Community Blog

DCABPI has launched a Blog series in an effort to enlighten viewers / readers about people and local leaders who are making a difference, as well as positive contributions right here in Durham.

For this series, our DCABPI Interns conduct interviews for our DCABPI - Blog page.  Each interview explores the perspectives shared by individuals from different professional backgrounds (eg, politics, healthcare, housing, education, business) to include DCABPI cohorts, Community Activists, and other local residents.

Interview questions and answers address the following issues:

  • Where / how do you see Racial Inequity exhibited in your everyday lives or career path?  

  • What changes could be made in Durham communities to achieve Racial Equity?

Posted on November 30, 2022

Today, Grace Uko (NCCU Class of 23) and Yuri McCray (NCCU Class of 23) spoke with Damon Williams, Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety at North Carolina Central University about his professional journey.  Chief Williams also serves as President of the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police.

 

Grace: As police chief at NCCU, how do you help ensure the safety of students on an open campus?

 

Chief Williams: Number one, I try to be accessible to my students. The motto that we have for the 2022-2023 academic school year is “Build Relationships”. I can’t build relationships if I stay in my office, it makes me inaccessible. No matter what is going on in my schedule, I always carve out time for the students. That’s why you see me in the cafeteria, as well as why you’ll see me in some of the residence halls walking, laughing, talking, and really trying to build those relationships. Once that relationship is established and there’s a sense of trust there, the students will then depend on me in situations to assist them which is what we want. We want to step in before they take harsh actions that costs them something very serious. I tell my officers, before you can make a withdrawal, you have to make a deposit. So, when I am walking, talking, interacting, and listening to different students about their problems, I am making a deposit into building relationships. This is so they know that I am more than just a police chief and a police officer. I am a person and someone who cares about their success and future. I want our students to be successful. Before a student acts on something that may cost them their success, call me first and let’s see if we can’t work it out. All in all, before I can make that withdrawal for them to call me, I've got to make a deposit into that trust.

 

Grace: Would you mind giving us a little insight on the statewide organization you run and some of the things that you all do for the community?

 

Chief Williams: Outside of being the NCCU Police Chief, I was elected president by a majority of the members of the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police which represents all 512 police departments in North Carolina. We oversee and try to assist with legislative agendas, along with offer training and insight for police departments in North Carolina. Our job is to support the local departments to ensure that their officers have the best training possible in order for them to go out and support the community. In this role, I am more of a support entity for the actual organization and member departments.

Grace: How has race played a role in your career and what are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced being a police chief?

Chief Williams: In my career and at least two agencies, I became the first African American police chief. This was challenging because at the first agency, I was selected as chief over two other individuals who were older than me and more experience than I did. They did not have the same level of education that I had but they had been in the profession a little longer. I came into the job as their superior officer. Being younger and coming in as the first African American police chief brought challenges that I had to overcome but working with those individuals allowed us to move past those obstacles very quickly.

At the second agency, it was much more difficult. Yet again, I was the first African American police chief they had ever had as well as the youngest police chief they had ever had in the position. I came into an agency that had very little diversity. Although they cried that they wanted diversity, it was a constant fight to diversify the department. In my role as police chief, you're always going to have to, as a minority, do better and be better. You must demonstrate those tendencies as you move forward. So, does race play a role in my career? I think it does.

Some of the biggest obstacles I've faced pertains to race, and I’ve had to overcome some pretty serious issues with regard to race. As I mentioned, I was the youngest police chief they had ever had at the first agency but that wasn’t the headline. The headline was “City Hires First Black Chief”. I thought to myself “Oh my, we’re in the 2000’s and that’s the best headline they’ve got?”

Race is something that is a factor in this profession, however I will say that we have come a long way from the time I first started as a police chief until today. We have some very innovative and forward-thinking leaders in North Carolina leading some of our police agencies, and that has made a big difference. Some of the biggest challenges still exist with politics, and some of the chiefs in the state who want to do the right thing, are still dealing with politicians who want to do the wrong thing. This makes it a constant challenge.

Yuri: Do you have any advice you would like to give the younger generation of minority students about what you had to overcome?

Chief Williams: Yes, I talk to students all the time, and the first thing I tell them is to “study your craft. If you are going to be a nurse, be the best nurse you can be. Study your craft and understand your skill set, understand where your deficiencies are and try to build those deficiencies into the skills that are needed”. I try to get students to understand that everything is a continuous learning process. You must understand your craft, always study to be better, and never stop learning. As you grow in your career, always look to the top if that's where you want to be. Also don’t be afraid to follow before you believe you can lead. People have to follow in order to learn the skills needed, and they must follow before they can be the actual leader they want to become in the future. Therefore, the main thing I say to students is: know your craft. I tell students all the time that education is the key to success. It doesn't guarantee you success, but it is a key to the door. So, know your craft and study your craft.

Yuri: What are some policies you have implemented on NCCU’s campus regarding safety?

Chief Williams: We have changed the way we police on campus. We’ve gone to a motto of community policing that requires officers to engage, work, and build programming. Officers have been assigned to residence halls to work with student leaders, such as RA’s, and to develop programs for those residence halls. This is why you see our officers doing “Meet & Greets” in Alston Avenue or the “Donut & Coffee with a Cop” in Lawson Avenue. Some other policies that we do are Eagle Card checks such as those implemented in George Street and Eagleson Hall.

We have also instituted many policies and programming. For example, policies like R.A.D. (Rape Aggression Defense Class). In the class we teach our female students’ defensive techniques and how to defend themselves in a situation that may involve their safety. It’s a week-long class done 1-2 times per semester. Another program we have is a therapy animal program. We have a new therapy dog on campus named Jasper. Jasper is there for the students to interact with, pet, love, have fun with, and just brighten their day as they go about their daily rigors. College can be stressful, so we want to do everything we can to help mitigate some of those stressors. We have also increased our technology by changing out all of our aging emergency blue light phones that used to be on campus. They used to be a brown color and now they are digitized and bright blue towers with cameras on top of them. We’ve increased the technology on campus to increase and improve safety.

 

Although we focus on community policing and building trust within the students, it does not mean that we will not hit a hiccup. Students are humans and so are the officers. Students are going to have bad days and believe it or not, officers are going to have bad days too. What having that trust and relationship with students does is give us an opportunity to correct issues. The most important thing is that we work through those issues as they arise.

Yuri: Why do you love your job?

 

Chief Williams: Great question! I’ve been a police chief for a while now and working at North Carolina Central University is probably the most fun I have ever had. I started my career as an educator and now I am back in the environment that I chose as a career in the first place - Education. I get the best of both worlds because I love being a police officer and I love being an educator. Working at NCCU, I get to see students at a point I’d like to call “an Apex”. Students are at the point in life where they have to make some pretty serious choices about what they want to do.

 

I had a discussion with a student a few weeks ago about being “hood”. I essentially told this student to “leave the ‘hoodness’ where you came from. You’ve got an opportunity now to be a success. You have an opportunity now to change the outlook. You can leave those “hood” activities where you came from and be better. We had a very serious conversation and believe it or not, he listened. He was listening intently to what I was saying.

 

This job gives me an opportunity to make a difference. When I see all of the students on campus, I see me. Someone who started from almost nothing, to becoming a successful man. I come from a single parent home, with a mother who was disabled so we had assistance from the state. Therefore, being at NCCU allows me to show students that I am living proof that you can do it. Saying you cannot make it is not an option because if I can make it, anybody can make it. I think that is why I enjoy my job so much. It is a chance to engage with you all at an apex in your life and try to offer something that you may not have gotten otherwise.

Posted on April 7, 2022

Today, Kayla Jordan (NCCU Class of 22) talks with Madison Potts, 2021 NAACP Image Award Recipient for Youth Activism, along with other staff (Madame Athena Cheng & Kendall McGhee) from Courageous Conversation Global Foundation, an international leader whose mission is to elevate racial consciousness through interracial healing. The 501 c3 non-profit organization works to unite people of all races to engage in social change.

 

Click-on the arrow below to listen to the full interview conducted on 3/31/22 at NCCU AudioNet Channel 9. 

Courageous Conversations
00:00 / 14:50
Kayla Jordan (right) interviews guests Madison Potts, and Madame Athena Cheng (far left) from Courageous Conversation Global Foundation at NCCU AudioNet Channel 9.

Posted on February 23, 2022

Today, Kayla Jordan (NCCU Class of 22) discusses the career path of Leroy E. Tuckett, Architect (Retired) and founder/owner of L. E. Tuckett Architect in Durham, NC..

Kayla: Can you tell us about yourself?

Mr. Tuckett: My name is Leroy E Tuckett. I was born and raised in Harlem (NY) in 1932, and educated in the New York Public School system. I attended Columbia University (NY) for Liberal Arts, then became an apprentice to earn an Architecture degree at Pratt Institute (NY). I got my New York State architectural license in 1964. After graduating in 1960, I opened my own practice in 1968 after working many years for other firms (majority firms) running their practices for them. When the Civil Rights legislation was past, it brought the consciousness that minorities needed to be given a fair shake for government work. I saw the opportunity to open my own practice, and I have been doing since 1968. I moved to Durham in the early 90’s, working and serving in and out of my office practicing as an Architect in a number of states along the east coast as well as doing work overseas in Africa. 

Kayla: Where did you see racial inequality exhibited in your everyday life and your career path?

Mr. Tuckett: That is every day. It's part of the history of this country and part of the history of this society. Coming along during my apprenticeship years we could very often get work. I say we because it was not just me alone. There were other black architects. We worked for other firms. Like many other places in this society we were initially given very menial jobs, such as making blueprints, delivering drawings, working in the plant room, but not any real positions of responsibility or authority. That changed years and years later when they finally recognized that we were good at what we do, knew a lot, and were capable. In the beginning we were just errand boys, plan makers, and printmakers. We were not given any design, construction or working responsibilities early on.

As you know, being black people we have to be better than better just to be considered somewhat equal. All of my peers were supermen who were very capable, and I include myself in that group. The story is not simply told. There are big flexes and flows in terms of how things changed. When we graduated with our degrees and having proper education, we prepared for our apprenticeship to become licensed. With a license you were considered capable. That was not a secret in our society. The Civil Rights legislation impacted America's consciousness in the 1960’s. That's when we were considered by the government to be given a fair share and shake. Even though we were already quite capable and prepared, as well as had the skill in design, in drawing and being architects. we weren’t treated equally at the time. Due to the legislation we were at least promoted or allowed to branch out on our own. In the South things were a little different in terms of opportunities and clientele. In New York and along the East coast the only real clients were government and city work, with some church work. The big opportunities were aligned with government contracts. Sometimes it was office buildings, transportation, hospitals, or school work early on. It changed later. The U.S government was the biggest client not only for black architects, but all architects.

Kayla: What changes can be made in Durham as a community to achieve racial equality?

Mr. Tuckett:  When I came here, I involved myself with the black community with the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. I knew that I had to submerge myself in the black consciousness here. One of the things that was really a surprise was the question of “what church do you go to?” People would say “ I know you're not from here, I can tell by your accent”. I think the idea of asking what church I belonged to was that if I didn’t have a church that I belong to, they could possibly recruit me to join their church.  That was not a big issue in the North. I had to tell them I don’t belong to any church. Although I do believe there is a God and I've been to many church services in different communities to get myself known, however that was an adjustment for me.

Kayla: Any final thoughts you'd like to add?

Mr. TuckettIt was always a part of my consciousness to help my black brothers and sisters, especially the younger people coming behind me to have some sort of awareness of what to expect and how to go about preparing yourself for life in the profession. I wouldn’t consider myself a big time lecturer or sermonizer, but I would go to grade schools and talk to classes to offer a point of view and let youth know the first thing you have to do is to be good in your studies and take everything seriously and take nothing for granted. The students would ask how did you get to where you are, how do you prepare for a career in the profession, and what does an architect do. I felt it was important to share a little about me and what it took for me to get to where I am. I did that very consciously.

Years later, I happen to be attending a fellowship here in Durham and I ran across a mother who called me by name. I didn’t know the lady, and I said to myself how does she know my name. I subsequently engaged her in a conversation and she told me about the impact I had on her sons. She had two sons, twins. She said while her kids were in middle school I came to speak at their school and talked to the young people about what I did and how I prepared for a career as an Architect. She said that little talk that I gave back then influenced and impacted her children. Now her two sons are in construction -- one was a construction manager and the other an engineer. She said that visit to her son's school and that little talk inspired her sons to pursue their life endeavors. That made me feel very good to know that it does mean something when you make our younger people aware of what you do and how you went about it. I didn’t know that lady and I didn’t know her sons, had never met them but the magnitude and impact of the little talk back then was significant. I could tell you numerous stories about trying to enlighten our younger generation about how you have to work hard to obtain the better things in life instead of just stumbling through school and getting a job. It is important to show our youth how to prepare for life in order to advance yourself for the best opportunities, and make the most of it.

Posted on November 29, 2021

Today, Desiree Wiggins (NCCU Class of 22) discusses the career path of Dr. Kenneth Brown, Chiropractic Physician and founder/owner of Back to Health Chiropractic Medical Center in Durham, NC..

Desiree’: Where did you see racial inequality exhibited in your everyday life and your career path?

Dr. Brown: I’ll start with my career path first. There was a lack of representation of African American physicians in my doctoral program and the leadership in the profession’s national organization. We represent 14 percent of the total population but there were no black doctors at my chiropractic school and very few at others if any. Personally, I saw it every day even with respect to the middle school that I attended. I went from an all-black elementary school to a more diverse middle school where I encountered my first Caucasian instructor. I witnessed them give favor to the white students as oppose to giving us the same breaks. If you weren’t a smart kid, they looked to label you with something such as ADHA. Since I was one of the smarter kids there this was not an issue for me. 

Posted on September 24, 2021

Today, Caitlin Leggett (NCWC Class of 22 and Student Intern at National Public Radio) discusses the career path of Attorney Michele Okoh, Senior Lecturing Fellow, Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Duke University School of Law.

Caitlin: Do you mind introducing yourself and what you do?

Atty. Okoh: I'm currently a Senior Lecturing Fellow of Law with Duke Law School.  I specifically work for the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic which is a unique area in the law school.  The important thing to understand about clinical education is that it is focused on giving students practical experience.  All of our students work on real cases.  The clinic is designed to focus on environmental law cases allowing students to work with real clients, All of our students work in teams.  We teach students who are law students, as well as students who are from the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment.  That's where I focus my work.  I supervise the students in that work, and help them to really develop as burgeoning attorneys.  I also work with students in our Nicholas School who serve as student consultants for our clients.  

My work in general focuses on environmental justice which is where I am primarily concerned.  We understand that people impact the environment, and our environment impacts us as well.  What we also understand is that not everyone is impacted by the environment to the same extent.  So when it comes to environmental justice issues, it's about achieving equity, along with addressing issues in relation to environmental injustice, where not everyone has the same opportunities, nor does everyone have the same access to environmental benefits and burdens. That's especially true with our Black, Indigenous, People of Color (aka, BIPOC) communities. So that's where my work essentially focuses primarily. 

Posted on August 23, 2021

Today, Caitlin Leggett (NCWC Class of 22 & intern at National Public Radio) discusses the career path of

Dr. LaVerne Reid, Interim Dean, College of Health and Sciences at North Carolina Central University.

Caitlin: Do you mind introducing yourself and what you do?

Dr. Reid: I currently serve as the interim Dean of the College of Health and Sciences at North Carolina Central University. This particular College is relatively new. We've been in existence for exactly one year. The College was established in an effort to align the Analytical Sciences with the Health Sciences. There are 10 departments, including Basic Science departments, Biological and Biomedical Science, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Earth Environment, Geospatial Science, Math and Physics. We have five distinct Health Sciences, including Nursing, Kinesiology (Sports Medicine) and Recreation Administration, Communication Sciences and Disorders, along with Human Sciences with concentrations such as Nutrition and Dietetics. Disciplines represented by these departments are the fastest growing professions in the country.

I received an undergraduate degree from NC Central in Health Education and Biology. I received the MPH degree from UNC School of Public Health and the PhD from the Heller School at Brandeis University. I have been a public health practitioner for over 40 years in a variety of settings including three hospitals, 2 state health departments and two county or city health departments.  At NC Central, I am a Professor in the Department of Public Health Education and I have held a number of positions with increasing levels of responsibility. This is my second appointment as a Dean. I previously served as an Associate Dean twice for different colleges, in addition to having served as Chair for two different departments.

Posted on June 9, 2021

Today, Taylor Rosbrook (NCCU Class of 21) discusses the career path of Dr. Rochelle  Newton, EdD, Assistant Divisional  Chief Operating  Officer at Duke Health Technology Solutions.

Taylor: If you could give a little background about yourself and what you do in the community. How have you seen Racial Inequity exhibited in your everyday life and/or career path?   And, what changes could be made in Durham communities to achieve Racial Equity?

Dr. Newton: I am an IT professional, and I have worked in IT for 44 years. In Information technology, systemic and institutional racism is everywhere. There is no part it is not. In the commercial marketplace like, facial recognition, two-factor identification, there is so many places where this exist. This is in large part because the people who design these systems and develop these systems are normally white and male. Black and brown people, rarely, 

are at the forefront of current or emerging technology. If you have a smartphone, if you have social media, you

are using the resources that others developed, at your peril no less. If you use social media, they capture everything you post, every word you type, and they make some kind of judgement. This is partly how the corruption happened in the 2016 election.

 

There are always examples of how the system is always turning inward on those who need the system the most. In IT, black and brown people are first hired, first fired. So, as soon as you come in, you go right back out -- a revolving door. And they are not paid equitably. They are not put  in places where they can have leadership, or have a voice, or even a seat at the table. So, there are a lot of examples where racial inequity shows up in various ways in my field. It shows up in various ways in all fields, and it's not unique to IT. What is happening in IT is happening in ever field.  In the area where I work specifically, you look down the hall and everybody that you are looking down the hall at is usually white and male. So how do we change this?

Posted on April 29, 2021

Today, Taylor Rosbrook (NCCU Class of 21) discusses the career path of Dr. Zaphon R. Wilson, Chair & Associate Professor at North Carolina Central University - Public Administration Department. 

Taylor: If you could give a little background about yourself and what you do in the community. How have you seen Racial Inequity exhibited in your everyday life and/or career path?   And, what changes could be made in Durham communities to achieve Racial Equity?

 

Dr. Wilson: Yes, I am from Wilkes County (NC), moved here from Savannah, Georgia where I was a department chair at Savannah State University and Georgia Southern at Armstrong. I’ve been in higher education for about 35 years.

I started at Appalachian State University, spent some time at Hampton University, and at St. Augustine University for about 5 years. I’ve been here at North Carolina Central University, now going on my fourth year. So, I’ve been around the block a few times. A lot of the work I've done has been in Community Service and working on a planning board.

I have also held offices with several professional organizations.

I have an interest in public administration and public policy because when I was a kid, urban renewal went through our community and my grandmother worked really hard to keep her home. She was able to keep her home and move into another section of the community. That was my first interaction with housing policy, housing inequities, and just a general kind of dynamic that took place in small communities when it came to providing affordable housing. One of my first jobs was with a planning firm in Elizabeth City, NC where we did Community Development and Planning. I’ve been involved in housing for a very long time along with this whole idea of Community Engagement and Involvement.

Posted on March 30, 2021

"Often times, policies within our system can create devastating racial disparities in our community. It is DCABP Inc's mission to bring to the forefront issues related to these disparities that go unvoiced and ignored. We can see these disparities within housing, voting, civic participation, education, etc. As a long-time community member and student of Durham, NC, I believe Durham could benefit tremendously from the efforts of an organization like DCABPI and the conversations they bring to the table of racial equality within the community."

Taylor C. Rosbrook

Senior Political Science Student

North Carolina Central University

Posted on March 26, 2021

"The way that DCABP Inc. strives for racial equality is by attending meetings with the community and speaking up on the concerns of the communities. Making their voices be heard."

Imani Sanford

Senior, Political Science Student

North Carolina Central University

Posted on March 5, 2021

"The 2020 elections proved the extraordinary power of the African American vote in electing candidates that are committed to equity and fairness in our governmental policies.  We are already seeing efforts in many states to suppress the right of African Americans to vote in future elections to enhance the election of candidates that lack a commitment to equality and justice.  The African American community must remain a leading voice in advancing human rights at home and abroad, especially in ensuring that each citizen has a voice in promoting democratic principles and outcomes for all Americans." 

Dr. Allan Cooper

Professor of Political Science

North Central Central University

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