Your Community is Hungry

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It’s Thanksgiving week, and for many of us, that means spending time with family, watching football and eating way too much food. During this season of giving thanks for what you’ve been given, I’d like to challenge you to think about what you have to give to enrich the lives of others around you. 

Your community is hungry. For some, that’s literal, while for others, they’re hungry for change. They want change that breaks the cycle of pervasive poverty in their families and neighborhoods. They want change that ends injustice, acknowledges privilege, and provides access and opportunity to a better life for all of us.

We are working for all these types of change at ReCity. By we, I mean not only the ReCity staff but especially the leadership and staff of the 33 organizations that make up our Network. These are the people working to make a difference in Durham, building a Bull City that’s better for all. Durham is one of the hottest places to be, especially if you’re a young entrepreneur or professional with access to capital. But for many of our citizens—too many of them—opportunity gaps persist, so here at ReCity, we’re committed to closing those gaps by connecting and equipping community leaders to accomplish more together than any of us can do alone. 

This is hard work, but we don’t shrink from it. It takes time, talent, and treasure. We all have time—some of us more than others due to family and work constraints. We all have God-given talents: some of us are creative, others are analytical, and others are blessed with great hands for building and fixing. We all have hard-earned treasure, too, and we know that when we give back to community-based organizations, it’s returned to us in many ways.

As we head into 2018, the question I pose to you is this—are you thinking about how you can give more of your time, talent, and treasure to the Bull City’s betterment in 2018?

I think a helpful way to frame this consideration is to think of how great restaurants and chefs—and we have hundreds of them in Durham—are known for a signature dish. Whether It’s the outside brown at the Pit, the Buff Brahmas at Dame’s Almost Famous Chicken and Waffles, or the Drunken Horse at Pompieri Pizza, we have some seriously good signaturedishes in this town.

How does that translate to our community? I like to think of my own signature dish as connecting people–to resources and to each other, such as helping one non-profit with great program ideas work with a church that knows people who would benefit from it.

Some of our partners are perhaps even better examples of what happens when you bring your signature dish to the community table. The team at StepUp Durham brings a high level of passion for fighting unemployment through job skills training. Partners for Youth Opportunity is known for excellence in non-profit operations, which increases multi-fold its impact on youth empowerment. Housing for New Hope help the homeless find a place to call their own. The Helius Foundation is fighting to add equity to entrepreneurship. 

So, what’s your signature dish? Next week, as a part of #GivingTuesday, we’ll be sharing ways to serve with ReCity in 2018. While you’re eating that extra helping of turkey, dressing, and all the fixins this week, I’d encourage you to identify your signature dish and exploit it to the hilt for a better Durham next year.

About ReCity Network

Founded in 2016, Durham’s ReCity Network serves a fast-growing group of non-profits, faith-based organizations, and mission-driven businesses serving the Bull City. The area’s first hub for nonprofit innovation and leadership, ReCity is home to a network of 40 community partners driving a more equitable future for all.

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Celebrating Partners' Collective Impact


This article originally appeared in StepUp Durham's November newsletter. Their pilot Step2 program, a nine-month curriculum centered on personal development, financial education, and career pathways, has graduated its very first cohort! The graduation ceremony was covered by Mark Ehrhardt, a guest writer from the ReCity Network:

I work for ReCity, a network of mission-minded organizations brought together by the conviction that collaborative relationships lead to collective impact.  One of the highlights of my work with ReCity is connecting with what our partner organizations are doing in the community.  I have ongoing opportunities to meet and celebrate Durham residents through these partner organizations, to think about the ways that ReCity makes connections  to better serve the people of Durham, and to witness how people love one another into more stable lives.

Last week, I had the privilege of joining StepUp for their first Step2 graduation. I witnessed program participants, their family, co-partners, and StepUp staff gathered to celebrate one another and reflect on the community of support they built over the past several months. After a meal provided by Zweli’s Catering, a StepUp Employer, everyone gathered to share appreciation and encouragement—and cake!

Jackie, one of the Step2 participants, described her journey through the StepUp program: “Let me tell you, I’ve gone overboard… I’m in a place now where I’m saving my money. And it’s not just for me. I’m doing this for my family.” Jackie was one of two participants referred to the Step2 program by Partners for Youth Opportunity, a community partner at ReCity that aims to “address the growing ‘opportunity gap’ resulting from the chronic disconnection of Durham youth from economic and educational opportunities.” Jackie’s grandson is in the PYO program, and Jackie felt especially compelled to model consistent program participation through her Step2 process. Jackie went on to share: “One time, my co-partner called just to say ‘Sorry I haven’t called.’  That’s when you know you’ve found someone who cares about you and who’s in your corner. Because who does that? No one does that.” 

I saw community at its best that night—a community of support that lives StepUp’s mission to assist “people seeking to improve their lives and develop stable careers” and ReCity’s mission to collaboratively rewrite the story of our city.  Keep celebrating and loving the people of Durham, StepUp!


Written by Mark Ehrhardt
Duke Divinity Intern at ReCity Network

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One Campaign Events Calendar


Partnering with Mission-Minded For-Profits

In August, ReCity, which offers space for co-working, meetings, and events, will present an opportunity to have 40 Bull City companies hold free meetings in ReCity’s downtown hub. Dubbed the Race for Space Challenge, the organization is launching a campaign for 40 area companies looking to make a difference in Durham to hold meetings in ReCity’s two conference rooms and meeting spaces during the 40 days spanning August 21-October 13.  

“We’ve seen the power of this place and the way it affects people,” said Shields. “We know that if we expose ReCity to 40 new companies, whether it’s for a client meeting or bringing their whole team over, seeing area non-profits and churches working together to change lives will make many for-profits want to help, too.”

Celebrating a Year of Breakthrough Success, Positioning for the Future

Throughout September, ReCity will be celebrating its first birthday in several ways, with details on a special luncheon for the first-year partners and a concert.  “We are thrilled that our first year has been such a huge success,” said Tucker Stevens, head of operations at ReCity. “We owe that success to our visionary board of directors and the early-adopting organizations who have formed a tight-knit, fearless, and determined family of great organizations at ReCity.  In the near future, we’ll be sharing some information on how we intend to make our first anniversary month special.”

Non-Profit LaunchPad:  a Competition to Promote Social Entrepreneurship

Later in the campaign during the months of September and October, ReCity will host Non-Profit LaunchPad, a  virtual pitch competition for mission-driven entrepreneurs looking to form new non-profits or take going non-profit concerns to greater levels of impact through the help of the community.  As part of its mission to provide incubator space and resources to purposeful for-profits, ReCity will award competition winners access to multiple network resources, including co-working, meeting, and event space, as well as access to experts in legal, marketing, leadership, and business planning who will mentor the cohort of contest winners.

“With partners like the Forrest Firm, a certified B Corporation, and Helius Foundation, an incubator of necessity-driven entrepreneurs, ReCity is uniquely positioned in the Triangle market as a nurturing place for social entrepreneurs,” said Shields. “We have affordable, generous resources and a thriving community that will see to it that those with vision will succeed.”

Inaugural ReCity Banquet

At the conclusion of the campaign, ReCity’s leadership and partners will host the organization’s inaugural ReCity One Banquet, a fundraiser to catapult the organization to even bigger heights in 2018.  Look for announcements coming soon about this November event that will leave the Network even healthier and stronger in its missional impact for changing Durham to a place where all people have a stake in opportunity for success.


Watch this space in the weeks to come as we release more details on individual events and campaigns that make up ReCity Network’s ReCity One campaign!

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Get Ready for ReCity Network’s Race for Space


People are talking about the seemingly overnight success of ReCity Network in attracting a thriving group of nearly four dozen non-profits, faith-based organizations, and mission-driven companies to coalesce for social impact across the Bull City.

Now, as ReCity approaches its first anniversary, we are collaborating to build out a much bigger base of corporate partners. Some, like Agape Lawn Care, Forrest Firm, and the Durham Chamber, already see the power of purpose and how exposing their companies to the work of ReCity and its network members benefits all.

In exchange for free use of our space for corporate meetings, we’d like to explore with more business leaders how they might contribute to the rising tide of opportunity in the lives of people touched by our Network.  

The premise of our Race for Space Challenge is simple: we believe that when for-profit leaders and professionals experience this special place first-hand, they want to be a part of it in ways that fit for them.  To that end, we are looking for 40 companies to simply host a meeting on-site at ReCity over the course of 40 days, using one of our conference/meeting rooms at Durham’s home for social impact.

What’s the potential impact of 40 companies on-site at ReCity in 40 days? We believe that the sustaining power of commitments from these organizations could bring new mission-driven for-profits as tenants at ReCity, partners to share business expertise as benefits to our non-profits and faith-based groups, and a resource base to fuel as-yet-conceived new ventures to provide opportunity for all of Durham.

Just as we’ve seen the early adoption from our non-profit and faith-based communities save tens of thousands of dollars in impact revenue for the underserved, we’d like to see our entrepreneurs and corporate executives stand up and be counted for a Durham that’s more equitable for all.

How can you help? Look at your business or the company you work for, and ask yourself, “What kind of meeting or event could we have at ReCity between August 21 and October 13.” Or, refer a friend or colleague to do the same. We are convenient to almost any Triangle business that wants a meeting with purpose, one where you can accomplish the business at-hand, as well as expose your team to the great work happening here to equip and empower underserved neighbors in the Bull City.  
Act now to take advantage of this great opportunity by visiting ReCity Network’s Race for Space page to select your meeting time. Don’t forget to forward to a friend!

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The Power of Partnership: The Helius Foundation


At ReCity Network, we’re all about collaboration. We’re not just a coworking facility or event space, and we’re not just rewriting the story of our city—we’re doing all of this together. Continuing our series on the power of partnership, we turn our attention to The Helius Foundation and the many partnerships Executive Director Geraud Staton has formed within the ReCity Network.

The story of Helius and its partnerships illustrates how building a network within a network can power social entrepreneurship and community development. Helius provides free training, mentoring, and coaching for necessity-driven entrepreneurs (NDEs).

Officially, about 14 percent of entrepreneurs are NDEs, but this statistic only includes registered businesses. “Probably 90% of the people I’ve worked with don’t have registered businesses, so I suspect the numbers are much higher,” said Staton. “There are a surprising number of entrepreneurs in communities like Northeast Central Durham doing their ‘side hustle’ to supplement their income,” he said. Helius’ goal is to take what often starts as a side business and turn it into a fair living wage—or even more.

When people in underserved communities are asked what their community needs to thrive, the overwhelming answer is “jobs.” Most people are thinking in terms of a huge company moving into the community and bringing thousands of jobs, but Staton has a better solution. “People have ideas,” he said. “But they don’t even know that they can achieve their dreams, much less have the tools to know how. If we can help entrepreneurs dream big and achieve those dreams, they can also offer employment to the community and allow people to do something they love, something they believe in—more than just a job.”

Helius is just 18 months old and already working with 28 NDEs, but they’re not doing it alone. They’re currently partnering with three ReCity members: REAL Durham, StepUp Durham, and Partners for Youth Opportunity. Armed with the belief that non-profits are stronger together, Staton pointed out that trust is not always easy to come by with the communities that they serve. “People are naturally skeptical,” he said. “So, if I can partner with an organization that’s already built that trust, they’re able to transfer that trust to my organization, and vice versa.”

Helius serves as an ally to REAL Durham clients looking to become financially stable through entrepreneurship. Camryn Smith, program coordinator for Real Durham, sees Helius as a resource to help her clients get out of poverty through entrepreneurship, and Helius sees her as a source of credibility for its organization in the communities where Helius serves.

With StepUp Durham, Executive Director Syretta Hill and her team identify clients in their program who are better suited to becoming entrepreneurs than pursuing traditional employment—StepUp’s core mission—and refer them to Helius for a matching solution set.

With Partnership for Youth Opportunity, Staton has seen the benefits of working with other non-profit leaders to strengthen and stabilize Helius Foundation for a sustainable future in Durham. PYO Executive Director Julie Wells has served as a coach to Staton on operation issues for non-profits and has referred Helius a paid intern for this summer.

“All three of our ReCity partners—REAL Durham, StepUp Durham, and Partners for Youth Opportunity—have been crucial to our development at Helius, both with the clients we serve and internally with developing our operational integrity and long-term focus,” added Staton.

Building on this shared trust has allowed Helius to shore up and expand its programs. In addition to mentoring NDEs, they’re also offering micro loans to their clients, hosting business networking events, and working with children to instill the entrepreneurial spirit at an early age.

Staton’s advice to ReCity members is to fully take advantage of everything ReCity has to offer. With ReCity being at 100 percent capacity and soon to add more, there are a lot of resources available. “There are people to ask about practically everything. Just do it,” Staton said. “To fully take advantage of your ReCity membership, you have to fully take advantage of all the resources here, including the leaders of ReCity itself, Rob Shields and Tucker Stevens. Everyone here is great to work with as we build for a better future.”

For more information on Helius Foundation and its growing impact on necessity-driven entrepreneurs in Durham, visit their website at

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ReCity Network Holds Summer Open House on June 27

We hear it often, when people join churches, volunteer or raise money for their favorite charities, or join a movement. “I wanted to be part of something bigger.”

The staff, sponsors, and nearly four dozen partner organizations of the ReCity Network invite you to become a part of something bigger. A story writ large across the pages of an entire city, Durham, North Carolina. At ReCity Network, we’re tackling long-standing and systemic problems that cities face: pervasive unemployment, multi-generational poverty, opportunity ceilings of racism, sexism, and more—all factors that place prosperity in the hands of a few and leave many behind.

We’re turning the tide, and we’re doing it together, as we re-write the story of our city. Since our launch last September, more than 45 faith-based organizations, non-profits, and mission-driven companies have convened to work more efficiently in collaboration. The results: shared impact, shared success for all who are touched by the network. Already, we are breaking down barriers and shattering ceilings, and the evidence is clear: more than 60 percent of our membership organizations—all achieving greater success together—are led by women and people of color.

We call ourselves a social impact hub. What does that mean? It means that we’re a connection point for those who want to promote the social good of Durham, whether that means officing together, programming together, donating time, talent, and financial resources together, or incubating new, impact-minded entrepreneurs together.

Join us for ReCity Network’s Summer Open House on June 27, from 5:30-7:30. When you visit, you’ll realize that we are so much more than the 12,000 feet of co-working, meeting, and event spaces that so many people call home for their city-wide impact efforts. You’ll see that the network is fueled by the backgrounds, personalities, and visions for the city—both diverse and shared—of the church and non-profit leaders, as well as the social entrepreneurs engaging in profit for purpose.

Please register on Eventbrite and share our Open House with your networks. See the space. Meet the members. Be a part of something special, something bigger than yourself. Be a part of rewriting the story of our city, together at ReCity Network.

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The Power of Partnership: Partners for Youth Opportunity and StepUp Durham

At ReCity Network, we’re all about collaboration. We’re not just a coworking facility or event space, and we’re not just rewriting the story of our city—we’re doing all of this together. This is the first of many stories we’re telling on our blog about ReCity members coming together to face challenges in our community. These stories demonstrate the power of partnering with other ReCity members to provide layered services and have a deeper impact on the people of Durham.

Partners for Youth Opportunity (PYO) and StepUp Durham are two ReCity partner organizations that came here with the right mindset of being collaborative and seeing how they could make a bigger impact on their clients through working together. They’ve also found that, by partnering together, they can help their donors make a bigger impact with their money. Every dollar that a donor gives goes further, impacting the missions of multiple organizations. Working as partners doesn’t dilute the impact of donor dollars, it actually makes that impact grow. “StepUp Durham has only been around for 18 months, but we wanted to have a collective impact quickly,” said Syretta Hill, executive director of StepUp Durham. “ReCity helps us do that. We’re able to build relationships and deepen partnerships organically and in an authentic way.”

The problems that our partners are trying to solve are all intertwined—housing, food, employment, education. Any one of them alone is big. PYO and StepUp have made a conscious effort to keep their scope small and serve, say, 100 people well rather than 500 poorly. By keeping their scope small, they’re able to tackle solving several big problems. Providing people with multiple layers of support allows them to become more self-sufficient and grow into a positive contributor to the community. Every win that organizations create together turns into a give-back to the community.

Partnership also has a positive impact on the organizations themselves. By being as effective as possible, even with a limited number of clients, the executive directors are able to firm up their programming, stabilize their organizations, and focus on bringing in donations to sustain and hopefully grow their missions. “We can achieve better results and have a deeper impact if we’re hyper-focused,” said Julie Wells, executive director of PYO. “When we provide comprehensive services through our partnerships, we can solve several issues for our clients.”

PYO and StepUp now have multiple programs they’re working on together. One is the Career Academy, a two-week work training program. Previously, StepUp had targeted this program toward their adult population, but they’ve now translated the program and are delivering training to PYO’s youth population as well. Another partnership program they’re providing is called Step2—a longer, nine-month program focused on helping people develop stability in many areas of their lives. This program is similar to PYO’s comprehensive model, but is tailored for adults. The two organizations are also currently working on other joint initiatives, including a program to tackle the effects of incarceration on family members—a common problem in Durham and many other cities.

Both Julie and Syretta agreed that for ReCity partners to get the most out of their membership, they need to be partnering with other organizations. Their advice is to know yourself well enough to know your gaps and look for ways to collaborate authentically with others. Partnering with other organizations can make you look unique and different, and you should be leveraging that. If you’ve been here a number of months and haven’t formed any partnerships, it’s time to get started!

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Durham Chamber, ReCity Network Join Forces for Economic, Social Impact

Emerging social impact hub forms strategic partnership with economic development leader


(DURHAM, NC) The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, a bold, dynamic organization supporting the needs of businesses, non-profits, and government agencies, and ReCity Network, an emerging hub for social impact with non-profits, faith-based organizations, and mission-driven businesses, announce a new strategic partnership to build on the Bull City’s record of economic success and drive next-generation leadership.

Under the terms of the agreement, ReCity Network joins dozens of leading organizations as a member of the Chamber 2.0 key investor group, part of a Durham Chamber strategic initiative to shape the city’s future for sustained economic development through shared vision, shared ideas, creation of business opportunities, and solving statewide problems.

In addition, ReCity Network will begin hosting multiple Durham Chamber meetings and events at its 12,000-square-foot co-working, meeting, and event space located near the intersection of Broadway and Mangum Streets in downtown Durham. Events will be selected by ReCity and Durham Chamber leadership in an effort to promote collaboration among the organizations and their respective members, as the two groups focus on social entrepreneurship, impact, and innovation.

ReCity Network and the Durham Chamber will also cross-promote events and initiatives to their respective member bases.

According to Rob Shields, founding Executive Director of ReCity Network, the Durham Chamber strategic partnership is not just a big win for the emerging social impact hub, but for the city itself. “The Durham Chamber has, over the last decade, set the gold standard for collaboration and innovation for local economic development associations,” said Shields. “The leadership team at the chamber is known for being flexible and attentive to the needs of all stakeholders, including our core constituents of non-profits, churches, and mission-driven organizations. We are very proud to join forces with the Durham Chamber and build a future of shared success for all who call Durham home.”

Geoff Durham, President and CEO of the Durham Chamber, believes that ReCity has a big role to play in defining Durham’s future in positive ways. “The ReCity Network represents the very best of what Durham has to offer,” said Sternberg. “Within a matter of months, dozens of mission-driven organizations have coalesced with this organization, the impact has been both immediate and widespread for community empowerment. We believe that the more citizens share in the success enjoyed by Durham’s entrepreneurial and corporate communities, the greater we all will benefit.”

About ReCity Network
Founded in 2016, ReCity Network is Durham’s hub for social impact. More than three dozen non-profits, faith-based organizations, and mission-driven businesses call the ReCity Network’s 12,000-square-foot home for co-working, meetings, and events aimed at fostering collaboration and sparking innovation that defines a new era of shared success among all residents of the Bull City.

About the Durham Chamber
The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce is a member-driven organization that serves members by helping to create and sustain a healthy economic climate. Established in 1906, the Chamber has been an integral part of the Durham community for more than 100 years. Businesses, organizations, and agencies who choose to be a part of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce do so because it is a thriving, pro-active business leadership organization.

Media Contacts:

ReCity Network: Rob Shields, Executive Director
Phone: 919-368-2513

Durham Chamber: Myra Wooten, Director of Public Relations and Communications
Phone: 919-328-8722

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Meet the Partners: Chick-fil-A, Forrest Firm, and Parklife Communications

At ReCity Network, we strive to work in partnership with area businesses that believe in our mission to create social impact in the Bull City. Several companies have signed up to promote and benefit the network in different ways. Here’s a handy guide to some of the active partners currently involved with ReCity Network and how you can benefit from their services.

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Have you noticed that we’ve been serving a Chick-fil-A lunch for ReCity members on the second Tuesday of the month? This partnership began in April, courtesy of Matt Rice, Director of Personnel at Chick-fil-A’s Roxboro Road location in North Durham. In his role at Chick-fil-A, Matt leads and develops the staff of team members and leaders within his store.

Matt believes in our mission at ReCity and had this to say about the organization’s contribution to network: “We are passionate about influencing the community through a variety of ways, with food being a major part of that. As we continue to impact our community with our food, our service, and our skills, I could not imagine ReCity not being a part of that larger picture as they impact so many lives and organizations.

Visit Matt and the team at Chick-fil-A on Roxboro Road in Durham. Watch your email for reminders for monthly Chick-fil-A luncheons at ReCity!

Forrest Firm
One of our first corporate partners, the Forrest Firm is involved in the network in several ways. You may have seen their sign, noting their sponsorship of our coffee bar. The Forrest Firm team has also held one of its monthly firm-wide meetings in our event space, and their attorneys meet clients and prospective clients in our conference rooms.

Perhaps of greatest value to our members has been the firm’s commitment to hold actual office hours, offering free consultations on-site at ReCity. These office hours represent a great opportunity to ask lawyers the questions that keep you awake at night, with regard to running a sound non-profit enterprise.

You’ll typically see a rotating cast of attorneys visiting with us on Tuesday afternoons, including David Morris, who has helped our members with issues like mergers and acquisitions and corporate governance through running effective boards of directors; Leslie Lasher, an employment attorney who helps non-profits with matters and policies regarding both volunteers and paid staff; and Ed Timberlake, a trademarks specialist who helps non-profits understand how to establish and protect their brands in the same way that for-profit address these needs.

Learn more about the Forrest Firm, a certified B corporation operating as a for-profit for the good of the community, at Watch our communications channels for upcoming office hours and workshops from David, Leslie, and Ed!

parklife communications

Parklife Communications
In addition to the Forrest Firm, we’ve had another professional services company partner with our network recently. Parklife Communications, led by Brian and Jeanette Castle, is helping ReCity with its own communications (blog, newsletter, social media, and more) and co-working here. Like the Forrest Firm, they are committed to serving the network—starting in June, they will be keeping office hours on Wednesday afternoons.

These office hours represent a great opportunity to talk through your organization’s messaging and communications strategies with people who represent a host of entrepreneurs and executives.

In business since 2009, Brian and Jeanette have focused on bringing content-driven marketing services to small and mid-sized businesses, including non-profits and mission-driven organizations. They joined ReCity, according to Brian, “because we love telling great stories. I’ve always said that what we do is less like painting from a blank canvas and more like sculpting in collaboration with our clients. The better the clay, the better the sculpture, and we couldn’t resist having a hand in literally rewriting the story of the city through the work of this incredible group of people.”

Learn more about Parklife, a content services firm for entrepreneurs, executives, and thought leaders, at Watch our communications channels for more information on Brian and Jeanette’s office hours!

Take advantage of all the benefits of ReCity Network membership. We look forward to adding more valuable benefits along our journey together. Thanks to these companies for committing to our mission of promoting social impact and greater levels of shared success for all who call Durham home.

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Race & the City: ReCity Network Hosts Forum with Sho Baraka, Durham Community Leaders

A packed house of nearly 150 attendees from many walks of life joined ReCity Network last Thursday for “Race & the City,” an intense, uplifting evening discussing race relations in Durham and the nation. The event featured a diverse panel of community leaders, including: Perry Tankard, associate pastor of Grace Park Church; Reynolds Chapman, executive director of DurhamCares; Camryn Smith, program coordinator for REAL Durham; and Miriam Valle, director of operations at Partners for Youth Opportunity. Maliek Blade, diversity coordinator for event sponsor Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, led the panel in discussion.

A visual presentation set the stage for the evening’s events, hitting attendees squarely with a variety of statistics illustrating disparate treatment and outcomes among racial communities in Durham and the United States:

  • In Durham, if you are black, you are 4.5x more likely to be searched after a traffic violation than if you are white.
  • White applicants with a felony conviction are more likely to be hired than a black applicant with no criminal history.
  • White families hold 90% of the national wealth. Latinos hold 2.3%. Black families hold 2.6%.

The evening kicked off with local minister and DJ Perry Tankard interviewing influential Christian hip-hop artist and panelist, Sho Baraka. During the interview, Baraka walked the crowd through his own spiritual journey and coming-of-age story as an activist for both the black community and the evangelical church in America. “I never wanted to be a Christian rapper,” said Baraka. “But the Lord gifted me in the area of communication, so I used it to reach people like me with an identity crisis.”

The panel engaged in a deep discussion of the issues of oppression and experiencing what Martin Luther King called the “beloved community.” From a white perspective, panelist Reynolds Chapman pointed out, “It’s easy for white people to not have to deal with issues like politics and race. But we’re the ones doing the oppressing. If we don’t have conversations, oppression will continue.” The sentiment was echoed by panelist Perry Tankard with, “A lot of oppression happens without people even realizing it. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, a lot of the problems can break down.”

Some of the more powerful testimony of the evening came from a pair of women on the panel, Miriam Valle and Camryn Smith. As a Mexican-American who came to the U.S. at age four, Valle remarked on how surprised she was to learn from Sho how similar they are. “I felt invisible so many times,” said Valle. “Sometimes people ask offensive questions due to lack of knowledge.” Fighting back tears, Valle eloquently described the social effort required by state of “otherness” felt by Hispanic-Americans in 2017 by saying, “I’ve learned to talk to people so they can learn who I am, what my culture represents.”

Smith issued an emphatic call, rousing the crowd to action, saying, “Relationships ain’t gonna cut it.” She eloquently summarized the emotion of the evening by reminding the crowd that “We are all created in the image of God. Until we can begin to have shared analysis and transfer of power, nothing will change.”

The ReCity Network thanks our panelists, community members, and our special guest, Sho Baraka, for contributing to a game-changing event in our city. The evening’s discussion served as a powerful reminder of ReCity’s mission to develop trust, learn each other’s stories, and collaborate to rewrite the story of our city.

Be sure to check out WRAL's coverage of our event as well.

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Race & the City: An Interview with DurhamCares Reynolds Chapman

"Our vision is to see communities holistically restored, with churches fully engaged in that process of transformation."
-Reynolds Chapman, Durham Cares


Reynolds Chapman is Executive Director of DurhamCares, whose mission is to mobilize Durham residents to love their neighbors. He is a minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church and actively involved in the Christian Community Development Association. He lives with his wife, Katelyn, in Durham. He is serving as a panelist during our Q&A discussion with local community leaders, directly after Race & The City: A Community Forum w/ Sho Baraka

        Why are conversations on Race so important for cities like Durham? 

Race is America's original sin and has impacted every corner of our society, from laws, to industry, to theology. If communities are to be restored, racism, and the entire construct of race, needs to be recognized, repented of, and dismantled."
What is DurhamCares' mission?
The mission of DurhamCares is to mobilize Durham residents to love their neighbors. We do this by providing resources and facilitating events that foster holistic, community-driven approaches to seeking the flourishing of all people in the city.
What makes your work unique?
Our work is unique because we help people reimagine how they engage with their community, and we mobilize them to put healthy postures of engagement into action. Our approach is based on the philosophy of Christian Community Development, which is essentially asset-based community development through a biblical lens.
What is your vision for Durham? 
Our vision is to see communities holistically restored, with churches fully engaged in that process of transformation. 
Learn more about DurhamCares and our mission here

                           -Reynolds Chapman, DurhamCares

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Michelle Young, Project BUILD

Michelle Young, left. 

Michelle Young, left. 

"The youth we work with often face significant barriers, and we need partners in order to effectively work with them."     

Who we are:

Project BUILD is a youth gang intervention program that operates out of Durham County. We utilize an evidence-based model (the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model) to serve individuals, ages 14-21, who are active and former gang members, or who are at high risk of joining a gang. Each young person is connected with an outreach worker, who meets with that youth 2-3 times a week and maintains nearly constant contact with the youth to help them find their way through the different problems that these youth face in their lives, whether these problems are in their home life, school, employment or other areas.  

Unique focus: 

The unique focus of Project BUILD is on individuals and families with gang and criminal involvement.  The staff of Project BUILD are extremely knowledgeable about local gangs, are skilled in navigating the criminal justice system, and we assist individuals who are on probation/parole.  We also excel in working with other systems such as the mental health system through Alliance Behavioral Health and the educational systems in Durham County.

ReCity Collaborations:

"We really appreciate the partnerships available to us through ReCity, because they make it so much easier for us to connect these young people to the help that they need." -M.Young

We utilize collaborations through ReCity to connect the youth and young adults that we work with to supplemental resources,  such as youth employment or training opportunities,  supportive programs like Step Up and Partners for Youth Opportunity, or  with emergency resources such as funds for housing or immediate family needs (ReCity and Summit Church have both helped us out in several very difficult circumstances). 

We also have used our collaborations through ReCity to develop opportunities for the youth we work with, such as a trainings on employment readiness that will be taught by Step Up in April, or a pre-employment class that will be taught by PFYO and Step Up in June.  We also utilize the space at ReCity for weekly groups, bi-monthly multidisciplinary intervention team meetings, trainings, and other meetings.  We really appreciate the partnerships available to us through ReCity, because they make it so much easier for us to connect these young people to the help that they need.

Lessons learned:

One lesson we have learned is that the youth we work with are engaged in multiple governmental and social services systems. Navigating those systems is complex.  The youth we work with often face significant barriers, and we need partners in order to effectively work with them.  We would like to do everything for the kids we serve, but that is impossible!

Ways to connect:

What we can offer to partners is our expertise in working with gang involved youth and families, and knowing how to navigate the governmental systems that these youth are involved in.  We also have a lot of strong connections to the local community, particularly individuals living in high-crime neighborhoods who may not be easy to connect with for outside agencies.  Our most pressing needs right now are employment opportunities, both for the youth and young adults that we serve, and for the individuals who will be served by our partner program, Bull City United.

Learn more about Project BUILD and our mission here!

-Michelle Young, Project BUILD

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Syretta Hill, StepUp Durham

Syretta Hill, Executive Director of StepUp Durham, trains people on how to obtain and maintain employment. Her guilty pleasure is binge-watching TV shows and fun fact...she has been sky diving!

Syretta Hill, Executive Director of StepUp Durham, trains people on how to obtain and maintain employment. Her guilty pleasure is binge-watching TV shows and fun fact...she has been sky diving!


Everything hinges on employment. That is a quote that one of our Employment Counselors made over one year ago, and it has stuck with me. 

I came to StepUp after 8 years of working for Habitat for Humanity of Wake County. When I started at Habitat, I was working with individuals. By the time I left the organization, I was leading an initiative that focused on communities. From my work, I was able to observe many communities and households, predominately communities of color, with employment challenges. Even some of our Habitat families, though now living in affordable and decent housing, still struggled from paycheck to paycheck. 

I met StepUp’s former CEO at a racial equity retreat. With a StepUp in Raleigh and Greensboro, he was looking to launch a Durham site. He wanted to create something different, an organization that had been invited into the community serving from a racial equity and asset-based approach. His description of what would become StepUp Durham resonated with me both personally and professionally. 

StepUp Durham, which focuses on employment training and placement for those with challenges to employment, opened its doors in October 2015. I was introduced to Rob even before we facilitated our first workshop. With a small team, 4 full-time staff and 4 interns, we were looking for a way to have a community presence and impact beyond our staff and financial capacity.  Since joining the ReCity collaborative, we have exceeded our expectations. 

Our first win came in 2016, when we were able to work with Partners for Youth Opportunity (PYO) to help provide employment training. They, in turn, were able to focus on placing and sustaining their youth’s summer employment. We hope to expand this partnership to serve more youth this summer. Our second success has been with Helius. Some of our graduates come to StepUp with the passion to start their own business because they have significant challenges in finding traditional employment opportunity. Though StepUp Ministries, our sister organization with a 27 year history in Raleigh, has an entrepreneurship program for this population, we knew we did not have the resources to offer this service. 

By being in the ReCity collaborative, we have been able to use our limited resources to concentrate on core programming and send entrepreneurs to Helius, an organization focused on necessity-driven entrepreneurship. We are working on the expansion of this relationship as well, with Helius serving as a partner on our efforts to engage the Latino population in our work. Project Build has been a significant partner, referring their clients to our workshop. We have trained Michelle’s team, and they continue to help us think through ways to broaden the scope of who we serve in Durham. And in April, we will launch the next phase of our work called Step2 with another ReCity partner, REAL Durham. 

We believe that everything hinges on employment. We have been able to extend our reach in the 18 months since we opened our doors to the employment of youth, gang members and entrepreneurs. ReCity has allowed us to have a larger footprint in the community. If an organization is able to make your work more effective and efficient, it makes sense to partner. ReCity has done that and much more for StepUp Durham. 

Learn more about StepUp Durham and our mission here!

-Syretta Hill, StepUp Durham

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