Durham peace advocates to ring in new year with vigils

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) - Advocates for peace in Durham will begin 2017 with nearly a dozen vigils against violence in the city.

The effort comes after an increase in killings in 2016. Two deadly shootings on Christmas Eve brought the year's total number of homicides to 43. Investigators said that is Durham's highest number since 1980. 2015's total of 42 was nearly twice as many as in 2014.

The Durham County Department of Public Health recently partnered with some community activists to launch Bull City United. The violence reduction initiative is based on a program started in 2000 in one of Chicago's more violent communities.

Bull City United will host eight vigils during the first seven days of 2017. The group is calling it a Week of Peace, and the events will take place across the city and will include some of Durham's public housing communities, such as McDougald Terrace, Oxford Manor, and Liberty Street. A complete list of times and locations is below.

The Religious Coalition for Non-Violent Durham will also hold community vigils on the second and fourth Thursday of every month at Shepherd's House United Methodist Church. Their vigil ministry and community coordinator, Ruthy Jones, said they started doing the vigils twice a month because of the horrific increase in deaths in Durham recently.

"We can't fix the fact that someone has just buried their loved one, but we can be there, but we can be there in support and friendship," Jones said.

"At 5:30 in the evening we will be there, and we hope the fact that we're doing it in the same place, same time, each time, that people will begin to be aware that it's there, and as they have a few minutes coming home from work, that they will swing out, a little bit out of their way and come by."

Jones said the group started doing vigils in 2016 after the first homicide just three days into the year, when 20-year-old Nicholas Bell was shot and killed. The Religious Coalition for Non-Violent Durham will do individual vigils if families request them, in a place of their choosing, but Jones said the death count mounted so rapidly in 2016 they began to recognize several victims in community services.

She hopes these events will increase awareness of the issues across the city, and lead to discussions about the value of life and long term changes in attitudes and approaches for peace. Jones said it can translate into the things parents talk about with children and rethinking some of the things people do.

Non-Violent Durham will host vigils January 12 and 26 at the church on the corner of Main and Driver.

Bull City United will hold its Week of Peace vigils according to this schedule:

  • Sunday, Jan. 1, 6 p.m.

    2819 Rochelle St.

  • Monday, Jan. 2, 6 p.m.

    416 Walton St.

  • Tuesday, Jan. 3, 6 p.m.

    3633 Keystone Place

  • Wednesday, Jan. 4, 6 p.m.

    500 Block of East Main Street

  • Thursday, Jan. 5, 6 p.m.

    1203 Holloway St.t

  • Friday, Jan. 6, 6 p.m.

    100 Block of Scout Drive

  • Saturday, Jan. 7, 2 p.m.

    2716 Hinson Drive

  • Saturday, Jan. 7, 4 p.m.

    1400 Block of Wabash Street

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