Posts Tagged ‘Durham County N.C.’

The Friday that white supremacists (never really) came to town: Part 1 of 2

August 22, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 22, 2017

It was around 11 on Friday morning when I noticed a tweet saying that white supremacists were planning to march on downtown Durham at noon. I ate an early lunch and started preparing to go.

However, I dallied. This was partly because I was skeptical that any hate group would actually show up in what might be North Carolina’s most liberal city. Indeed, none of the tweets I saw from people who were downtown indicated that any white supremacists were showing up. But to be completely candid, I also dawdled for the very converse reason: Because I was afraid of the catastrophe that could occur if armed reactionaries did in fact turn out.

Many of the white-supremacist marchers at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month were heavily armed and obviously spoiling for violence. Moreover, on Thursday evening, I’d read a disturbing news story about a gun-toting militia group that had turned up at a San Antonio city council meeting. (The stated rationale was that an official of the This is Texas Freedom Force had received death threats after publicly opposing the council’s intention to move a Confederate monument.) If shooting had started in Charlottesville, or San Antonio, or Durham — or if some whack job decided to drive into a crowd, as happened in the town where Thomas Jefferson lived and founded a university — no one could guarantee the public’s safety.

However, when the Ku Klux Klan might roll into your town, able and available adults can’t just sit on the sidelines. So even though I showed up late, I did show up.

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Crime and misdemeanors: A crowd tears down a Confederate monument in my home town

August 15, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 15, 2017

It’s not every day that Durham, N.C., gets national attention — and it’s even rarer when the City of Medicine generates widespread news coverage for something other than college basketball. Unfortunately, despite being in town yesterday, I was completely unaware of what might be a seminal moment in an important national news story until a few hours after the event had taken place.

On Monday evening, protesters pulled down a monument to Confederate soldiers that stood in front of the Durham County Administration Building, which served as the county courthouse from 1916 through 1978. The statue in question was erected in 1924; the front of its pedestal reads, “In memory of ‘The Boys who Wore the Gray.’”

I won’t miss the statue; it venerated soldiers who, while they may have fought bravely, did so in service to a disloyal would-be nation that was dedicated to keeping black men, women and children in bondage.

Durham, like many American cities, is full of symbols of disdain for African-Americans, some more explicit than others. One example — subtler than the statue of the rebel soldier, but more prominent in a way — is the Durham Freeway, a.k.a. N.C. 147, an expressway built in the late 1960s that devastated a once-thriving black community named Hayti. These badges of dishonor can never be wholly erased; nor should they, for to plaster over past injustices is to invite their repetition. But neither should such affronts be afforded undeserved esteem.

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A short monograph on Triangle traffic; or, my Wednesday-afternoon trip to the airport

July 31, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 31, 2017

I’d planned on taking a trip the week that ended on Saturday, July 22. But I hadn’t planned on leaving on Wednesday the 19th, and I hadn’t planned on flying. However, an urgent situation arose, and it seemed best that I book an evening flight.

That afternoon, I went to a barcade in downtown Raleigh. I did this partly to help myself unwind for a bit before my flight, but I also did this because evening rush-hour in the Research Triangle tends to be heaviest going east from Durham to Raleigh, and Raleigh-Durham International Airport is located about halfway between the two cities.

(Sidebar: A significant disparity between housing and jobs helps fuel traffic holdups in the region, as does a lack of rail-based mass transit. The city of Raleigh, which forms the Triangle’s eastern vertex, is the most populous in the region. But a significant proportion of Raleigh residents work either in Chapel Hill, the site of the University of North Carolina and its major teaching hospital facility, or in Durham, which is home to Duke University, to Duke’s major teaching hospital facility and to North Carolina Central University, a large historically black state university.

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Play, interrupted: Theater in the round

May 31, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 31, 2017

Continued from my previous post.

The fourth act of The Seagull takes place four years after the first three segmhs. The schoolteacher and the groundskeeper’s daughter have married, unhappily, and now have a young child. Both Kostya and Nina have had some success in the theater. But as the still passionate young man tells us, her personal life has been a disaster: She bore a child out of wedlock, and after the baby died in infancy, she seemed to lose a certain quality that had made her performances not only believable but in fact celebrated. As it happens, Nina has returned to the island, but she refuses to see anyone.

The scene unfolded on the sheltered porch of a pool house. I sat on the lawn taking in the play with the rest of the audience. The sun had sank beneath the horizon, and most of the natural light had faded. Every so often, I felt a gentle tap somewhere on my body. Rainclouds were moving in.

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Play, interrupted: Theater in place

May 31, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 31, 2017

On the evening of Memorial Day, I drove to a residential street in a rural area near the county line separating Durham, home of the city of Durham, and Orange, home of the towns of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough. I went there to see a production of The Seagull in which a friend of mine was appearing. The show was being performed on the spacious grounds of a home; that is, it was entirely outdoors. It ended up being a memorable evening.

I’d previously neither seen nor read The Seagull, which Anton Chekhov wrote in 1895. This version was a 2012 adaptation by the British playwright Anya Reiss, which the local company modified slightly for the United States. Chekhov’s drama is set on a rural Russian estate, and the characters talk of running in Moscow’s exalted social theatrical and literary circles, while Reiss’s narrative takes place on the Isle of Man, with London standing in for the Russian capital. The staging I saw purported to be on a lavish, isolated Ocracoke Island estate on North Carolina’s Outer Banks; New York, naturally, was substituted for London/Moscow.

The estate is owned by Sorin, an elderly Supreme Court justice (at least in this telling), who lives with his young nephew, a passionate, impulsive would-be playwright named Konstantin, a.k.a. Kostya. All of the action revolves around two visits made to the estate by Arkadina, Sorin’s sister and Kostya’s mother, a famous stage actress. Her younger lover is Boris Trigorin, a critically and popularly acclaimed novelist, who indulges a mutual attraction he has with Kostya’s sweetheart, a local naif and wannabe actress named Nina. They’re not alone in having wandering eyes; aside from Sorin, his groundskeeper and a local schoolteacher, each of the other characters in the play is tied to one lover but makes a play for another.

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