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

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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Open & affirming for #BlackLivesMatter

United Church of Chapel Hill has been trying to attract people of color for decades. In the 1960s, pastor Dewitt Myers hosted Martin Luther King Jr. in his home in spite of threats from the KKK. And for more than 20 years, the church has supported United Voices of Praise in partnership with a black Pentecostal Holiness church in nearby Durham. The mixed-race gospel choir rotates between Sunday services at the two churches and has toured across the United States and Europe. But it was the Open & Affirming covenant that brought people of color.

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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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