Photos: Bill Milligan (VisiteWilmington)
Robert F. Kennedy once said, “It is not more bigness that should be our goal. We must attempt, rather, to bring people back to… the warmth of community, to the worth of individual effort and responsibility… and of individuals working together as a community, to better their lives and their children’s future.” Kennedy understood that America is known for its grand size but he also understood that our diversity is the main ingredient that unites our communities across this land to create America’s melting pot recipe. We are united as one nation when our individual citizens work together within their communities to create a safe, thriving, and healthy environment for everyone. Wilmington, North Carolina is just one of the many communities that are sprinkled across our country, but it is much more than just a community. It is home and like every home, it has a story to tell that is just as diverse as the people that live in it.
Wilmington, or as the local Wilmingtonians call it, the Port City, is recognized for its close proximity to three beautiful beaches and for its Riverwalk along the historic downtown district. Wikipedia states, “According to 2013 census estimates, there were 112,067 people and 47,003 households in the city,” so it’s growing population attracts visitors to its beautiful and historic landmarks. Wilmington’s residents sustain the economy through the many opportunities that the area has to offer, like the local shops, its thriving port that uses ships to import and export goods, and its film industry that produces four annual film festivals. Known as Hollywood East, “Wilmywood” is home to EUE/Screen Gems Studios, which produces popular television series and movies alike. The film industry brought many jobs to the area and even helped fuel the tourist-based economy that Wilmington relies on, especially during the summer months. A controversial film tax credit ended at the end of 2014, which caused much discord between many of Wilmington’s residents that rely on the employment opportunities that are brought to the area by films.
From a visitor’s perspective, it might appear that Wilmington is the perfect beach town, but according to “The Opioid Crisis in America’s Workforce,” Wilmington is ranked number one for opioid abuse throughout the entire nation. This is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately within the community, yet it seems as though the opioid crisis in Wilmington has been ignored for too long. Community planning to address this issue is needed between civilians, law enforcement, politicians, physicians, substance abuse specialists, psychiatrists, and counselors. The Star News Online reports, “Violent crime increased in 2015 in Wilmington compared to 2014 numbers.” Statistics often tell us that an opioid epidemic is directly correlated to an increase in the crime rate.
On the other hand, the Cape Fear River is heavily polluted. The Chemours chemical plant has caused an environmental and a potential safety issue known as GenX that has polluted the Cape Fear River that many residents of Wilmington rely on for drinking water. In reference to Chemours, CBS News states, “It is there where a chemical called GenX — a potentially cancer-causing substance that is a byproduct of DuPont and Chemours’ manufacturing processes — is produced.” GenX has apparently been polluting the Cape Fear River since the 1980’s while residents of Wilmington had no knowledge of this until a few months ago. The community rallied together to express their concerns over the safety of the city’s drinking water at city hall meetings and through local protests to express their freedom of speech.
The city of Wilmington has invested $41 million in what is called the “5 Year Improvement Plan.” Some of the planned projects are improvements to the Riverwalk, riverfront, and parks, street and sidewalk rehabilitation, sign inventory and assessment, pedestrian and bike improvements, bridge repair, and construction of a multimodal transportation center. This plan, along with the community working together to resolve the issues stated above, could improve tensions about a lack of community planning and coordination. The social tension is a product of the dark history of Wilmington during and after the Civil War. Referring to the Wilmington race riot of 1898, NPR states, “A mob of white supremacists armed with rifles and pistols marched on City Hall in Wilmington, N.C., on Nov. 10 and overthrew the elected local government, forcing both black and white officials to resign and running many out of town.” The resulting racial conflict maintains an air of unease to this day, making one feel unsafe when walking through some neighborhoods, especially upon nightfall. It might appear to a visitor that Wilmington is an ideal beach city, but if the community turns a blind eye to its issues of drinking water contamination, social tensions, and the opioid crisis, the future seems concerning.
Please see my project “Degraded Image of Wilmington NC” at:
And Let’s remember:
“Good water, good life
Bad Water Bad life
No water, No life.”