Dear Members of the Durham Community:
We are supporting DeDreana Freeman for re-election to the Ward I seat on City Council because she is an important voice for the people of Ward 1. We admire her passion and commitment to making sure directly impacted people have a voice in what the solutions are. While knowledge of policy making is part of being an effective decision maker, successful governance also needs experience with grassroots community-led organizing. DeDreana brings both to the table. She has consistently engaged with the community, seeking to support those living in poverty -- like the residents of McDougald Terrace -- while working to find community-led solutions to the root causes of poverty.
We also believe our City Council is healthier and more equitable when it has a variety of voices working for our city. Dissent in our governing bodies is part of the democratic process, and should lead to stronger, more inclusive solutions for Durham. Attempts to quash dissent -- rather than integrating dissenting voices -- fails at the goal of creating a transformative Durham. If we are not careful, the political strategists seeking to build a power bloc in Durham’s governing bodies will fail to represent what Durham is and can be-- a broad diversity of lived experiences and voices. DeDreana has long embodied the mantra that those closest to the pain should be closest to the power-- a central tenet, incidentally, in the City’s Racial Equity Task Force Report, on which one of us served.
In fact, her passion for racial equity is part of what led both of us to be strong supporters of DeDreana. She works to ensure racial equity is at the center of city conversations, such as the Equitable Engagement Blueprint, Racial Equity Task Force, and hiring of a Racial Equity Manager within the newly developed Office of Equity & Inclusion. We both have worked alongside her and seen this in action-- she follows through and truly centers an equitable approach in governing. Her leadership can be exemplified in the non-discrimination ordinance, where she worked alongside other leaders in creating the city CROWN Resolution to end hair discrimination in Durham and across the state, as well as in her efforts to support BIPOC-owned businesses with opportunities, like developing a grant/loan program to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Part of the work of racial equity is making the invisible visible. We know her detractors sometimes lean on tired tropes and dog whistles, labeling her The Angry Black Woman.. We don’t have to give these stereotypes life. DeDreana IS angry - like Rev William Barber and other strong advocates fighting to assure that people of color and other low income Durham families have access to the best of Durham -- what DeDreana talks about as shared prosperity. She doesn’t just focus on affordable housing, but also emphasizes higher wages and better jobs that allow folks to afford more housing and combat displacement. When we disagree with her -- about approach or a proposed solution -- and of course, over the years we have disagreed many times -- DeDreana is always open to talking it through. People are not disposable to her; we know we can disagree with her and still work alongside her, without fear of retaliation.
DeDreana takes a holistic approach to solving Durham’s core problems. She considers environmental justice as she works to make living in Durham sustainable. When housing advocates presented a draft version of the Tenants' Bill of Rights to the City Council, she was the only council member who followed up and supported them. When East Durham parents shared concerns about rubber tire mulch in their playgrounds, she worked to remove the mulch from East Durham Park. She pushes to make policies more holistic and responsive to peoples’ lives.
We trust that if re-elected to City Council, DeDreana will continue to listen and respond to the needs of Ward I -- and all Durham residents-- and continue to push her colleagues on the Council to integrate those voices as well, not just in developing policy but in continuing to fine-tune it. In this way we will have the opportunity to build long-term solutions to housing, poverty, public safety, and climate change, while assuring that all our citizens are respected and can live and thrive in dignity.