Former gang members who this month declared a truce to end violence in their Raleigh neighborhoods are taking their message of unity to Durham next week.
Former leaders of the Crips, Bloods, Folk, 52hoovers and 74hoovers in Raleigh will participate in a town hall meeting on N.C. Central University’s campus Monday. They’ll return to Durham on Wednesday to take part in an event to honor the work of Diana Powell, director of N.C. Justice Served, a statewide organization that mentors young people in county jails and was a driving force behind Raleigh’s gang truce.
Powell said the group intends to “introduce Raleigh to Durham” and ask the Bull City’s gang leaders, some of whom are expected at both events, to stop the violence they are committing against one another in their neighborhoods.
“It’s a way to bring Durham into the movement,” Powell said.
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Since declaring the truce July 11 at a Southeast Raleigh park, some of the former gang members have been mentoring summer campers at Torchlight Academy, a charter school in North Raleigh, and have shared their anti-gang message with youngsters attending basketball camp at Word of God church on Rock Quarry Road. In August, they’re scheduled to speak at an educational event at the Wake County Justice Center, a meeting with lieutenant governor candidate Linda Coleman, an event in Oxford sponsored by officials at Butner’s federal prison and at Fayetteville State University.
The audiences in Durham may be the toughest and most skeptical.
“It’s a beast,” Powell said about Durham’s gang culture. “They’re embedded, and it’s neighborhood against neighborhood. That’s why you see a lot of shootings.”
The Raleigh group’s visit to Durham will coincide with the one-year anniversary of six shootings in four days in the Bull City that killed a 19-year-old woman and wounded 13 others. Multiple people were shot when someone in a white car pulled up to a birthday party on Hinson Drive, exchanged words with someone in the crowd and opened fire.
William “Doc Loc” Hinton, a 41-year-old former Crips leader who now mentors at Torchlight, first suggested the Raleigh truce earlier this month. The soft-spoken Hinton concedes that Durham has more gang members than Raleigh and that the challenge will be persuading the opposing sides to sit down and talk.
“I’m just with the movement,” he said. “Wherever it goes, I’m right there.”
Paul Scott, who has been working as a community activist in Durham through his Messianic Afrikan Nation Ministry for nearly a quarter century, said he welcomes the overtures for peace among gangs. But Scott added that he has long hoped that the gangs would become more politicized and “see the big picture, socially and economically.”
“Black people have to remember that before we were in gangs we were black,” he said. “It’s great that the gangs have come together to show the world that black lives matter, but black power matters more: social, economic and political empowerment.”
Donnie McQueen, the executive director of Torchlight Academy, said forging a truce in Durham will be challenging.
“We think that there could be, and probably is, some tensions that remain from previous conflicts among the gang members,” he said. “There’s reluctance from certain groups to come and a lot of distrust between gang factions and the police.”
McQueen added that “the most difficult time period in any truce is that initial cease-fire and that period of atonement and reconciliation because people still have raw emotions that are still there.”
McQueen said the Raleigh group wants to make sure the “conditions are right” for a truce and have some guidelines in place before arriving in Durham next week.
“We are not limiting ourselves to a time, except to say as soon as possible,” he said when asked when he thought the Raleigh and Durham gang factions would sit down and discuss the proposed truce.
Larry “Face” Walton, a former Bloods leader and mentor at Torchlight, called the possibility of a Durham gang truce “a great thing.” He thinks part of the motivation for a truce in Durham will be “people who are tired and want change.”
“That’s the first seed,” he said. “As long as the seeds are planted, a tree will grow eventually.”