WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – After another lengthy debate, Wilmington City Council determined it wants two more weeks to decide what to do about a proposed Black Lives Matter art installation.
Council voted unanimously to delay action for another two weeks — until their next meeting on Aug. 4 — in order to answer additional questions raised about the process.
However, they committed to deciding no later than that date whether or not to allow the art installation near Jervay Memorial Gardens.
The issue led to a heated exchange between council members Monday morning, and brought protesters out to the meeting at the Wilmington Convention Center.
City staff presented the item with additional information, including a demonstration using plywood of how the letters would look from the street.
They also presented possible alternative phrases, including “ILM=BLM” and “ILM [heart] BLM,” but the artists involved don’t believe that will be enough letters to allow for full participation in the project.
The plan, as presented, would be to allow local artists of color each design a letter of the installation.
Council member Kevin Spears, who has been pushing for the project, said he wants the installation to say “Black Lives Matter.” He was also unhappy with the delay in action, but said he accepted it knowing that a final answer will come at the next meeting.
“If in two weeks we definitely pull the trigger and get what we’ve waited so long to have, I will be happy. If not I’m sure that myself and a lot of other constituents won’t be happy,” he said. “I think this is something that a lot of people really want to see and they don’t want to wait.”
Spears said allowing the mural would be a show of solidarity on behalf of the city.
Community activist and formal mayoral candidate Devon Scott, who was outside the meeting with protesters, said it’s a symbolic move that speaks to the heart of the greater question about equality and racism.
“It’s not self-evident. It needs to be made, a clear statement that Black lives do matter. The very nature of the foundation of this country is a question of whether or not Black lives matter. Wilmington and the history of 1898 holds the question of whether or not Black lives matter,” he said, “and if our council are not willing to make a statement with their mouths, much less a mural, it means they stand by that exact same sentiment and they’re willing to hold on to that legacy.”
Community leaders originally proposed painting “Black Lives Matter” along Third Street on June 11, but compromised with the city, which felt there might be safety hazards with a street mural.
The city attorney said the installation will require some additional legwork on the legal front, which he will go ahead and begin over the next two weeks.
Council members still have additional concerns about the other portion of the proposal, which would create a “freedom of expression plaza” to accommodate for future projects of this sort.
A high-level rendering of the plaza would have large chalk boards for people to express their thoughts, as well as space for city-commissioned artwork.
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