Monument honoring Wilmington’s racial history pending chancellor’s approval

Andrew Lemon, Staff Writer

A special meeting of the UNC Wilmington (UNCW) Board of Trustees (BOT) was called on March 12; the main item of discussion was about a proposal for a permanent art display on campus recognizing the complex racial past of Wilmington. 

The project, titled the Because It’s Time monument installation, would see the creation and siting of a sculpture by award-winning artist, sculptor and muralist Dare Coulter.

The proposed location of the monument is next to the amphitheater on the campus commons, across from the Fisher Student Union. The project has a price tag of approximately $40,000, including the installation of seating, lighting and a walking path leading to the sculpture. The sculpture currently has a tentative installation date of May 21, 2021.

Some renderings are included in the presentation, but they differ greatly from what the concept is now, according to Roseboro and Coulter.

The monument will be produced to be virtually indestructible, made from bulletproof steel and acrylic. It will also house a historical marker for the 1898 Wilmington coup d’etat.

Presentation slides shown during the meeting by interim Chief Diversity Officer Donyell Roseboro, set out the university’s intentions in erecting such a monument.

“The goal of this project is to use art as a tool for social change,” as written in the presentation. “Our hope is that this monument will bring awareness about race, identity, the Black experience and Wilmington’s long, dark history of racial violence.”

Roseboro’s words throughout the meeting sought to hammer home the university’s message.

“This artwork is bound by a principle that Black lives matter, they always have,” said Roseboro. “There are students on this campus that need to feel that.”

A member of the board of trustees, Michael Drummond, expressed skepticism over the monument. Drummond argued that the university should not be erecting a statue that he claimed would be for “just one group on campus.” He then suggested that the university go through a “cooling-off period” before making any decisions regarding the art installation.

Coulter was quick to defend her artwork.

“It would not be fair in a place with such a racial history as Wilmington to say that things that honor Black lives should not be erected,” said Coulter. Roseboro then spoke up as well to defend the monument’s purpose.

“Space is important for a sense of belonging,” said Roseboro. “We are grappling with hundreds of years of enslavement and oppression. Our path forward depends on healing together. The signage of the monument is ‘I matter’ and our students would agree that they matter. I cannot believe that this is an argument.”

While the presentation was made to the board of trustees, the final decision for the siting will be made by Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli.