Local News

Friends: Durham activist killed in motorcycle crash 'gave people hope'

Posted July 18

— Umar Muhammad was described by friends as a "bright light" and someone who gave a voice to many in Durham who felt like they didn't have one.

"(He had) a heart full of compassion. He just wanted more and better for this world," said Jamaal McDuffie.

Muhammad, 30, of Durham, was driving a Honda motorcycle in the southbound lane of South Alston Avenue at about 11:40 a.m. on Monday when he collided with the front corner of a Cadillac driven by Rodney McLaurin.

Muhammad was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. McLaurin was not injured.

Muhammad was a community organizer with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

"We've lost guidance. We've lost energy. We've lost heart," said Anita Earls, the executive director of the Southern Coalition for Justice. "This is just a tragedy none of us expected."

As community members heard of Muhammad's death, heartache poured out across social media.

Once city council member tweeted, "What a loss for Durham."

Another tweeted, "He was a fighter for truth and justice for us all."

In a city that's weary from crime, Muhammad demanded better relationships between police and the community. He spent time in prison for robbery and advocated for those who had been incarcerated and their families.

He worked to push barriers aside so people like himself could have a second chance.

"It was just like going from the gutter to greatness. He gave people hope," said McDuffie.

McLaurin was charged with death by vehicle, failure to yield right of way and driving with a revoked license. He was also served with an outstanding warrant for misdemeanor possession of a schedule III controlled substance.

McLaurin was being held at the Durham County Jail under $10,000 bond.

Muhammad had a 2-month-old daughter. He was also featured in the WRAL Documentary "Black and Blue."


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