About Jesse

    A veteran newspaper reporter, Jesse tells stories of regular people living with passion, struggling against injustice or simply practicing their faith. Through songwriting, magazine journalism and essays, Jesse aims to describe the human condition, especially the search for transcendence.


    The Atlantic


this littler light:
flashes of grace in politics, pop culture and publick houses

Durham teacher gives kids a little faith (column on teaching world religions)

“The kids handle their discussions with a careful grace that is heartwarming to witness. They are so thoughtful of each other, and so deliberate in their attempt to avoid hurting one another.” — Annie Harrison, social-studies teacher at Central Park School for Children

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Big Bill City Blues (Durham News column on city’s growth)

Durham has now grown to the point where I’m afraid to go downtown. I’m not afraid of crime nor of being unwelcome. I’m only a little annoyed about paying $15 or $20 for a simple meal. These are all legitimate fears, depending on who you are. But what really terrifies me is not being able to find a parking space.

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The Vault rises from the ashes (Durham News column)

Moses Ochola is trying to renew his father’s original mission: Making a space for African diasporic culture in Durham, with a new emphasis on the diaspora more than the African. Moses says The Vault is for “old Durham, black Durham.”

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People power and faith (Durham News column on immigrants’ fears in a Trump presidency)

On Wednesday night after the election, Durham Presbyterian Church held a bilingual Vigil for Peace, Unity and Hope with its sister congregation, Iglesia Emanuel. Toward the end of the service, about 70 Latino immigrants encircled the small sanctuary, holding candles, offering prayers and telling stories.

One woman said she went to work on Wednesday morning and her employer greeted her in tears, promising to hide her family if the persecution starts. Another woman explicitly named the Nazis and the Jews. “We are so afraid,” she said.

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Some of Durham’s best friends (News & Observer column)

Doug and Mona represent the kind of economic development we need. Durham is their destination. They haven’t felt the need to “own” it, to tear it down, to rebuild it, to go in and change a neighborhood so it better suits them.

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The rainbow tunnel: A Durham gentrification story

In the urban renewal of the 1960s, the Durham Freeway disrupted Hayti, the city’s once-vibrant black-owned business district and the neighborhoods it served. Today, skyscrapers are rising downtown, changing the faces of downtown Durham. Even if those realities are far from her own experience as a rising second-grader, Molly Sprague’s tears were very, very real.

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The church camps that aim to bridge race relations (The Atlantic magazine)

In a new wave of social-justice work, church communities are looking outside their walls for the reconciliation they haven’t found inside, and they’re bringing this movement to summer camp.

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Feeding the fight against racism (Durham News column)

The Greensboro anti-racism group the Racial Equity Institute has been doing so many workshops in the Triangle, it has spawned it own catering company, a cottage industry to feed the fight against racism.

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A local music champion ambles out of town (Durham News column)

Wearing a T-shirt that said, “CHOOSE LOCAL MUSIC,” JKutchma was his usual kinetic self on-stage – one of the most physical performers the Triangle has known – but he gave it a little extra that night, ad-libbing an impassioned sermon on how in the age of the mp3, it had become harder and harder for musicians to finance their work.

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A rose garden’s promise (Durham News)

Last fall, the Duke Memorial United Methodist Church installed a port-o-potty outside after a youth-group mission trip to Asheville, where the kids met a lot of people living on the streets and realized how hard it can be to find a bathroom.

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