Hayti Heritage Center spotlights Durham success stories


Greg Hill speaks to a crowd at the Hayti Heritage Center. (Staff photo by Leah Montgomery)

Greg Hill speaks to a crowd at the Hayti Heritage Center. (Staff photo by Leah Montgomery)

Author, entrepreneur, and motivational speaker Greg Hill hopes to help revitalize Durham, and shared his message with the crowd gathered Sept. 24 at the Hayti Heritage Center for “The Rebranding of Durham.” The event drew speakers and performers to share their success stories.

Hill said he saw the need to give Durham a facelift after attending college at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) in Greensboro, and then speaking across the country and working with young people.

“When I say rebirth Durham it’s more so re-programming Durham, especially for our minority demographics,” said Hill.

Hill attended Riverside High School and said he had an amazing experience growing up in Durham with just his mother.

He said he is tired of seeing drugs and crime at the forefront of how his community is depicted.

“As for minority demographics,” he said, “I don’t think we are put in the best light.”

Hill said the first thing he wanted to do when he got back to Durham was to get closer to the community. That’s when he began planning 4Quarter, an all-boys basketball and life camp, held this past summer.

The camp hosted over 80 campers and focused on life skills, academics, and healthy nutrition.

“To see the ideas, to see the potential, to see the work ethic and to see the great things that they are doing—that’s the revival,” said Hill.

Hill said it took him seven years to graduate from N.C. A & T. His first three years he maintained a 3.5 grade point average. He owned his own company, worked a full-time job and earned as much as $5,000 a month promoting parties.

“As an entrepreneur there are a lot of ups and a lot of downs, so I basically dropped out of school,” said Hill.

Hill said in just one month, he lost $20,000 at just 20-years-old.

“I didn’t know how to deal with that,” he said. “I’ve never had that kind of downfall in my life, so I went through a major depression.”

Hill said after spending months inside his apartment, going days without eating and living in his car, he decided he’d had enough.

“It took me two years to get my motivation back and to get my life back on track,” said Hill. “I had to take immediate action.”

Deborah Watkins, an adjunct professor in the School of Business at North Carolina Central University, also shared her story with the crowd. She spoke about her plans to open a private a private school for students between kindergarten and second grade.

“If they get that firm foundation in literacy and math, then they don’t fall behind,” said Watkins.

The privately-funded academy will be aimed toward low-income students and will be tuition-free.

“One national association dealing with education said that illiteracy is a health problem,” said Watkins. “It puts kid’s lives at risk    of drugs, gangs and being killed if they do not know how to read and write.”

Watkins said she believes that the key to a successful future is education.

“They have to have that foundation so that they can reach their full potential; so that they can be the chemist and all of the other goals that kids have,” she said. “You can’t do it without education.”

Kenjuan Nichols, 28, grew up in Durham and said he enjoyed the event because it inspired him to get active.

“Now that I’m older, I’m more conscious of how things work as far as local government and just making sure the community is good,” said Nichols. “Being a young black man growing up in this city, Durham, it’s important to be involved, to show my face and to speak to other young men that are going through the same things that I went through.”

2 thoughts on “Hayti Heritage Center spotlights Durham success stories

  1. In the very late 19th Century Durham had one of the best attitudes in reguards to people of color succeeding beyond the hopes and dreams of many areas of both the upper and deep south as well as a lot of areas in the US. However time and discouraging events such as wars,depressions and economical downfalls have discouraged a lot of people everywhere.

    These young people in the above article have the right attitude and remind me a lot of some who were successful in the old days in Durham which covered the years between 1940-1980. I was a student at NCCU during the years of 1978-1985 and had a chance to see and meet some of the older people who were still living then who had made a difference before I was born. I would like to see some of this come back but in a way that includes all because there are many poor and needy people who need a second and also a third chance. I should know because I am a former Career Asistant with Joblink here in Western,NC and have seen just how a little encouragement helps the unemployed. And my being a proud product of the History Dept. at NCCU also gave me the encouragement and strength along with two good parents (one of who was also an NCCU alumnus/History educator and the other a Mechanical Engineering major at A&T) pushing me and supporting me to do my best. LJ Steele,MA

    • Dear LJ Steele, Thank you for this lovely and supportive message to the young people and to our young writers. Yours is an attitude we should emulate.
      Jock Lauterer, founding publisher, the VOICE

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