December 2016 Neighbor Spotlight- Michael "Pops" Wilson
Where are you most involved?
I am involved all over Durham, but I live in South Durham, specifically in the Fitts-Powell Apartments.
How long have you lived in your Durham?
I have lived in Durham for 12 years, but I first started getting involved in different organizations ten years ago.
Tell us about your involvements.
I am a co-chair of the HIV/STI committee of the Partnership for a Healthy Durham. I have been involved in the Partnership for 10 years, but have been a co-chair for three years. The Partnership is made up of community organizations and is housed at the Health Department. The committees are: Obesity and Chronic Illness, Access to Care, HIV/STI, Substance Abuse/ Mental Health and Communications. I also serve on the steering committee. We get a lot done with very limited funding.
In addition to my work with the Partnership for Healthy Durham, I am a student advocate at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). I counsel and advise students to help them have a successful college experience. All the students call me Pops. In addition to mentoring students at NCCU, I do a lot of community outreach with my church, First Calvary Baptist Church, and am currently mentoring two gang leaders. It is important for us to support people and not judge them. It is especially important to focus on younger people. This is why I have also begun volunteering at Hillside High School and have joined their PTA and father’s committee. Being a male presence at the schools are important.
Additionally, I have been the program coordinator for the Rights of Passage Mentor Program for the past six years, am a member of the Durham Faith Community, a member of the Duke Community Advisory Board, and do public relations for the Bull City Legacy Basketball League. Finally, I also participate in a jail ministry on Saturdays at the county jail, support general community activities, and share the resources I am connected with to different people I meet.
What successes have your organizations had?
The Worlds Aids Program that we do every year with the Partnership for Healthy Durham is super successful. We bring the community together to celebrate community lives and work on a quilt every year. We are super successful at bringing people together.
I have also seen a lot of success in changing the lives of young people. Some people I have met on the street have changed their lives around and it has been wonderful to watch young men I have mentored at NCCU graduate and have success. It is easier to get in than to graduate for some. One student I mentored now works for the federal government and another is an athlete in the NFL. It is awesome to watch them grow up and do big things.
In addition, I have seen a lot of people feeling good. We have support groups for people dealing with HIV and different events such as a youth lock in for students. Finally, my church has a Transitional Action Network to help people just getting out of jail and I have already worked with two people so far.
What are some concerns that you still have in your community?
There are not enough resources in Durham and even some resources that we have are not of good quality. I also think we need to work harder to bring people together. Because of different cultures and other differences, different groups don’t always work together for Durham and there is a lot to do.
I also have a lot of concerns for people with disabilities. Public transportation is difficult. I have a wheelchair and there are some buses where the ramp is broken and so I have to wait for the next bus. In addition, we need more sidewalks, especially in North Durham, because it is dangerous for me to ride in the street. People who work on the buses, such as city staff, need to use the buses more and not just make decisions from computers. Some bus stops are on sidewalks that don’t have ramps so I can’t even get on the sidewalk to wait for the bus. Finally, much of the city is not ADA accessible and there are many restaurants that I cannot enter easily. It is generally hard for people in wheel chairs to get places safely.
What advice would you give to other community members?
Be super advocates and activists. Change happens when we make the change. Keep on going. Go! Go! Go! Get out and do stuff. We need more communities to come together because we cannot make anything better without working together. We need to come together across religion, culture, race, etc. to share experiences and work for Durham.
Do you have any upcoming opportunities for other people to get involved?
First of all, enjoy the Holidays and be safe.
Additionally, the Partnership for Healthy Durham HIV/STI Committee meets every 4th Wednesday at 11:30 AM at the Health Department. Visit the website healthydurham.org to learn more.
Finally, there should be more partnership between NCCU and the community. If you have community events and you want to get NCCU students involved in community service or you want to get involved at Central, contact me at [email protected].
I send out prayers and love to Deborah Saunders White’s family and to all of us at North Carolina Central University. Let’s continue the work that she has started as an Eagles family.