New VOICE staff writers tour Northeast Central Durham

By Norman Gossett, Jr.
UNC Staff Writer
The Durham VOICE

Orientation for the spring staff of the Durham VOICE, which consists of students from North Carolina Central University and UNC-Chapel Hill, was held Jan. 28. The Voice is intended to promote the exchange of ideas between the people living in the Northeast Central Durham community and the authorities that serve them.

Melva Henry from the City of Durham Department of Neighborhood Improvement Services, leads the tour in Wellons Village. (Staff photo by Norman Gossett, Jr.)

This semester, the staff of reporters and photographers from North Carolina Central University includes Chi Brown, Chelsetia Davis, Shae Hillary, Brittney Jenkins and Matt Phillips. Assistant Professor Lisa Paulin and Associate Professor Bruce dePyssler, both of the English and Mass Communication department at NCCU, serve as co-publishers for the VOICE.

UNC-CH’s spring-semester staffers are Leslie Ann Blake, Maggie Cagney, Norman Gossett, Jr., Kaelyn Malkoski, Laura Medlin, Lauren Miller, Abby Moore, Jagir Patel and Danielle Tepper. Jock Lauterer, senior lkecturer at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-CH, also serves as co-publisher of the VOICE.

Carlton Koonce, who works as the Voice’s Teen Mentoring Coordinator, also administers YO: Durham, a youth service and mentoring program. One of the students in YO: Durham, Sharif Ruebin,  serves as a writer for the VOICE this spring. Koonce hopes that the example set by Sharif will enable other Northeast Central Durham youth to make a difference in the community.

Flanked by VOICE staffers from NCCU and UNC, Melva Henry introduces them to the Golden Belt Campus on East Main Street during the bus tour Jan. 21. (Staff photo by Norman Gossett, Jr.)

Melva Henry, of Durham’s Neighborhood Improvement Services Department, provided a guided tour as the spring staff of the VOICE began its tour of Northeast Central Durham at the Mechanics and Farmers Bank, part of an area formerly known as Black Wall Street.

“At one time, this was the center of black economic activity,” Henry said. “There was North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance and Mechanics and Farmers (Bank). It was a busy place.”

Henry continued her historical analysis of the Northeast Central Durham area as the group bused down Holloway Street toward the Wellons Village area. For the new Voice staff, the visuals provided a gripping representation of Northeast Central Durham’s need for community participation. Many of the retired residents of Wellons Village do not have a car and must walk or rely on public transportation. Henry pointed out that even a situation as mundane as rainwater pooling in a crosswalk pothole can be an obstacle to someone trying to cross.

Henry also called the group’s attention to the former location of Holton Junior High School,  which has been converted into a community wellness center partnered with Duke University Health System. The old school building also houses a career center for Durham Public Schools, where students can take courses designed to teach job-related skills.

As the spring staffers headed back to town on Angier Avenue, they made a quick stop at one of the community’s successful revitalization projects. At the corner of Driver Street and Angier Avenue sits the TROSA (Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers)  grocery store.  This addition to community commerce filled a void left when the building was abandoned.

A large portion of the community’s population is at risk, but not so long ago, Northeast Central Durham was a vibrant community with a thriving commercial base to sustain its inhabitants. The VOICE staffers hope that by understanding the community’s past, they can help build its future.

The VOICE is a forum for you to call attention to things that you consider important in your daily life. The newspaper is your community’s VOICE.

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