Dear Durham: my love letter to you

By Praycious Wilson-Gay
Teen Editor-in-Chief
the Durham VOICE

I was born and bred in Durham, but I have not always had pride in my city.  Especially, this summer when it felt like every week someone else was killed.  Most of the victims were between the ages of 18-30.  It broke my heart every time I heard that someone else’s life had been cut short, the victim and the offender.  At that point in time, I had no pride or love for Durham and the only thing I did to express that was to shake my head and talk about how much I disliked it here.

Teen Editor-in-Chief Praycious Wilson-Gay

It wasn’t until two alumni SpiritHouse Youth Noise Network members started their first “Dear Durham” writing session at the “In The People’s Hands Writing Intensive” that I felt like I could say something about how I felt.  This idea of writing love letters to Durham bubbled in Marcella Camara and Naeemah Kelly’s mind when all the youth homicides happened in Durham this past summer.  The “Dear Durham” project website stated, they wanted to give the “Durham community an outlet to express how they felt, what they thought and what they wanted for Durham.  The Dear Durham project is just one sentiment to bring communities together.  Durham is such a beautiful and vibrant place suffering like this.”

So on July 30th, in a quiet corner of Joe’s Diner, I wrote my love letter to Durham.

Dear Durham,

We never were the same. Durham, we both have changed because our hearts are not in the same place as they were yesterday.  I can remember feeling my heart pounding fast because I couldn’t wait to go to the park.  Now, my heart pounds fast when I walk past the park, yet not for the same reason. I see it in your face Durham, your heart has been misplaced and you are trying to find it now.  It’s hard to feel the pulse when betrayal and hatred surrounds you.

Where did the beautiful Durham I fell in love with go?  What happened to silent nights where all you ever heard was the faint sound of the train passing through the town, the trees rustling the leaves?  What happened to artwork displayed on buildings instead of vandalism?

Feelings just aren’t the same; the bridge we built together is getting torn down everyday.  I was taught that you couldn’t love anyone if there is no trust.  Durham, please give me the reasons to trust you because in my heart of hearts I can’t bring myself to do it anymore.  It’s not that I cannot love you because I can.  It’s just that when you let me down for the first time, part of my world was shattered.

You have exposed me to experiences that have given me opinions and outlooks; you have given me a sense of culture.  You are where I am finding myself. We must change and grow together, for the better.  After all, Durham is where I learned how to mix my eggs, grits and sausage together.  All of this to say, Durham, get yourself together so that I can love you with all my heart…again.

Yours truly,


To learn more about the “Dear Durham” project and how you can get involved go to