After heated debate, Wilmington City Council approves ‘Black Lives Do Matter’ art installation

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Things got heated at a Wilmington City Council meeting Tuesday night surrounding a proposed art installation.

The discussion over whether a Black Lives Matter mural or monument belongs in Wilmington has been going on for several months. The vote was postponed on July 21 after some council members brought up concerns about the installation being perceived as associated with the Black Lives Matter organization.

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The newest draft, presented Tuesday night, changed the proposed monument from saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘Black Lives Do Matter’ with an ending block that reads ‘End Racism Now.’ The 4-foot wide by 8-foot tall cut out letters would be placed at Jervay Park, and be visible from 3rd Street.

Some were not happy with the altered design. Black Lives Matter of Wilmington organizer Sonya Patrick spoke out during the meeting.

“If black lives do matter, the descendants of the 1898 massacre would see reparations,” Patrick said. “It should say black lives matter, there were 5,000 people that signed a petition.”

Councilman Kevin Spears agreed, saying the words are not those of an organization, but of Wilmington citizens.

“These are the words of black and white and brown citizens exactly where we live, they’re asking for this to be done,” Spears said. “And at this point because we’ve added the word ‘do,’ some people are willing to walk away from it.”

Spears was still ultimately supportive of the new version of the art installation, as was councilman Kevin O’Grady.

“I like the fact that it’s slightly different than what was proposed because it says this is our words, that black lives do matter, we want to end racism,” O’Grady said. “And that’s what that sign says to me.”

Part of the resolution was making ‘Black Lives Do Matter, End Racism Now’ official city speech. This in theory would prevent the city from being legally obligated to install other monuments. Councilman Charlie Rivenbark did not agree with this.

“What would be opposed to having blue lives matter or any other kind of thing, make america great again?” Rivenbark asked. “You’re denying a great deal of our citizenry the right to come petition this council to put up something and we can just arbitrarily say we don’t like that, because of this reasoning that we have come up with in this resolution.”

Rivenbark went on to say that he doesn’t agree with the art installation.

“To think that black lives don’t matter is folly, I mean it’s ludicrous,” he said. “And it makes me think that they don’t think that much of themselves if they’ve got to have a sign out there.”

Councilman Kevin Spears, who has been vocal in his support of the monument, responded.

“For him to say that if these people thought that much of themselves they wouldn’t need a sign, well I know my worth sir,” Spears said. “I’m not sure that you actually do.”

The art installation ended up passing 5-2. Mayor Bill Saffo, Mayor Pro-tem Margaret Haynes, and councilmembers Kevin Spears, Kevin O’Grady, and Clifford Barnett voted in support of it. Councilmembers Charlie Rivenbark and Neil Anderson voted against it.

It is not yet clear when the monument will be installed.

Council also voted in favor of creating a public forum for artistic and cultural expression.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, item C2. was removed from the consent agenda and postponed until the next council meeting. All other items on the agenda passed.

Click here to view the full council agenda.