Juanita Johnson had just sat down on the porch to have a cigarette when she heard what she thought was firecrackers near the house she was visiting on Hinson Drive. Then she saw the sparks and realized they were gunshots.
When it was over, eight people had been hit on the evening of Aug. 22. One was at the birthday dinner being held at the house Johnson was visiting; the others were people who lived or were visiting the neighborhood and were standing on the sidewalk, she said.
“I was in total shock,” said Johnson, who grew up in the Kerrwood Estates neighborhood, but never knew shootings to take place there. “I was truly in total shock.”
Johnson, 56, of Durham was one of about 30 people who gathered at the Golden Corral in northern Durham last week to talk about the violence plaguing their neighborhoods.
The week of the Hinson Drive shooting, 14 people were shot in Durham County. One person was killed. Violent crime in the city is up 13.5 percent in the first six months of the year, compared to the same time last year.
Police Chief Jose Lopez, who attended the meeting, said the increase is challenging communities across the country.
The meeting at Golden Corral was a positive step, Lopez said. It felt really good to be at a meeting, where community members are working toward a solution.
“I didn’t see anybody demand anybody to do anything,” Lopez said. “Just knowing what needs to be done and being part of it.”
Rodney Williams and Kitora Mason organized the meeting. They are the founders of Walk for Life, a group that marched last year in neighborhoods affected by crime.
“If we don’t get a hold of this, you are going to see something break out in Durham,” said Williams, a reformed drug dealer who now owns a power-washing company. “And it’s not just going to be in the neighborhood that you think it’s in. It’s going out in the suburbs. And then it is really going to be an issue.”
Williams said one of the problems is that everybody – churches, white men, black men – are just watching out for themselves.
“You have got to care about one another,” he said. “You can’t care about one particular people.”
The community needs to care about what is going outside of downtown Durham, Williams said. They need to find something for the kids to do, help them find an alternative to gangs and pull the area organizations together to get something done.
“I want you to think ‘what can I do to help,’” Williams said. “Stop turning your head.”
Others solutions mentioned at the meeting included praying, neighbors organizing, working together and talking to police about what is happening in their area.
Johnson said people need to support community youth programs, such as the Durham Long Ball baseball program, and help people when they see a problem. Adults need to take the time to stop and ask kids why are they out in the middle of the street at night, she said, and fuss at that them when they are doing wrong.
DeWarren K. Langley, chairman of the Durham County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, said he has heard the saying “Black Lives Matter” a lot.
“What I want as a black person is I want black lives to matter to black people,” he said. “It is our community that is seeing this senseless violence. … These are our children winding up in the Durham County detention facility.”
The way we deal with that, he said, is to find out what resources people need, connect them to those resources and hold those organizations accountable.
“That is what the larger issue is here in Durham,” Langley said. “Too many people are not being connected to the resources that they need.”
People need to get enraged, Lopez said, but there needs to be more people at these type of meetings with new faces.
“Quite frankly, I feel like I am preaching to choir here,” he said.
Another side of it, Lopez said, the community needs to start talking and telling who is getting ready to do something to somebody else.
“You should be able to have a cookout without having people dodging bullets,” he said.
Walk for Life’s next march will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, in the 2700 block of Hinson Drive, where eight people were shot Aug. 22. The event will include speakers, followed by food and music.