Re: Moral March; Liberty Warehouse | Letters to the Editor | Indy Week

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Re: Moral March; Liberty Warehouse

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Re: Moral March

Your report about the tens of thousands of people who conducted a peaceful Moral March on Raleigh last Saturday at our 8th annual People's Assembly made an important point ("Keep the faith," Feb. 19). The article used the foil of N&O columnist Z. Peder Zane, who wrote an accurate, but ironic, observation that "Morality has almost no place in our politics," as a basis for a crude attack on Rev. Dr. William Barber's successful effort to challenge the immorality of the ultra-right's policies of bullying the poor, jobless, sick, children and elderly. Your report printed a long statement by Rev. Nancy Petty, minister of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church: "What happens in our churches [and synagogues and mosques) on Sunday [and Saturday] ... needs to be carried out into the street fighting for peoples' rights" [on Mondays through Sundays].

The Christians, Jews, Muslims and Ethicists who founded and nurtured the Abolition Movement that led to the United States ending the immoral slave system 150 years ago were motivated by their sense of morality. The same coalition of people with a strong sense of community, justice and love founded the 105-year-old NAACP. The present N.C. NAACP leadership, starting with Rev. Barber, proudly follows our ancestors' morality motivation.

Whether your sense of taking care of your neighbors is based on sacred texts or on writings of those who cannot figure out who or what God is, all of us in this movement know it's wrong to step on a human being when they are down. As a proud member of the N.C. NAACP, I believe, contrary to Mr. Zane, that a sense of right and wrong—yes of morality—has a central place in our politics.

Al McSurely, Chapel Hill
The writer is a member of the N.C. NAACP executive committee

Re: Liberty Warehouse

Last May, Preservation Durham entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with East West Partners, who own Liberty Warehouse. Our concern with the Liberty site has always been the importance of the historic warehouse—the last remaining tobacco auction warehouse in Durham—a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places and worthy of City Landmark Status, and the effect that redevelopment of the site on the character of the surrounding historic neighborhood.

We believe that Liberty Warehouse still meets the criteria of City Landmark status. We believe that the Council's vote to remove this status set a poor precedent for the city's historic preservation programs. However, after judging the political landscape prior to the unanimous City Council vote, we thought that direct negotiation with the owner and developer was the only viable course to retaining as many of Liberty Warehouse's defining features as possible.

Nine months later, it is clear that we misjudged. We had hoped that the memorandum would start a dialogue that would allow us to positively affect the design for the new building. Because East West Partners does not specialize in historic preservation, we thought we could offer technical expertise on the salvage process and feedback on the meaningful incorporation of the structure's features into their design. Unfortunately, we were excluded from the design process. The current design doesn't account for historic structure or neighborhood context.

We have heard passionate criticism about our effectiveness from many Durham residents, including those on our own advocacy committee. We take this criticism to heart, and sincerely regret that efforts made in good faith have not met a willing partner. But we haven't given up on Liberty. We'll continue to try to work with East West Partners. We expect them to come back with a better design that adheres to the memorandum, respects the history of the building and neighborhood, and preserves the Rigsbee frontage. 

Here's what we all can dodifferently in the future: Attend council meetings and speak up. Advocate for local historic districts. Let the elected people know they have made a colossal mistake and that you're not happy about it. Get involved with preservation groups and volunteer your time. Make your voice heard. Help us make a difference in Durham's future.

Wendy Hillis, Durham
The writer is the executive director of Preservation Durham.


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