Dipika Kohli


How a Half Mile Long Dinner Table and One Word Manifestos are Defining Durham

STITCH asks: “Give us one word for what you’d like to see Durham become.”

When I was 16, I rode my bike to the Durham Athletic Park to catch a game of minor league baseball with my best friend. We left in the fifth inning to get back before dark. We loved the Bulls, but didn’t want to get flack from those who had warned us: “Don’t go to downtown Durham. It’s so not safe.”

Almost twenty years later, this place still hasn’t shaken that reputation completely. Yet those who live here are awake to the fact that the fabric is changing, as more people move from out of town looking for a new start in what seems from the outside to be a welcoming, creative area. The bumper sticker that reads “Keep Durham Dirty,” is still relevant, but this is just part of the process of figuring out what it wants to become.

To help with that question, my partner in life and business, Akira Morita, and I are teaming with a giant team of local people to run STITCH, which has a Kickstarter campaign underway.

We asked about 500 citizens in public places around downtown to answer a simple question: “Give us one word for what you’d like to see Durham become.”

As a build-up to Neighborday, we’re teaming with the local Build a Better Block Project, which will have a half mile-long dinner table set up on Mangum Street starting at what we call here in town the Old Five Points intersection.

STITCH will also have a popup art show of works in progress by artists poised to make pieces inspired by the top one word answers that we’ve gathered—if our Kickstarter is fully funded.

We brought our four year-old son, Kush, on outings for what people started to call their “one word manifesto,” compiling 276 words from people in public spaces like farmer’s market, the Hayti Heritage Center, and a few openings for galleries and theater spaces. Now those words are in a word cloud that shows the spread of everyone’s vision.

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