and at any time in Durham, especially ones that don’t ask for anyone’s permission. As was suggested on Sunday, we can conduct justice in the streets, keep each other safe, gain confidence, and build power on our terms.

We do not have to call into question the legitimacy and power of the Seminole County Courthouse, where Zimmerman got acquitted for cold-blooded murder, nor do we have to call into question the legitimacy of the so-called Durham County Justice Center, brand new and green, or “environmentally friendly” but not in the business of justice; those halls of corruption and power are designed to divide us and to make it easier for rich folks to get richer and white folks to be white and hide behind the veneer of “color-blind” justice. There is nothing to celebrate in a bankrupt hall built on our backs, paid for by our labor, and sending black and brown folks to the jails and prisons built for them to go after they check out or are kicked out of school.

 Here in Durham, there are clear and identifiable targets for our collective rage and desire for justice, democracy and equality: the so-called  “justice center”; the jail next door, where more than 550+ souls are left to rot daily and are fed food with roaches and brutalized by guards ( ; and the police station and substations all around the city, which give legitimacy to all cops, such as Kelley Stewart, who profiled, accosted, brutalized and pulled his gun on Carlos Riley, Jr.( The circumstances of his being pulled over are ‘routine’, but the courage Carlos showed was remarkable. He stood his ground and is locked up right now for it. The struggle to free him is the struggle for the city.

No Morality Play, Just Play

At present, North Carolina is abuzz with the weekly demonstrations known as “Moral Mondays.” While we applaud the conviction demonstrated by those who have attended and the conscience that backs it up, and we can only hope the protests grow bigger and cannot be contained, especially by those calling for the them, we must wonder for a moment at the form they take: lining up to get arrested because the GOP-led legislature won’t listen to you. Why would we expect Republicans to listen when the Democrats who used to control the legislature sold everyone out long ago, if they ever had any accountability at all. Showing up at the legislators’ house of power, on their ‘legal’ terms, only legitimizes them.

 Long-term unemployment benefits have been cut; rather than line up to be arrested, perhaps surround, occupy, and shut down the ESC offices throughout the state. Reproductive services have been severely restricted. Keep the clinics open by any means necessary. North Carolina is open for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking: confront those who stand to benefit from this threat to our short and long term health (as here: These struggles, to name a few, are all inseparable, and are inseparable from the struggle against white supremacy.

 If you forgive the analogy, in the case of earthquakes, there are seismic shifts, but there are always tremors that presage the coming of the quake. Sunday, July 14 in Durham was one of those tremors, where those who were out could almost feel the ground shift beneath our feet as those of us marched on Main and Mangum streets and didn’t ask the cops if that was ok. The earthquake is coming because it has to come in a country where Black and Brown people’s lives are simply not valued and won’t be valued by the so-called justice system. There will continue to be rallies, demonstrations and marches throughout this land. The energy and spirit we collectively displayed Sunday and Tuesday are a great beginning. We need commitment and creativity, a strong dose of militancy and equally strong sense of play to keep it up. We owe it to Trayvon, his family, and ourselves.

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