African American Heritage Center funding still in question

     (Brian Drouin/WHYY)

    (Brian Drouin/WHYY)

    What happened to the promise of an African American Heritage Center?

    Here is John Watson’s commentary:

    I was talking with a member of the black community recently, a good friend of mine, who brought up an interesting topic – endorsements made by Mayor Dennis P. Williams during his campaign that he has not supported since his election.

    My friend said if you want to ascertain an organization’s priorities, examine its budget.

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    In applying that rule to the 2016 budget of the city of Wilmington, one thing is abundantly clear – the proposal to establish an African American Heritage Center at the Allied Kid Building is a very low priority.

    The reason being, there are no funds in Mayor Williams’ 2016 budget allocated to the project.

    Given what the mayor campaigned on, the absence of an allocation for the Heritage Center raises a very important question. Did the Mayor simply pivot or did he lie when he said he supported a black controlled African American Heritage Center?

    My friend recalled the primary debate when then candidate Williams seemed to be in support of African Americans controlling their own Heritage Center. Williams said, “…blacks can tell our own stories.”

    My friend went on to say that by using those words, Williams distinguished himself from other would-be mayoral candidates, like Bill Montgomery, who favored the white controlled Delaware Historical Society.

    Candidate Williams stood by the black community and they cheered him on to victory.

    But, my friend said to me, that was two years ago when Williams was running for mayor. Now he “IS” the mayor, and he has not uttered a word about the Allied Kid Building being turned over to the Sills group. He is silent now on this issue.

    Has the mayor simply pivoted to what he perceives as a safe position? One that would not offend white and black elites. Or, using “old school logic”, does his silence and lack of leadership reveal him as a “liar” or “traitor” to his own people?

    My friend finished our conversation by wondering if Mayor Williams, the first native black to be elected to the highest elected position in the city, is turning his back on black youth who need to learn their history from those who know it best – their elders who look like them?

    It seems to me we should all remember that politicos running for office support many things. But once they are elected they find others who have to be dealt with, who have a different opinion about their ideas.

    Maybe Mayor Dennis P. Williams is facing the same thing. And you would be too if you run and get elected. I always see both sides of an issue. What about you?

     John Watson is a long time observer of Wilmington and Delaware from his perch as a radio talkshow host. You can write him:

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