When our family first moved to North Carolina, my brother was 4 years old and I was 9. That’s a photo of us above.
My late grandfather was a graduate of Hampton University, worked for 48 years at the nation’s largest Black-owned insurance company, N.C. Mutual Life Insurance Company in Durham. My late grandmother was a graduate of Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C., and was a school teacher in the Durham community for over 30 years. The last name Spears is one I am proud to have.
My mother is from Portland, OR. My father is from Charlotte, NC. My parents met in California, where I was born and my brother was later born in Connecticut. Together, we were raised in Durham, NC, in the city where my father was raised.
My community of Durham is a proud one. I was raised believing I could be whatever I wanted to be. My parents are entrepreneurs. I grew up in safe spaces and was protected by adults that stood up for myself and so many others.
My brother and I played outside and knew to come home before the street lights came on. Neighbors kept an eye on us. Our teachers that cared poured into us, helped build our self-esteem, and believed in us. Because of our parents and community, we’ve grown into the people that we are today.
I was originally born in Los Angeles, but I wouldn’t be who I am without the city of Durham.
I wanted to use my platform to give back to the community that raised me and contributed so much to my friends and family. Someone read my blog post and asked how they could help me, but it didn’t feel right to accept money personally. I created the GoFundMe for my community, but I couldn’t decide on one Durham nonprofit. Instead, I discovered that a community is so much more than just one organization.
Each organization below has positively impacted my life on a personal level. In a month, the GoFundMe received over $30,000.00 of donations.
As of July 5, the GoFundMe total donation was $30,227.00. After the GoFundMe transaction fee of (2.9% + 0.30), the amount is $29,201.86.
As of July 5, 2020, each organization below received a donation of $2,433.49 via check or online.
Let me break this down-
When we were kids, my brother was enrolled in a Saturday morning STEM program for Black boys. My brother graduated from UNC with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and works as a software engineer. A few months ago, I heard Dr. Mae Jemison speak at Duke. I saw so many excited little girls of color in NASA orange astronaut flight suits, helmets included. This is the power of representation. We need organizations like Black Girls Code.
My little cousin loves listening to music, making mixtapes, and would have loved BLACKSPACE. While working for the State Department in April 2019, I randomly met one of the staff members of BLACKSPACE in an elevator. He was just leaving a cultural workshop at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City next door (my former job). He was also raised in Durham.
My classmates attended afterschool programs at the Boys & Girls Club of Durham. And from personal experience, I know how much posting bail can change a life and the lives of those we love (Community Bail Fund of Durham).
A former colleague took literacy tutoring classes at the Durham Literacy Center and I remember how excited we were when he showed us his GED diploma. Less than a minute down the road, I volunteered at El Centro Hispano after college, saw the resources they provide to our Latinx community members, and had the opportunity to practice my Spanish in a safe space.
As a kid, I remember waking up to the beautiful Call to Prayer by the Jamaat Ibad Ar- Rahman Masjid (Mosque), followed by the Hillside Marching Band. In the evenings, I heard the Call to Prayer when I waited in the car at the Food Lion as my parents went grocery shopping. I never knew what the Call to Prayer said, but it always sounded melodic and peaceful. This is forever a piece of my childhood memories.
My dad, aunt, and uncle graduated from North Carolina Central University (NCCU), a Historically Black College & University (HBCU). When I was six, my dad and I drove from Connecticut to my first Homecoming event at NCCU in Durham. This was my first experience of NCCU’s Homecoming- a football game, the marching band, a community of my family’s lifelong friends, the friends gathered at my grandparents’ house, the cookouts, dancing, parades, old ladies pinching my cheeks, and a celebration of Blackness.
My brother and I were raised in the house that my grandparents built in 1957, minutes from NCCU, where my dad, aunt, and uncle were also raised. We attended Homecomings, parties, and events at NCCU over the years. I took summer classes at NCCU during college and made lifelong friends. Because of my study abroad experience in college at NCSU, I got my passport when I was 19, traveled the world, and lived in four different countries. Because of these experiences that added friendships and joy to my life, I chose to donate to NCCU’s Office of International Affairs to support their study abroad programs.
When I moved back to the U.S. after working for the State Department, I wanted to volunteer and I found SEEDS in Nov. 2019. I was still trying to adjust to living back in the U.S. and all of what I was dealing with inside. I remember how kind one of their coordinators was to me, showing me the two-acre urban garden and the kitchen classroom, and explaining everything with such passion. Turns out, he graduated from NCCU and his mother is a friend of my uncle.
One of my closest friends has Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). We awaited the recent DACA decision for years. I know how DACA impacts my friend’s life and so many others on a daily basis. My friend starts college soon (Pupusas for Education)!!
Classmates attended after-school programs at Walltown Children’s Theatre. Walltown Children’s Theatre offers classes in drumming, drama, vocal technique, creative writing, piano lab, stage production, and dance. I know first-hand how important it is for children to have safe spaces to explore and develop their creative talents and dreams.
Lastly, don’t we all want communities that offer resources to “end homelessness and fight poverty by offering food, shelter, and a future to neighbors in need?” (Urban Ministries of Durham). How many of us lean on our neighbors on a regular basis?
To celebrate the recent DACA decision, additional money will be donated to Pupusas for Education, “a nonprofit that provides last dollar scholarships to undocumented and DACAmented students pursuing a higher education.”
Many of those who work for the listed organizations donated to the GoFundMe campaign, which means that their donations also impacted other Durham community organizations. I didn’t realize this until yesterday when I reviewed the GoFundMe donors. Our character shows who we are. I discovered that a few organizations know each other and worked together in the past. You would think each organization specifically works towards their own mission statement and goals, but that’s not the case.
The goal is the community.
There’s an old African proverb that says “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Thank you to the city of Durham, North Carolina and to those that go above and beyond to help us grow, use our voice, and be the best we can be.
See below for more information on how each organization plans to use their donation! Additionally, you can donate here- https://www.gofundme.com/f/A-Love-Letter-To-Durham-North-Carolina
Black Girls Code (Raleigh-Durham Chapter) https://www.blackgirlscode.com
- Virtual workshops, virtual summer camps, and enrichment activities for young and pre-teen girls of color to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming.
BLACKSPACE (Afrofuturism Digital Makerspace)
- Anti-Racism #WokeShop– 10 to 20 youth (Afronauts) will produce creative projects and/or conversations on anti-racism, Afrofuturism, and creativity.
- Blackspace Bantaba (African word for dancing ground where the community comes). “This will be a day of grieving and healing, where we will hold space for youth, organizers, healers and community members.”
- Hip Hop Summer #WokeShop- 10 to 20 youth (Afronauts) will work with Movement Workers to produce a series of live- stream events and performances (DJ sets, live performances, and beat-sharing sessions).
- Check out the Afronaut’s Durhamfi mixtape on Spotify- https://open.spotify.com/album/6b2UzyDTQL13ribouLk5Py
Boys & Girls Club of Durham and Orange Counties https://www.bgcdoc.org
- Internet access for 165 members, or 41% of active membership base.
Community Bail Fund of Durham https://www.nccbailfund.org
- Post bail for one person.
- Average bail is $1,500, which impacts not only one individual but their family, kids, employers, customers/ clients, etc. Remaining donation will go towards the bail fund.
Durham Literacy Center (Youth Achievement Program) https://www.durhamliteracy.org/youth-achievement
- 8 Chromebooks (laptops) for 8 students to use from home.
- The donation went directly to The Youth Achievement Program, which “provides intensive, individualized high school equivalency instruction to out-of-school young adults ages 16-24 in a safe, peaceful setting with structure and support.”
El Centro Hispano (Empowering Durham’s Latinx Community) https://elcentronc.org
- Relief for 5 families to help pay rent/ utilities.
Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman Masjid (Our Neighborhood’s Mosque) http://www.ibadarrahman.org/locations/
- Grocery and hygiene product boxes for 30 families distributed to families with an average of 4 members (2 adults and 2 children) for a total of 120 people in July 2020.
- Fresh produce boxes for 15 families distributed to families with an average of 4 members (2 adults and 2 children) for a total of 60 people in July 2020.
- Purchase of dry food items for stocking the JIAR Food Pantry distributed in August 2020 or on demand in the community and will serve approximately 10 individuals or families in August or later.
Office of International Affairs at North Carolina Central University https://legacy.nccu.edu/academics/resources/oia/studyabroad.cfm
- Study abroad opportunities for NCCU students.
SEEDS (Urban Garden & Kitchen Classroom) http://www.seedsnc.org
- 5 full weeks of virtual summer camp for 25 students each week! This includes at-home summer camp kits (featuring teas, a yoga mat, art supplies, and supplies for growing veggies at home).
- Virtual summer camp includes four hours of teaching time each day with staff of educators.
Pupusas for Education (Scholarships for Undocumented and DACA students) https://www.pupusas4education.com
- Scholarship opportunities for higher education opportunities for undocumented and DACAmented students in Orange, Durham, and Wake counties in North Carolina.
Walltown Children’s Theatre https://www.walltownchildrenstheatre.org
- Support and funding for WCT nonprofit that offers classes in drumming, drama, vocal technique, creative writing, piano lab, stage production, and dance.
Urban Ministries of Durham (Food, shelter, and a future to neighbors in need)
- First month’s rent for four individuals moving out of the shelter.
- Support for Project ROOF (Removing Obstacles to Occupancy Funds), “which seeks to expedite housing for UMD shelter residents by helping pay for expenses like security deposits, first month’s rent, and utility hook-ups.”
Thank you for supporting the community of Durham!!!
Receipts/ Proof of Donation
You can donate here- https://www.gofundme.com/f/A-Love-Letter-To-Durham-North-Carolina.