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VISIONARY YEAR: Gwenyfar looks ahead with hopes of clarity of vision

The quality or state of being clear : lucidity

1 a : the act or power of seeing : sight
   b : the special sense by which the qualities of an object (such as color, luminosity, shape, and size) constituting its appearance are perceived through a process in which light rays entering the eye are transformed by the retina into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve

The American Optometric Association defines 20/20 vision as “a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance.”

As we enter 2020, clarity of vision has been tumbling around my mind: What is vision? What is clarity? We live in a confusing world at best. In recent years, it has gotten harder to sort through the pea-soup fog of information and daily life to find sense of reality. If anything, I am dedicating 2020 to finding clarity of vision.   

It promises to be a big year! Our local and state elections are already fraught.  As of press time, nine people have filed for New Hanover County Commission. Since two of the incumbents have announced they will not run again, it should be an interesting contest. Current NC Senator Harper Peterson is set up for a rematch with the man he unseated: Michael Lee. Both filed for election the same day. We have a new electoral map for the state, which has shifted many of our elected seats in the general assembly. It will be interesting to see how it  shakes out.

It is also the 100th anniversary of welcoming half the country’s population to full citizenship, with the legalization of women’s right to vote. Yep, we ratified the Bill of Rights in 1791, but it took almost 130 years to decide the rights outlined included more than one third of the population (white men). It would take nearly another 50 years with the passage of the voting rights act to include people of color—even though amendments to the Constitution following the end of the Civil War should have protected the rights of African Americans and Native Americans  to vote. As our NC State legislature has demonstrated repeatedly in the last few years, the terrified old white men are realizing this isn’t actually a closed club, and there are other people in the world with differing experiences and perspectives to bring to the table. That terror knows no bounds or limits. A federal judge has blocked the latest North Carolina voter ID law; this one sadly passed as an amendment to the NC Constitution, at least in the spring primary election. Judge Biggs cited racial discrimination behind the intent of the law in her ruling.

Sigh. What can I say? Democracy does not move quickly. But it only works when people participate. Some great ways to celebrate the anniversary of women’s suffrage include registering people to vote, finally ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment so it’s an official part of the U.S. Constitution, and maybe electing the first woman as chief executive of the land. On a more local scale, vigilance about proposed legislation regarding women’s right to health care and privacy is a necessary and incredibly important action.

To switch gears to a more literal interpretation of vision, this year I hope to work on a project very close to my heart: a public statue for Joseph McNeil. One of the Greensboro Four, who began the Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in movement in Greensboro, NC, Mr. McNeil is from Wilmington. As arguments about public art swirl around us and the country, the more I have thought about it, the more I find it important to focus on who we would like to honor and the values they embody. For me, growing up in the 1980s, the idea of the Civil Rights era felt very long ago and far away. To children of this decade, it must feel even more theoretical. I was startled to learn the lunch counter sit-ins started in North Carolina—and blown away that one of the initiators was from Wilmington!

Mr. McNeil is still alive and his efforts are just as important today as they were in 1960. When I envision a future, it includes recognition of him and those ideals. As we move forward with this project, I hope you will join us.

Winter tends to be a time of introspection. Where others reach for people for reassurance, I try to root and ground myself toward more of what I need to be doing.

Last year I put together a list of 50 places (primarily historic sites) I wanted to visit in North Carolina. I planned to immerse myself in our history to try to get some perspective about how we got here and maybe how to move us forward. I utterly failed. I got to four locations: Poplar Grove Plantation, The Battle of Forks Road, Tryon Palace and the Birthplace of Pepsi. A combination of events overtook my time and money, but I still firmly believe, in order to understand where we are headed, we have to understand how we got to where we are in the first place.

So I am going to try again: I would like to take Hilda on some day trips in my VW van that we have worked so hard to restore. I have realized, though I am good at hard work, I am terrible at enjoying the fruits of my labors. So my 2020 resolution: to enjoy more of what I have worked for.

Back to historic locations: We have a tremendous amount of history here—and not just from the Civil War. Even though I grew up here, I am constantly amazed at how much more there is to learn about North Carolina and the “whys” behind life here.

When I look into my heart, one thing that calls to me over and over again about our fair city is the surprising and painful depletion of our urban forest. A lot of the tree canopy was lost during Hurricane Florence, and more trees were taken down in the succeeding months. In addition, the development of our city has led to a reduction of trees within the city core. As I move through 2020, I resolve to keep a focus on trees and their role in our community. Personally, I am going to begin the year with planting two trees that were gifts at the winter solstice, but I resolve for it not to end there. Please, join me in reforesting our city. We are currently involved in a climate crises, and one step we all take that will reap rewards is to plant and tend trees.

Speaking of Hurricane Florence, like many people I am still paying off expenses from the storm and aftermath. I was very excited a few years ago because I had finally “gotten to zero”—as in paid off all my debt. Hurricane Florence put an end to that short-lived joy. So I am back to trying to figure out a plan for paying that down while keeping everything afloat. Specifically, I have to prepare for the next phase of the Front Street Enhancement Project when our block of Front Street will get ripped up for several months, while the plumbing, sewer and electrical infrastructure is updated. Surviving that financially will be a challenge.

Things are changing at the book store and our lives, as a result of both the debts and looming Front Street Enhancement Project. The most visible example at this time last year is we had eight people on staff (including me) at the book store. As of the end of February, we will have four (including me). That’s a pretty significant change, but right now we are headed into hunker-down mode. Maybe having fewer people to provide for will allow me to focus on providing for Jock and the dogs a little better.

Let’s hope so. 

But no one is an island, and the concerns of this community are still “forefronts before my eyes.” The county commission already has put us on notice; the fate of the museum will be decided this year, along with the sale of the hospital and the actual outcome of the changes to WAVE Transit.

We here at encore resolve to try and find clarity in these issues, to wade through the obfuscation and try to find out what is really going on in our community. The challenge is real, but perhaps if we support and remind each other of our goals along the way, we really can find clarity of vision as a community this year. I know it is tough, but I really do believe in us.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ted McIntire

    January 11, 2020 at 8:04 pm

    Maj Gen Joseph McNeil Commemorative Way Dedication Ceremony – Photos with Music – 12 October 2019

    For more information on Major General McNeil please visit

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