Hundreds pull for unity, improvements to public housing at Durham MLK Day march

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Hundreds of people gathered for the 34th annual march and rally in downtown Durham on Monday morning to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

City leaders, state officials, community activists and families gathered at the NC Mutual Towers and marched along Chapel Hill Street to the First Presbyterian Church on Main Street.

“We pause to recognize the life and legacy of Dr. King and what he meant to this country,” said Reverend Warren L. Herndon, chairman of the Durham MLK Steering Committee.

Community leaders remembered King as a minister and activist who promoted unity and peace, which is something they said is missing in our country today.

“We at this point in time are living in a divided country,” Herndon said. “We’re trying to define ways where people can come together on this day as a way that we can live a life in unity and respect for each other.”

At the march, a hot topic of conversation among city leaders was the need to improve living conditions at public housing complexes in Durham.

“There is no year this march means more than it means this year,” said Durham Mayor Steve Schewel.

Schewel said one way city leaders can continue the work of MLK is to make sure the families who are living in public housing Durham are taken care of.

This comes after nearly 300 families were evacuated from McDougald Terrace due to problems with carbon monoxide. The Durham Housing Authority has inspected all of the apartments at the complex and carbon monoxide inspections have begun at five other public housing complexes as well.

Right now there is no word on when the McDougald Terrace families will be able to return home as repairs have not yet been completed.

“It’s all of our responsibilities to step up and make this right,” Schewel said. “We will do that, together we will do that.”

Schewel said with the passage of the affordable housing bond they will be able to redevelop McDougald Terrace, but it will be a while before that happens.

Ashley Canady lives at McDougald Terrace and she said that alone is enough of a reason to march.

“I come today from a community that’s really hurting right now,” Canady said.

Over the last several years, Canady said she and other families have been forced to stay in unlivable conditions where there are issues with mold and plumbing – and now, the latest problem is carbon monoxide.

“As we march today, I want you guys to not only remember Dr. King, but also hold our community up in arms,” Canady said. “Pray for our community and not just today, but start showing our community love everywhere.”

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