Wilmington leaders have transparent conversation about race

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington City Council Member Kevin Spears and Mayor Bill Saffo hosted a virtual meeting Monday night to discus a myriad of issues relating to race in the city.

Spears said the conversation was just the first of the many that they will be having as it relates to race.

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One of the main issues the group delved into was the removal of the confederate monuments in Downtown Wilmington.

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and other black lives lost, local leaders had a transparent conversation about how to move forward in this racial climate.

“Why not now? Why not race? It’s been the elephant in the room for centuries. Let’s talk about it,” Spears expressed.



Local leaders from the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and others attended the meeting.

Spears said the goal is to work towards establishing a new norm.

“I hate to say it, but there are some people who want society to remain the same, or to even go backwards, but I think the people who look at this in an optimistic fashion, and myself, and the mayor, and all parties involved are looking to go forward,” Spears said.

With transparency being at the forefront, the group spent majority of the meeting discussing the removal of the confederate monuments in Downtown Wilmington and the curfew centered around the statues.

“There’s a state law, that protects the monuments, and basically says that you can’t take the monuments down. You can’t take them to a museum, you can’t take them to a cemetery,” Saffo explained. “If you do take them down, you have to take them down on a temporary basis, and you have to replace them, and put them back in a place of some prominence.”

He said many want to protect the statues, while others want them taken down. Residents said it is time to reconsider the law.

“A few years ago in VA, it was illegal for interracial couples to marry, so we can’t go and say that that’s what they said in Raleigh. Some things that are law, are wrong laws and this is one that was put in by the legislature just to stop people from doing what is going on now,” NAACP New Hanover Chapter President Deborah Dix Maxwell said.

The group also talked about public safety, and leadership accountability.

And in regards to the removal of the statues, Saffo said they asked the state for some interpretation of the law.

He expressed how it is something the council will have to discuss.