Walltown was founded in 1906 by George Wall, a formerly enslaved man who moved from Randolph County to Durham, NC, to work for Trinity College(eventually Duke University). Since then, the neighborhood has been home to generations of Black working-class families who, in the face of structural racism, have embodied a spirit of self-determination and resilience. When Northgate Mall, under the ownership of the Rand family, sought to encroach upon residential space, residents organized to keep their land. Now that the mall is in a state of redevelopment, Walltown has organized again. This presentation will highlight the organizing efforts of the Walltown Community Association (WCA), who since 2018, has been hard at work translating the needs, concerns, and desires of residents into a strategic vision to: 1) preserve and build community wealth, and 2) redevelop Northgate Mall into an accessible, affordable, and equitable space for all. We will take a look at how local history and storytelling activate new and old residents for political engagement, the power of data and maps to advance community organizing efforts, and discuss policy implications for affordable housing and city planning.
Brandon J. Williams is a community builder who believes in the power of everyday people to transform society. For eight years and counting, he has been a resident of a historically Black working-class neighborhood in Durham, NC, called Walltown. Brandon used to lead a youth organization in the community and is now organizing with neighbors to resist gentrification and displacement. Professionally, he works as a consultant for Frontline Solutions, helping clients in the philanthropic and non-profit sectors achieve their wildest dreams by building tools, models, and ventures that create far-reaching impact.