Robert Olason « Back to Studio Artists


Location: Suite 3-115

“Is It My Turn Now?” is a 5′ X 12′ triptych in acrylic on canvas illustrating one of Hayti’s last meetings

It was an official meeting between Hayti and the Durham Redevelopment Commission (DRC) on August 27, 1969, to “adopt a Final Plan for Project 3.” Henry Moss, DRC’s executive director, spent most of the meeting giving “a resume of the proposal.” After he finished his “summary,” the DRC allowed Hayti’s representatives to present their own proposal.

The “Final Plan for Project 3” was Durham City Council’s comprehensive redevelopment program. The City first and foremost, wanted to build a Freeway across Durham, next to downtown and parallel to the Durham Railway. The plan required bull-dozing over most of Hayti. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Durham City Council thought the Durham Freeway to be an opportunity to replace Hayti’s slums with safe, sanitary, subsidized housing for poor people. Hayti generally thought it a disaster.

Because of HUD requirements (federal money was the key to the plan) the DRC had to hold one final meeting with the Hayti community before it could approve the Final Plan and move the process along. Prior to this meeting Hayti leaders had prepared their own proposal to accommodate the freeway but save the community instead of bulldozing through its heart. The community’s plan was apparently too well thought out to dismiss out-of-hand because DRC took no action. A few days later City Council admonished DRC to take a vote to approve the Final Plan without any further consultation with the community. The City’s Attorney ruled that HUD’s requirements had been met.

According to City Council minutes these were the people who, on August 27, 1969, opposed the City’s “Final Plan;” Karen Mebane, Ann Atwater, Ben Ruffin, Haywood Royster, Harris Johnson, Nat White and Marie Clayton (who is listed as from the Committee on Negro Affairs). It signaled the end of Hayti as a physical community and the birth of Hayti as history and heritage.

The painting was completed and signed on August 27, 2012, the 43rd anniversary of the meeting between Hayti and DRC.

Some preliminary charcoal studies for “Is it My Turn Now?” are shown below.