Skip to main content

From the very start of my internship at Durham’s OEWD (Office of Economic and Workforce Development), it became abundantly clear to me that Durham is a city trying to create a new identity from the remnants of its past. A large part of our work at OEWD focuses on planning our city’s sesquicentennial celebration next year. We will attempt to establish Durham as a major tourism destination through a celebration of the city’s art, music, and history.

We were reminded of the pain and success of Durham’s growth during our Wednesday meeting with Duke’s new president, Dr. Vincent Price. We talked about how Durham’s rapid growth has led to the disappearance of affordable housing in the city, discussed Duke’s role in this city, and finally, we examined the challenges that Duke faces as it attempts to better integrate itself with the changing community. At the end of our roundtable discussion, President Price asked each of us about how our perception of Durham affected our decision to come to Duke and how our view of the city has changed now that we are working in it. Personally, even though Durham was not really a factor in my decision to come here, I had always pictured Durham as this rundown city with it’s best days behind her. Obviously, I know better now, but it did strike me how despite the city’s rapid growth, its reputation still lagged behind.

Thursday night, our site coordinator Neil took us to a Bulls game. As we walk through the American Tobacco campus, the shoddy downtown of old is nowhere in sight, instead, we are treated to thriving businesses housed in artfully renovated tobacco buildings. After letting up a two-run homer on the top of the first inning, the Bulls rallied and mounted a comeback in the sixth. Despite our comeback ultimately falling short, the fans were in high spirit. As they streamed towards the parking garage in a variety of Bulls gear, I am reminded of how far the city has come and how wrong my perception of Durham was just a year ago.

This past weekend was our “free weekend” and the six of us drove to the Outer Banks to relax and have some quality bonding time. We woke up at 5 on Saturday and were treated to an amazing sunrise over the Atlantic. Sunrise, to me, is the best part of the day. As the sun’s golden rays cast away the darkness of the night, it marks a fresh start to what can be an amazing day. The warmth and the light that comes with it allows us to hope, for anything is possible in this brand new day.

With the sun setting on the tobacco industry, Durham entered a period of darkness with the Jim Crow laws and the Urban Renewal. But the success of the Med-Ed strategy has been the sunrise that is casting away the darkness and bringing Durham to a new day. This allows us to hope, for anything is possible in this New Durham.