Sadness, anger and a motivation to inspire change encapsulate the mood of local African American leaders in Wilmington in the wake of this week’s fatal shootings of two black men by police and Thursday night’s attack in Dallas that killed five police officers.
They say they’re fed up with what they call continued police officer brutality against African Americans, and are organizing a rally for Monday evening.
Wilmington’s Black Lives Matter leader Mahkeib Booker is frustrated with the city’s lack of engagement. He says it doesn't feel like city leadership is taking the Black Lives Matter movement and its concerns about white officers killing African American citizens seriously.
"I seen this coming, I knew it was gonna come," Booker said. "I actually forewarned the city of Wilmington but it fell on deaf ears because they said, oh, we’re not like other cities, we’re not like other states. We’re not like this, we’re not like that. But in fact, we are."
Complexities of Color executive director Dr. Donald Morton echoed Booker’s frustrations. He sees the recent violence as an example of what Dr. Martin Luther King meant when he said “violence is the language of the unheard.”
Morton is calling for change, both within the African American community and beyond. He says on Monday there will be a sign up sheet for more African Americans to apply to join the Wilmington Police force.
“If it means that we have to apply and be a part of the force and change it that way, then we’re willing to do that. Something has to happen. We can’t continue to see black men executed in the way we’re seeing them executed," he said.
Morton added that while the last group of graduates from the Wilmington Police Academy was the most diverse group he’s seen yet, he says more still needs to be done to increase the number of African American officers serving urban areas in Wilmington.
He says individuals in many Wilmington communities would feel more at ease if they saw the face of an officer who looked like them.
To achieve the goal of getting more African American officers on the streets in Wilmington, Morton says more needs to be done to increase their access to such roles.
He also called for members of the police department to speak out about fellow officers they see as “bad actors.”
“They expect to hear from me, they expect to hear from Mahkeib Booker. They expect to hear from us, and we’re going to keep talking. But the greatest change happens when individuals that are a part of that dynamic, part of that familial connection can make the statement: we’ve got to do better, and we’ve got to do better about the lives of people that don’t look like us," Morton said.
Morton and others hope to make that message ring clear during Monday’s rally.
The rally is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at 4th and King, near the Wilmington Courthouse.