The Lesser-Known Durham

Apr 22, 2015

Durham is a city on the rise. And over the past decade or so, it has established a reputation for its change and rapid development. 

But not far away from the city's booming downtown and repurposed factories  is a part of the city that is dealing with high crime rates and the losses of their young men due to violence and prison.

It is a tale of two cities: one prosperous and open to tourist and transplants, the other isolated and dealing with violence and drugs.

Photojournalist Justin Cook began exploring to the "other" side of Durham in 2005 as a journalism student at the University of North Carolina, but 10 years later he's become part of the community.

He shares what he sees with his photography via the online magazine The Bitter Southerner in "Made In Durham: Exploring the Effects of Homicide, Incarceration and Urban Renewal in Durham, NC, Across a Decade."

One of the mothers Justin photographed was Joslin Simms. Joslin's son Ray Simms was murdered on May 21, 2005. His murderer was never caught. Joslin and Justin have become close and Joslin wrote a poem, "Wake Me Up," which was published with Justin's article in The Bitter Southerner. 

Justin also detailed the history of the project

The Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham holds vigils for the families of murdered individuals as well as assists individuals on reentry to society after doing time in prison. Host Frank Stasio talked with  Marcia Owen, director of the coalition.

Another organization that helps families of murdered individuals is the Parents of Murdered Children-Durham Chapter. The organization reaches out to families in hopes of helping them cope with the loss as well as find out as much as possible about the investigation of their murdered children. 

A documentary by Leanora Minai gives a bit of an inside view of the lives of mothers of murdered children. The documentary is titled The Mothers and it follows Diane Jones, whose son was shot and killed in Durham in 1997. His murder remains unsolved. Watch The Mothers here.