A Durham for All

Durham for All (D4A) is a grassroots organization that is building a cross-class, multiracial movement in Durham 10,000 people strong.  In D4A’s analysis, 10,000 committed voting people is enough to elect local officials and hold them accountable to a vision for a Durham where everyone can thrive politically, economically, and socially.  Through ongoing relational organizing and base building, D4A is sustaining progressive momentum after the November 2020 and working to win concrete victories that move us toward a future with affordable homes, quality education, good jobs, and real safety for everyone. D4A centers the leadership of people of color and working-class people as it works to build a new progressive majority. Founded by a multiracial group of Durham activists in 2016, D4A is a member-driven mass organization with over 600 dues-paying members. I am proud to be one of them.

I have been a member of Durham for All since the summer of 2020, when I joined as a volunteer on the Swing the State campaign. Our goal was to reach out to 17,000 voters of color in Durham who did not vote in the 2016 election, a segment of the electorate that most political campaigns write off as not worth the outreach effort.  In weekly phone banks held on zoom, I was invited to build community with other volunteers and given the opportunity to connect with and listen to voters in Durham. On our phone calls, we invited voters to a series of People’s Platform events held throughout the summer, shared our endorsements, and supported voters in making their voting plans.  As a group of 717 volunteers, we filled over 2,000 shifts and had 27,027 conversations! With other organizations in the Carolina Federation, the statewide organization with which D4A is affiliated, we built the largest volunteer-run Get Out The Vote (GOTV) program in North Carolina outside the Democratic Party. These efforts delivered a record number of votes in Durham County.

One of my favorite parts of phone banking with D4A was being invited into purposeful action by a brilliant, spirited, and very intentional team of staff organizers.  I looked forward to logging on to my Tuesday phone banks where I knew that Ociele, my neighborhood organizer, would be waiting with an amazing song playing and creative check-in question ready to open the session.  As volunteers, we were encouraged to express our personal stakes in the election outcomes and to name the people in our lives that we thought about when thinking about voting.  Rather than a merely transactional phone conversation with a voter, we were trained in how to connect and listen deeply around what was going on with them through these challenging pandemic times, listening for resonances with our own stories and ways of helping others understand the connections between what they were going through and the outcome of the election.  This approach to deep phone banking is one element in D4A’s broader strategy of relational and place-based organizing.  It invites volunteers like me to show up fully for the work and to meet voters where they are, not as actors to be convinced to change their minds or cast a vote, but as fellow community members with complex and worthwhile hopes and needs for change.

Through my work on other political campaigns and advocacy efforts, I can see that D4A is up to something really special with this approach. I’m excited to be contributing to the digital organizing arm of the work this semester as a GradEngage Fellow, keeping our members informed about the issues that we and our ally organizations are engaged around and sending emails calling people into action.   I am also deepening my work as a member leader with D4A and contributing to the strategic planning and execution of our 2021 action campaigns. These opportunities allow me to keep learning from and with D4A as I finish a thesis for the MFA in Dance focused on what embodied awareness offers to political organizing efforts like ours.  I am continuing to explore organizing as a vocation and practice, witnessing the daily rhythm of work at D4A and receiving mentorship from staff. This work is helping me identify my role in our movement and see where and how I can contribute to building a Durham for All. Please check out D4A here, and consider joining us as a member!

Courtney Crumpler is a second-year student in the MFA in Dance. Her research situates protest performance, political organizing, and popular education as embodied praxes. Courtney is excited to deepen her work with the multiracial and cross-class progressive movement Durham for All, moving toward a vision for a Durham with homes, education, economy, sanctuary and democracy for all alongside some of the most inspiring and talented organizers she knows.

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