Welcome to the Dive.

This is the first edition of our new weekly newsletter, published in partnership with WHQR, the Cape Fear Region’s NPR affiliate. We’ll be co-reporting big stories and collaborating on a weekly dispatch that merges The Assembly’s style of deep reporting and writing with WHQR’s insightful local storytelling to give readers compelling, original journalism about what matters in Wilmington and across the region. 

This is issue one, so we welcome feedback. Tell us what you want to know about and send us tips for things you think we should cover. What stories and issues matter to you? Tell us what is working and what we can improve. Our emails are below.

If someone forwarded this to you, sign up for the Dive here. If you like what we’re doing and want to all our statewide stories, become an Assembly subscriber today. 

Enjoy our inaugural issue, and we’ll see you next Thursday.

Kevin Maurer and Ben Schachtman

The “Black Lives Do Matter” installation at Cameron Art Museum. (Julia Wall for The Assembly)

In 2020, protestors were chanting “Black Lives Matter,” but the Wilmington City Council wanted to add a word to the slogan.

Artists Janna Robertson and Greyson Davis had approached the council that summer about painting “Black Lives Matter” on Third Street, in front of city hall. A number of cities across the country had moved to do so after police in Minnesota killed George Floyd, sparking a summer of protest.

One council member took issue with the idea, deeming it “racist and divisive.” The council’s two Black members spoke in support of the project, while other members argued the sign was political speech should go on private property, not public. 

The disagreement led to an alternative: a movable, 8-foot-tall sign on the city-owned property that would read: “Black Lives Do Matter.”

Those two extra letters have taken on new meaning as it travels around the city, as Wilmington bureau chief Kevin Maurer reports. 

A Big To-Do 

In Wilmington, a compromise over painting “Black Lives Matter” on the street led to a work of art that has taken on a life of its own. 

“I look at ‘do’ as an emphatic statement where, like, yeah, Black lives matter, obviously, but Black lives do matter,” said artist Greyson Davis. “That’s an emphasis. Underline. Italic. Underscore. All of that.” 

Three Questions with…

… Commissioner Dane Scalise

Scalise, who the New Hanover County Republican Party recently nominated to fill the seat left vacant by the unexpected death of Commissioner Deb Hays. He sat down with WHQR News Director Ben Schachtman for an hour-long interview on last week. 

You can listen to the whole interview here, but here’s the lightning round version. 

This has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Schachtman: What keeps you up at night?

Scalise: The men and women and children who make up our community and the lives that they lead. We have 240,000 people that live in our county, approximately. Everybody’s got their own approach to life, and they’re facing difficulties. I want this county to be a place where everyone has opportunity. I want there to be a fair shake and a fair chance for everybody. And how can I help effectuate that? I don’t know quite yet – I know that I’m going to be fair and equitable and my approach to each and every matter that comes across the dais.

Schachtman: What has surprised you most about your new role as a county commissioner?

Scalise: This is going to sound a little bit weird, maybe, but nothing in my life has changed. I feel like the exact same person that I was prior to becoming a county commissioner. Now that’s not to say that I’m not taking this seriously. But I have been community-oriented and obsessed with working on behalf of the community since I first moved here in 2012.

This is where I’m going to spend absolutely the rest of my life. The opportunity, as surprising as it was, to be impactful in a new way, really was just an extension of what I felt like I was already trying to do as a member of this community. 

Schachtman: There’s an election in 2024, and you’ll have to run again. If there’s one deal you could seal, one project you could get approved, one issue you could move the needle on by then, what would it be? 

Scalise: This is also gonna sound ridiculous, but I would love for us all to just get along. If I can show folks that, despite our differences that may exist, we all have the same general desire to live a good healthy life, and that we’re all on the same team. 

I’m a proud Republican, I’m a proud conservative. So don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. But those are just aspects of my life. I am a whole person, in addition to those things, and I would like for us all to look at one another as whole people, independent, or in addition to the various things that we define ourselves with. 

I know you’re probably asking me to give you a development project or a school, but I would rather say I want us to be sweeter to each other. And that’s something that I’m going to try to demonstrate in the work that I do on the commission.

Around the Region

WHQR – Two Wilmington Police Department officers suspended, under investigation for separate incidents

A first officer was suspended in March, when the Wilmington Police Department called the state in to investigate off-duty behavior. The second officer was suspended in April after authorities in California began investigating unspecified financial crimes.

WECT – New development agreement for ‘Project Grace’ to be presented to New Hanover Co. commissioners

New Hanover County announced a new development agreement for “Project Grace,” a public-private partnership to create a modern and efficient Downtown Library and Cape Fear Museum facility, on Wednesday. The agreement will be presented to commissioners on May 15.

Washington PostMLK’s famous criticism of Malcolm X was a ‘fraud,’ author finds

Jonathan Eig was deep in the Duke University archives researching his new biography of Martin Luther King Jr. when he made an alarming discovery: King’s harshest and most famous criticism of Malcolm X appears to have been fabricated.

Recent Assembly Stories

Four Years After Florence 

Like many in Eastern North Carolina, Pastor Willie Jordan was no stranger to storms and flooding. Then came Hurricane Florence.

Credit: Cornell Watson

Tim Moore’s Heavy Hand

The House Speaker wanted an old friend named chancellor at UNC Wilmington. Emails show how he tried to make that happen.

A $1.25 Billion Bet

The New Hanover Endowment, created from the sale of a Wilmington hospital, has the power to radically change the lives of county residents. All eyes are on CEO William Buster to get it right.

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