Build The Block

Bringing our communities into the movement, and our movements into elected office

Read our 2021 newsletter!


Durham belongs to all who live here. To create a Durham where every community has access to resources they need to thrive and feel safety, belonging, and care, all of us should have a say in decisions made for our city.

Right now, Durham is wrestling with some big challenges: the economic and health impacts of COVID-19, unmet needs in our communities which lead to cycles of violence, unaffordable housing and displacement, etc. We’re also at a point of possibility: Will we rise up to this moment? Will we center care, compassion, and evidence-based research in responding to those challenges? Our city is faced with hard decisions, and the coherence and consolidation that our progressive majority needs to make those decisions is currently at risk. 2021 local elections are crucial in maintaining and expanding a progressive majority in Durham.

We want councilmembers and a mayor who are invested in and committed to fighting alongside us for everyone’s undeniable right to safety, care and belonging. Through this election, we aim to set ourselves up for strengthening co-governance in Durham. We want a city government that listens to and works with our movements and centers the needs of most marginalized communities.

Elections are one of the ways in which we build power. And when we build power, we do it together. We uplift the leadership of progressive, working class, Black and brown communities and their allies in Durham to turn out thousands of voters across race and class.

This fall we continue to deepen our relationships within Black, brown, and working class communities of Durham through neighborhood-based organizing, and to build a broad base of Durham progressive POC voters through phonebanking. And we’re asking all of you to join us in these deep and broad organizing efforts.

Click here to sign up for a phonebank shift. Join us in fighting for a city government that works with and for all of us.

Statement on 2021 Election Results

November 3, 2021

Congratulations to Mayor-elect Elaine O’Neal, Councilmembers DeDreana Freeman and Mark-Anthony Middleton, and Councilmember-elect Leonardo Williams. We invite the new City Council into a collaborative relationship, across our strategic differences, as we all work towards a Durham where every community can thrive.

Durham For All is grateful to our endorsed candidates Javiera Caballero, Marion Johnson, and AJ Williams for running. These candidates are emblematic of the kinds of candidates that we will continue to support. Our vision of an expanded democracy and our movement will only grow stronger when more leaders like them run for local elected office.

Our progressive governing alliance has lost the majority on the City Council. As hard as this moment might feel for some of us, we know that our fight for liberation is expansive and a long-term commitment. There will always be setbacks and losses. We learn from each setback with rigor and humility; we keep showing up with our whole hearts, guided by strategy, to bring our vision for Durham to reality: a Durham where every community has access to resources they need to feel safe and cared for at all times.

We thank Councilmembers Javiera Caballero, Jillian Johnson, Pierce Freelon, Charlie Reece, and Mayor Steve Schewel, the current progressive governing alliance we powered into office, for their commitment to co-governance and practicing it through victories like the $95 million municipal housing bond, participatory budgeting, and the establishment of the Community Safety and Wellness Taskforce. We look forward to more initiatives like these.

This year, we have had over 1500 conversations on the phones with POC voters in Durham, heard from 470 people who joined our events, and knocked on 300+ doors in the Lakewood neighborhood. These conversations have affirmed two priorities: Our communities support the 10 to Transform demand to invest in hiring unarmed professionals to respond to some of our 911 calls. Moreover, we have seen once again that conversations about community safety always lead to conversations about housing, well paying jobs with benefits, accessible public centers of care, and other unmet needs of our communities. Working towards community safety necessitates addressing everything that prevents Durham residents from feeling secure.

We hope the new council centers care and compassion as they continue to work on issues of affordable housing, thriving wages, and community safety. We look forward to working with the City Council, the Safety and Wellness Task Force, and the Department of Community Safety to bring the 10 to Transform demand to fruition in the 2021-22 budget revisit early next year. Fulfilling this demand would reallocate 15 frozen Durham  Police Department vacant positions into unarmed positions in the Department of Community Safety and Wellness. Additionally, we appreciate Mayor-elect O’Neil’s commitment to bringing Durham together. We hope that she will demonstrate this commitment through appointing council members with diverse political views and strategic orientations as City Council liaisons for volunteer advisory bodies.

As we approach the crucial state and federal races of 2022, Durham has to come together to defeat the far right and defend our people. Our fight for a more progressive Durham takes place in the context of power struggles on the state and federal level. We invite you to join us as we focus our attention, resources, and capacity on those races in 2022: sign up to volunteer, become a member, or donate to support our work.

Together, we are building a movement. We do not ultimately win or lose with one single election or one individual candidate. We have so much work to do, and we keep showing up. Join us.

2021 Endorsements

For the past few years, D4A has been laying the foundation for co-governance in Durham: a model where elected officials we power into office, social movement organizations, and community members work together towards a vision of a Durham and a North Carolina for all, guided by the liberatory values of our movement. The current multiracial governing alliance on the City Council has won real changes for communities of color and working people. Our victories include a $95 million municipal housing bond, the establishment of a participatory budgeting process, and the creation of a Department of Community Safety and Wellness.

But this governing alliance is in transition and at risk of losing strength. That is why Durham For All is endorsing people-of-color city council and mayor candidates rooted in the multiracial and cross-class movements of our time and committed to the Black, Brown, immigrant, and working-class communities of Durham. We believe all three of these candidates to be powerful and intelligent policy makers in the face of difficult issues like community safety, affordable housing, living wages, and more.

Durham needs bold leaders in office who will work together and with us towards an expanded democracy where all of us build trust, practice accountability, and win real changes for our people. In the coming months, through our neighborhood-based organizing and our electoral work, Durham For All will be building grassroots political power and governing power to bring our communities into the movement and our movement into elected office.

With that vision in mind, Durham For All endorses:

AJ WilliamsAJ Williams for Ward 3

AJ is a community organizer who has put community first in all of his work. He has demonstrated his alignment with Durham for All’s values through collaborating with us earlier this year to campaign our city and county to invest in community-based alternatives to policing. Through his work on Council, AJ wants to fight against private developers displacing our most marginalized communities, expand protections for workers and residents through and beyond the pandemic, and bring more Durham residents into decision-making processes that will impact them.

Click here to sign up for a phonebanking shift: Every Monday night, we call voters of color in Durham to power AJ to victory. Join us for the two final shifts before the election!

Marion JohnsonMarion Johnson for Ward 1
Through both her deep commitment to policies that center Black, Brown, and working-class communities and her answers to our questionnaire, Marion Johnson has demonstrated that she has strong alignment with Durham for All’s vision and values. As the current chair of the Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee, she has organized to expand democratic, grassroots decision making in Durham. Marion wants to work with other council members, community groups, and residents on key issues; such as community based alternatives to policing, expanding legal protections for renters, and fighting to keep people in their homes through the COVID crisis and well beyond it.

Javiera Caballero for MayorJaviera Caballero
Javiera holds immense knowledge and experience of how government works and how to govern with her peers. On City Council, she has a track record of working diligently alongside her colleagues to implement å policies regarding housing, transit, and the environment. Javiera has shown her efforts to expand access to our local government by pushing for city materials to be in Spanish. She holds a strong value of being accountable to all Durham residents, regardless of if they are eligible to vote.

Durham For All is not making an endorsement for Ward 2.

Questionnaires were sent to all candidates and Sylvester Williams was the only candidate to submit a questionnaire. While we thank Mr. Williams for taking the time to share his thoughts and plans with us, he does not share many of Durham for All’s values.  Mark-Anthony Middleton, the incumbent, was also sent an invitation to interview with us. We did not receive a response.


Endorsement Process

Our Interview Committee of two member leaders, one general member, one board member, and one staff member has been hard at work since July to develop a questionnaire based on our vision for Durham, our People’s Platform, and our previous campaigns (As candidates submit their responses, we are updating them below.)  The committee, after reviewing candidate’s responses, sends invitations to candidates based on their level of alignment with our shared values and shared strategy. The committee will then conduct interviews and make recommendations to our voting bodies.

Voting bodies for the endorsement process include: 1) general members, 2) member leaders, and 3) staff and board. Each voting body will debate candidates and make a final vote. Votes will be tallied from all three bodies to determine Durham For All’s endorsement in each race.

Who can attend the endorsement meeting

Anyone who becomes a member of Durham For All by September 8th, the day before our endorsement meeting, can attend.

Who can vote at the endorsement meeting
  • Members who started their membership in 2021 are eligible to vote only if they became a member before July 11th.
  • Members who started their membership before this year can vote, as long as they have paid their 2021 annual membership dues by Sept. 8th.

Note: This year, we’re holding this meeting on zoom. We will not have the on-site due paying or member sign-up option on the day of the event. 

Click here to become a Durham For All member or renew your membership.
If you’re already a member, click here to RSVP for the endorsement meeting on September 9t at 6PM.

Weighted votes; how and why

We are implementing a weighted voting model that gives each voting body ⅓ of the total vote for each race. Each of these bodies determines their candidate in each race through a majority vote, and each body’s candidate will signify 1 vote for that candidate. For each race, Durham For All will endorse the candidate who receives 2 out of 3 votes from the voting bodies. If a 3-way tie occurs, rank-choice voting will attempt to break the tie or no endorsement will be made.

As our membership-based organization grows, we want all members to be able to make decisions in the organization so that they can experience greater ownership in the work, beyond paying member dues and volunteering. The weighted voting model makes this possible while also giving those who have higher levels of responsibility and commitment to the organization—such as member leaders, staff, and board—greater voting power in the endorsement process.


Candidate Questionnaires

Durham For All requested questionnaires from candidates in the following contested, local races. Click on the candidates’ names to see where they stand on affordable housing, living wages, community safety, and more.


Rebecca Barnes
Javiera Caballero
Sabrina “Bree” Davis
Elaine M. O’Neal 

Candidates Charlitta Burruss, Daryl Quick, and Jahnmaud Lane did not submit questionnaire responses. Candidate Waldo Fenner submitted his response after our deadline. 

City Council – Ward 1

DeDreana Freeman
Marion T. Johnson
Elizabeth Takla  (Elizabeth Takla has withdrawn from the City Council race)

City Council – Ward 2

Sylvester Williams

Candidates Mark-Anthony Middleton and Robert L. Curtis Jr did not submit questionnaire responses.

City Council – Ward 3

AJ Williams
Leonardo William