In August 2009, I was 18 years old and fresh out of high school. I moved from New Jersey to Durham, NC to begin college at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). Raised in the north, I had pre-conceived notions about racism and police in the south and I can recall one of my most traumatic experiences confronting the reality of being black and policed in the South. One night, after I left an event and was returning to campus to drop my friend off at his dorm, I was pulled over by a white officer who appeared to have already been annoyed and somewhat unstable. He charged up to the driver side, hit my window with his flashlight, and demanded that I roll my window down. I let it down only half way when he opened the door and attempted to pull me out. I was still fastened in by my seatbelt which prevented him from pulling me out but didn’t stop him from taking my arm. I pulled my arm back and took my seatbelt off and got out on my own. He immediately threw me up against my car, cuffed me, searched me, and threw me on the curb, all while a group of students looked on, powerless.
Ultimately, I got out of that situation and all charges were dropped, but it seemed like forever before I was able to shake that feeling of helplessness. It wasn’t until I began meeting other young black freedom fighters and had been invited to community and organizing spaces that I realized that the power was actually with the people.
I witnessed firsthand the unstoppable nature of an organized community. On Monday, March 14, 2016, the #DurhamBeyondPolicing campaign was launched and took place outside of the Durham Police Department Headquarters on West Chapel Hill Street. The launch was led by organizers from S.O.N.G. (Southerners on New Ground), the #Sayhername Durham Collective, and my squad – the BYP100 Durham Chapter. We expressed our demand for money to be invested into black futures, not a memorial to the terror of the police. The large crowd that gathered in support of our work was comprised of teachers, city workers, students, organizers, and other residents who spoke out about the need to abolish the police and why tax payers’ money should not be going towards the institutions that have and continue to oppress us. We came together to oppose the $81 million dollars proposed to be put into a new police headquarters, and advocated for a participatory budgeting process where the most marginalized in our city could decide where their money should be spent. And we weren’t alone. In addition, our efforts were augmented by two busloads of beautiful ass black people representing all of the chapters of BYP100 from across the nation, who were already in Raleigh for our first ever national convening.
Our comrades came and supported in true fashion saying to the state: “Back up, back up. We want freedom, freedom. All these racist ass cops – we don’t need em, need em!”
The feeling of strength and unity was galvanizing as we gathered, chanted loud, unapologetic affirmations of black power and liberation, and directly challenged those who seek to exterminate us. I couldn’t have envisioned a better way to launch our campaign to rid Durham and the world of police!!!
– Jonathan Curry
BYP100: Durham Chapter Member