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Race & Demographics

A 'Black Economic Development Zone' Grows In Rural Durham County

A white rectangular sign with the words 'THE OTHER AMERICA MOVEMENT BRIGHTWOOD PERMACULTURE FARM' written in bold red, green, and black font. The sign is in the woods, there are brown trees and branches behind it
Laura Pellicer / For WUNC
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A sign marking the entrance to Brightwood, a Black economic development zone in rural Durham County.

Activist Skip Gibbs was in the midst of leading a protest in Durham this summer when he felt that something wasn’t right. In the crowd, which had gathered to demand that the city council redirect the police department budget into social services, he saw mostly white faces.

“It was a way for these people to prove they weren’t racist,” said Gibbs in an interview with WUNC reporter Will Michaels. “It made me feel like a puppet.” So Gibbs set off on a mission to create a self-sufficient settlement for Black farmers and entrepreneurs. A Durham couple heard about Gibbs’ idea and donated four acres of land to his vision. The seeds for Brightwood were sown. Though there have been a few setbacks — threats from older, white neighbors and a lack of early buy-in from Black community members — construction is underway and ahead of schedule. Gibbs said he envisions a garden, a market, a library and enough living space for 100 Black people. Host Anita Rao talks with Michaels about his interview with Gibbs and other Black entrepreneurs and farmers about the vision for Brightwood.

Check out some of the Brightwood land in this video by Natalie Dudas-Thomas, our social media producer:

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