Skip to main content

To: Durham City Council & Durham County Commissioners

Expand Stay at Home Order to Include Mutual Aid in Durham, NC

Dear Mayor Schewel, Durham City Council & County Commissioners,

We are writing to you in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the “Stay at Home” directives announced by Mayor Schewel Wednesday. We write with a strong request that the category of MUTUAL AID be included in the directives that designate “Essential Activities” that also legitimate “travel.” This MUTUAL AID would build on the Community Safety and Wellness Task Force recently instituted by the City of Durham, on current mutual aid efforts around the city, and on Durham’s experiences of crisis response to the hurricanes over the past years and decades.

Protecting our public health as a city is a collective priority, one that clearly affects all of us. We are all called on to act as a force for health and safety in this time. We are grateful for your proactive efforts to protect Durham’s residents through a stay-at-home order, and grateful for the clear list of essential activities you named in the order including “To Take Care of Others. To care for a family member, friend, or pet in another household, and to transport family members, friends, or pets as allowed by this Order.”

Including mutual aid in the order is a natural extension of these essential activities and connections, which is distinct from “family members, friends, or pets” as specified in the order. Some members of our community don’t necessarily have a neighborhood or family or even a pet to lean on. But even more profoundly, surely we want to extend care as part of our commitment to a common humanity, whether or not they are friend or kin. This is the wider meaning of “to take care of others” that is recognized as a basis of most spiritual traditions. We very much appreciate the functions of the city and the county in responding to this pandemic. We want an equal valuing of the role of residents of Durham (City and County) in this function of wellness and safety.

Why is this important?

Mutual aid is defined as a voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources and services. There are already several mutual aid efforts underway, both neighborhood-based and citywide. They are decentralized by necessity, and the organizers are conscious and cautious around the need to practice social distancing and follow safety and health protocols as recommended by the CDC. We would invite the city and county to participate in our collective thinking around making mutual aid safe in this time.

Durham has precedent for effective, widespread efforts at mutual aid in times of crisis, including recent successful efforts to get emergency supplies to victims of Hurricane Florence in 2018. Durham was an epicenter of the organizing that led to airdropping shipments of supplies to affected areas, making necessities more accessible, and more quickly, than many official sources of support including cities, counties, and the Red Cross.

In addition to our request to protect mutual aid efforts, we fully support the recent call to reduce community harm by rejecting policing and carceral responses to this pandemic. We are also heavily conscious of the real danger of the coronavirus to people incarcerated in the Durham County Jail. We therefore demand that everyone who wants to be released from the jail be allowed to do so immediately, and that the County provide appropriate wellness and safety provisions for those who choose to remain. Mutual aid efforts in Durham are not situated to do casework, but are interested in helping to support the release of prisoners through neighborhood-based mutual aid.

The spirit of the Community Safety and Wellness Task Force was to create community systems of care. Even in a time of crisis when we’re encouraged to do social distancing, we can have solidarity even beyond the confines of our families and neighborhoods. Please join us in this collective effort at solidarity by recognizing mutual aid and freeing our incarcerated community members in the jail.


Danielle Purifoy, Mab Segrest & Lewis Wallace

Petition Signers:
Danielle Purifoy
Mab Segrest
Lewis Raven Wallace
Jesa Rae Richards
Faith Holsaert
Quisha Mallette
Giuliana Morales
Catherine Edgerton
Hideo Higashibaba
Billy Dee
Devohn Phillips
Fern Hickey
Maryam Arain
Meghan McDowell
China Medel
Grace Nichols
AJ Williams
sumi dutta
Beau Cromartie
Beth Brockman
Anne Wells
Leilani Dowell
Isaac Villegas
Maya Washington
Jatoia Potts
Kelly Creedon
Annie Segrest
Andrew Meeker
Aman Aberra
Eli Meyerhoff
Allison Swaim
Winston Torrance
Jake Stanley
Sammy Truong
Helen Cane
Alejandra Mejia
Konstantin Bakhurin
Sandra Korn
Hannah Ball-Damberg
Gann Herman
Jeremy Purser
Alexandra Chass
Ellie Pate
Anita Simha
Vicki Ryder
Tracy S. Feldman
Latasha Watts
Tracie Minor

Durham Mutual Aid guide to neighborhood organizing:

Durham Mutual Aid Facebook page:

Proposal for a Community Led Safety and Wellness Task Force:

Durham Mayor Pro Tem Memo, “Durham Community Safety and Wellness Task Force,’

This includes: “Task Force Objectives: ● Conduct a comprehensive review of existing institutional and community-based public safety and wellness resources. Identify community safety needs that are not currently being served and provide recommendations for how to add new resources to fill these gaps.”

Mutual Aid Coverage:

The End Money Bail Act


2020-03-27 18:14:49 -0400

100 signatures reached

2020-03-27 16:00:53 -0400

50 signatures reached

2020-03-27 14:47:23 -0400

25 signatures reached

2020-03-27 14:17:20 -0400

10 signatures reached