Temperatures were low in Durham on Saturday, February 22, but the energy and passion were high. Regina Mays led fellow community members as they marched through the streets of downtown Durham, with their rhythmic claps echoing through the air in between fiery chants of “CLAP BACK!”
“It’s 43 degrees, but we’re just warming up!” Charlitta Burruss proclaimed over the microphone.
Burruss was one of many community members who stepped forward at the Stop the Violence rally on Saturday to voice their concerns on the state of gun violence in Durham.
The rally was held at Central Carolina Bank (CCB) Plaza. Coined as the heart of the city, Mays hoped the voices that rang through downtown from the rally would reach the hearts of those in the community.
Eighteen years ago, she packed up her bags and moved to Durham from Washington, D.C. A single mother of three at the time, she came to North Carolina for a slower pace and a new start.
But in her move, she experienced circumstances that led to her family experiencing homelessness. These circumstances became her driving factor.
Now, this mother of five and community activist is one of 15 women of color on the ballot in the Durham. Her foremost stance: community engagement.
“Durham is full of resources, but I don’t believe the resources are being utilized to really aid those in the community, and really set the standard and change things,” she said. “A lot of people just want to put a name on a piece of paper but don’t want to do the work that it takes to change the community.”
Mays started the effort, “Clapback Durham,” following a string of shootings in October that have claimed several black lives.
She was initially denied a meeting place to house her movement, but her dedication to the cause birthed Saturday’s anti-violence rally.
Being a woman of color fighting for a seat at the table hasn’t been the major barrier for Mays; It’s being a woman of color who’s faced a narrative that typically isn’t found at the table in the first place.
“It really hasn’t been so much of a challenge being a black female,” she began, “the challenge has been a black female coming out of poverty. People question your intelligence; people question what you bring to the table.”
Mays is making history being a part of such a diverse pool of candidates in North Carolina in her run for County Board of Commissioners. But as for today, she plans to continue the fight to end senseless crime in Durham.