‘Black Lives Do Matter: End Racism Now’ - Wilmington leaders vote in favor of art piece

The art installation, which will be in the form of large three dimensional letters, will be erected at the Jervay Memorial Park for a period of one year.
Updated: Aug. 18, 2020 at 10:35 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The City of Wilmington leaders voted 5-2 to approve the resolution adopting the message “Black Lives Do Matter. End Racism Now” and authorizing the manager to accept the donation of an art installation for downtown Wilmington.

The art installation, which will be in the form of large three dimensional letters, will be erected at the Jervay Memorial Park for a period of one year.

After a heated discussion, the two dissenting votes came from Charlie Rivenbark and Neil Anderson.

Anderson said he doesn’t think he’s seen as many emails and messages about a topic since the city considered building a baseball stadium several years ago.

Council member Charlie Rivenbark reiterated his opinion that endorsing the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is divisive and racist, and referenced murders of Black citizens.

“To think that Black lives don’t matter is folly. I mean, it’s ludicrous. And it makes me think that they don’t think that much of themselves, if they’ve got to have a sign out there that says Black Lives Matter, I can’t get my head wrapped around it,” Rivenbark said during the discussion.

Rivenbark also said he didn’t believe the more than 6,000 signatures on a petition in favor of a Black Lives Matter art installation, among other initiatives, were all from Wilmington.

Council member Kevin Spears, who helped bring this matter forward, expressed his frustration saying he feels “everything but the kitchen sink” has been thrown at the effort.

He also said he thinks that the sign and what it represents is important for society to move forward — pushing back against Rivenbark’s remarks in no uncertain terms.

“With all respect, this rhetoric is the problem. This is what’s wrong with Wilmington. Mr. Rivenbark said it himself. He sat in that chair for 19 years, with the same type of ideology, the same type of mindset. And for him to say if ‘these people’ thought that much of themselves, they wouldn’t need a sign’, well I know my worth sir.”

Spears said he would have preferred the original message, “Black Lives Matter,” but in the interest of compromise he made the motion to approve the proposal as it was written.

The goal, he said, is to elevate the Black community so it is equal to everyone else.

“We want people to live here safely and we want people to be here and to be able to provide for their families. That’s what the messaging means. Not to say, ‘Hey, we want to take the value from your life. Put it on mine. Now we want to flip flop.’ No, we want the lives of everyone here to be the same.”

The installation will be made up of aluminum letters, each painted by a different local artist. The backs of each letter will be covered in painted hand prints of community children.

Artists will submit proposals for the installation, and the committee bringing the effort forward will approve them. Then the artists will have about a week to complete their piece.

Council also approved moving forward with what is being called the “Rise Together” Initiative, where the city will take steps to reduce racial disparities and improve relations and understanding. This was a substitute for the freedom of expression plaza item, which was originally on the agenda.

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