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This post features a few excerpts from our favorites in the series called Reel Durham: Stories and Inspiration from the City We Love. <– Follow that link to see the entire series.

“Blue Devil Diaries: Home Sweet Dur-home.”

As a senior at Duke, I remember chuckling when I read this headline for student housing in Durham. How clever… but surely, not applicable to me. I came here for college. Wasn’t I just going to live on campus for four years, then cap off graduation with one last Chapel pic?

Fast forward a year, and here I am. Newly moved in to my second Bull City residence. Happily working at StoryDriven in the heart of downtown. Finally getting the hang of public transit.

Well, maybe except today. I overslept and missed my 8:38 bus to work. Again.

I’d usually call a Lyft. But this morning, I decided to walk – a decision inspired by Diane, a Lyft driver that StoryDriven recently highlighted in our Reel Durham video series about awesome folks in the Bull City. She grew up in Durham. Yet just by driving new streets every day, she continues to discover sides to her city that she may never have known otherwise.

Seeing as I’ve just moved to East Durham, this was a good chance to get to know my neighborhood. Slipping on my shoes, I wondered what the next twenty-five minutes would teach me, a girl from New Jersey, about finding home in the Bull City.

Inhaling the light morning breeze, I pause at the first sound to greet my ears. A flash of red catches my eye as I begin to register the birds trilling among the flowering trees.

Small miracles!” I realize I can’t help but mentally quote Jim, a local birder we filmed last spring who can identify birds by their call. While my birding skills aren’t great, I can confidently tell you that I’m a night owl. Hearing the birds sing so joyfully this early in the day puts an extra spring in my steps.

As I make my way along the main roads, I see a side of Durham that contrasts with my downtown destination. Public housing units and multifamily apartments slope down Liberty Street, connecting a laundromat, homeless shelter, church, and taqueria. Every so often, I pass an African-American family sitting on their front porch.

As we wave in greeting, I can’t help but wonder how they see me, or how they may expect me to see them. As an Asian-American transplant to Durham, I wonder what it means to be a good neighbor, what it looks like to “neighbor well” and “do life together.” I wonder how we can break through stereotypes surrounding poverty and prosperity, and build trust.

I think of our Reel Durham episode with Gabe, local founder of RUNAWAY, Durham’s popular lifestyle brand. He talks about “owning” Durham’s negative stereotypes by having “authentic” city pride. I wonder: How do I authentically own Durham’s stereotypes? How do I have pride in a city I’m not from?

Turning onto Main Street, I see a bold pledge emblazoned on the glass facade of the Durham County Department of Public Health:

“Durham’s vitality is built upon the health of our residents and the capacity of our community to foster and enhance the wellbeing of every citizen.”

Well. Talk about a call to include everyone. East or west, north or south, insider or outsider – if you live in Durham, the city’s vitality counts on your wellbeing. Which is to say, my own wellbeing is intricately yoked to the flourishing of everyone else in my community.

This interdependence makes me wonder: How have my relationships in Durham enriched me? How have I seen the Durham community flourish?

At this point, Main Street transforms into memory lane.

Oh look, the church where I blew bubbles at a newly wedded couple! That was my first taste of Durham summer, laughing and marching with a New-Orleans-style band to celebrate The Carrack’s new art location.

And there’s the apartment where I interviewed Mr. Lex Alexander about the Durham Farmers’ Market. I was so surprised to discover his interest in my favorite Malaysian noodle dish – and impressed with his knowledge about coconut milk, a staple ingredient in my family’s cuisine.  

As I finally near our office in the American Underground, I look across the street to Blackspace, an Afrofuturist makerspace where I produced my very first Reel Durham episode about a hip-hop mentor there.

Seeing Josh (“Rowdy”) coach black youth, I remember feeling inspired to take steps in my own dream to amplify the stories of Asian-American Pacific Islanders. After all, what’s more beautiful than empowering folks to tell their stories?

Twenty-five minutes and much nostalgia later, I realize how instrumental Reel Durham has been in helping me build authentic relationships here. By challenging me to meet people from all walks of life, Reel Durham has invited me to witness the ways a community can love boldly, bravely, and creatively.

Gifting me, in the process, the trust and courage to put down roots and embrace this city as a formative part of who I am. Now, I can’t help but declare: Durham is a place I am proud to call home.

In this vein, I am beyond honored to invite you to our Reel Durham Expo this Friday, where we will be celebrating our shared identity and telling even more stories of the inspiring ways that people love our Durham community well.

We hope you will join us!

Chrislyn Choo

Brand Journalist at StoryDriven (@strydrvn)

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