- file photo by Alex Maness
- Lavonia Allison (right) talks to Durham Mayor Bill Bell.
Someone may have posted a cancellation notice on the door of the fellowship room at White Rock Baptist Church. But the false notice was quickly removed and didn’t appear to dissuade about 40 people from attending a meeting Thursday night for the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, Durham’s oldest community and political action group. Participants included several elected officials and prominent attorneys and community figures.
Although some members had indicated that Thursday’s event would be an emergency meeting to appoint a temporary chairperson to replace embattled Chairwoman Lavonia Allison, no such vote took place.
The two-hour gathering, led by member and one-time city council candidate Darius Little, instead amounted to an unofficial discussion of concerned members. Allison didn’t attend the meeting, and by the end, she was still acting chairwoman, member Victoria Peterson confirmed at the end of the night.
During their discussion, members reiterated concerns that Peterson had outlined in a letter last month to the group’s parliamentarian—that they wanted to know how the organization’s money was being spent, information about grants the group might be seeking or connected to, and the return of regular meetings. Several meetings in recent months had been canceled, Peterson said in an interview earlier this week. Members were eager to install the committee’s newest officers (besides the chair position, which will be elected in December), and to start organizing for the coming election season.
Reached earlier this week, Allison refused to answer questions about the organization, which is 75 years old. She has been its chair for a dozen years, but has been criticized for her lack of openness and defensiveness when asked about the committee’s dealings, even by fellow members. In her 80 years, Allison has been both decorated as an educator, historic community figure and activist, and chided for her ownership of sub-par rental properties—many occupied by the low-income minorities she professed to want to help (as noted in the Indy).