The city council of Wilmington, NC voted to remove the “Black Lives Do Matter: End Racism Now” mural from Jervay Memorial Park, according to WECT News. The sign was approved following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, along with the countless other “BLM” murals and street signs that erupted in response to the call to action.
In a council meeting Sept. 20, the council voted 5-2 to retire the sign. The two who voted against the removal are the only two Black people on the city council, Kevin Spears and Clifford Barnett Sr. Spears originally commissioned for the sign to go up and fought for it to remain in the park for another year (2021). He continued to fight in this week’s meeting arguing that the sign still held relevance to the community.
“There’s still more work that needs to be done in this community. There’s still people advocating for the fact for the acknowledgement of Black lives mattering in society,” Spears said in the meeting. “I hope we all see the need for what we’re trying to do, for how great we’re trying to make Wilmington - not only Wilmington, but the world and that cannot happen until we’re all on the same level until we’re all being treated the same.”
More on the meeting from WECT:
Sonya Patrick with Black Lives Matter Wilmington says there is no reason for the sign to be taken down.
“It’s symbolic that in a city where we do have institutionalized racism, that there are people that want things to be better, regardless of how bad or how horrific it is, there are people there that want to make a difference,” said Patrick. “And that’s what that sign meant: that we want to make a difference. We want to put an end to racism.”
Councilman Luke Waddell said in opposition to the sign’s renewal that two years was more than enough time for a public speech art installation. He also suggested there should be a concrete “sunset period” for similar art pieces in the future and that the mural be relocated to a gallery. There were no real pressing reasons to remove the mural. However, the decision does beg the question of whether BLM signs and stickers are still meaningful now two years later.
There was some controversy after every state, city and town decided that a big Black Lives Matter painting was good enough to address the ongoing issue of police brutality. Symbolism alone didn’t mean much without action to follow it. The leaders of the Black Lives Matter organization, from the top executives to local chapter presidents, faced heat for laundering donations to fund their personal agendas.
Do the yellow painted streets, BLM flags and banners still hold the same weight and meaning they did in 2020? They obviously don’t anymore to those who think Black lives stopped mattering after 2020.