At a gathering of nearly 500 people this week, Durham CAN members applauded changes in Durham Public Schools and the Durham Police Department that the organization has helped negotiate with officials.
The police will now be required to get written consent before searching vehicles, said Mark-Anthony Middleton, pastor of Abundant Hope Christian Church and a member of CAN (Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods).
Officers will receive racial sensitivity and anti-bias training. Stop, search and arrest data will be reviewed periodically, and efforts will be taken to give low-level marijuana offenses low priority. According to a report, in 768 misdemeanor marijuana arrests from Jan. 1, 2013, to July 1, 2014, 86 percent of those arrested were black, a number City Manager Tom Bonfield has called “of particular concern.”
“Durham is now a national model for what it looks like when citizens that are informed, committed and organized get together to do something,” said Middleton, who led a CAN coalition to address race in policing in Durham.
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The Police Department has received a lot of heat recently because of racial-profiling allegations lodged by groups such as the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the death of Durham teen Jesus Huerta in police custody almost a year ago.
CAN also announced at Tuesday night’s assembly that after meetings with new Durham Public Schools Superintendent Bert L’Homme, the district’s universal breakfast program will be expanded to all schools.
Serving breakfast to all students, L’Homme said, will reduce the stigma on students who receive free breakfast and will ensure that all students have eaten in the morning and are ready to learn.
L’Homme has also agreed to quarterly meetings with CAN and to hire two bilingual family facilitators and an additional Spanish interpreter for the district.
“Every child has the right to a sound education, and we have the responsibility to provide it to every child without exception,” L’Homme said.
Tuesday’s gathering at the Emily K Center drew many members of the City Council, Board of County Commissioners, Board of Education, as well as U.S. Rep. David Price, state Sen. Mike Woodard, and state Sen. Floyd McKissick.
Another hot topic discussed Tuesday was affordable housing near planned light-rail stops. CAN wants 15 percent of housing within half a mile of each station to be affordable to families earning less than 60 percent of area median income.
Part of that goal includes preserving existing affordable housing at these sites and avoiding gentrification.
CAN also wants to make sure jobs provided by light rail will pay at least a living wage and that internships will be used as a gateway to permanent jobs for both Durham youth and adults.
Homer Ashby, who attended the assembly as a member of First Presbyterian Church, said he was encouraged by the turnout Tuesday and the progress that has been made on the issues raised.
“I’m very supportive of our community, the Durham community, taking the initiative to address the challenges in our community, and CAN is one of the best organizations doing that,” Ashby said.