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Creekwood: An oral biography of a misunderstood neighborhood

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Cape Fear Collective and WHQR.
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Top, from left: Quanesha Mullins, WPD Police Chief Donny Williams, Lakeisha Fields. Bottom, from left: Quanesha Mullins, Reggie Shuford, Sylvia Sansbury

 

The Creekwood Oral Biography is a joint project between WHQR Public Media and Cape Fear Collective. The project features the voices of seven unique residents, past and present, of Creekwood, telling their story -- and Creekwood's -- in their own words.

 

There are dividing lines – literal and figurative - that separate Black neighborhoods from their White neighbors in Wilmington, but nowhere is it starker than Creekwood, a Wilmington Housing Authority community, on the city’s east side. 

To get there, you have to cross Princess Place Drive. Then an open grassy lot and over a railroad track. These are literal barriers that cut Creekwood off from greater Wilmington. But there are other, more subtle barriers that isolate the community. 

Crushing poverty. A bad reputation. Lack of transportation and job options. 

Per capita income in Creekwood is $16,591, according to the latest Census data. That amounts to about half of per capita income in Wilmington and New Hanover County. Almost 35 percent of people in Creekwood’s census tract live below the poverty line, more than double the rate in New Hanover. Built in the 1970s, the neighborhood didn't see major upgrades until 2010.

Cut off and isolated, Creekwood is a tale of two cities. On the Wilmington side of the tracks, Creekwood is described as  “one of Wilmington’s roughest neighborhoods,” a dangerous place where people sell drugs and violence is always seconds away. But on the Creekwood side of the tracks, there is a tight knit community full of hard-working essential workers who are quick to help one another. There is crime and violence, a fact most residents acknowledge, but it often comes from outside of Creekwood.

“People ignore Creekwood or the news puts so much stigma of the negative in Creekwood,” said Quanesha Mullins, a resident and director of the nonprofit Port City Period. “But rarely do people know we're a hidden gem. It's a lot of hidden talent in Creekwood but nobody ever gets a chance.”

The truth is Creekwood is an overlooked community full of resilient and entrepreneurial people working hard every day. That’s why WHQR and the Cape Fear Collective launched a project to pierce the veil of segregation and offer a glimpse of Creekwood through the eyes of the residents. This isn’t a story told by an outsider, but an autobiographical anthology capturing Creekwood in its own words.

 

Featured voices: Lakeisha Fields, ‘Jump,’ Glendora Mullins, Quanesha Mullins, Sylvia Sansbury, Reggie Shuford, and WPD Police Chief Donny Williams. You can find photos, bios, and audio below.

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In Their Own Words: Stories from Creekwood

 

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Lakiesha Fields

Fields, who has six children, talks about growing up in Creekwood and how it has motivated her to go to improve her life.

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'Jump' grew up in Creekwood, and still calls it home.

Jump is a 21-year-old Wilmington native. He has made his name as a musician, and recently got out of prison. Here he talks about the hustle.

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Hear from 'Jump.'

  

 

 

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Glendora Mullins

Glendora Mullins is a community organizer and vice president of the Creekwood Center. She talks about the aftermath of a shooting, the impact of her grandson joining a gang and how it galvanized her desire for change.

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Hear from Glendora Mullins.
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Quanesha Mullins

Quanesha Mullins is the director of Port City Period, a nonprofit that does programing in Creekwood. She is also a Creekwood resident and the daughter of Glendora Mullins.

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Hear from Quanesha Mullins.

  

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Sylvia Sansbury

  

Sylvia Sansbury is a longtime resident of Creekwood. She works two jobs to make ends meet.

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Hear from Sylvia Sansbury.
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Reggie Shuford

Reginald "Reggie" T. Shuford is a Philadelphia-based lawyer and executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania who grew up in Creekwood.

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Hear from Reggie Shuford.

  

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Wilmington Police Department Chief Donny Williams

  

Chief Donny Williams is the first African-American chief of the Wilmington Police Department. He talks about growing up in Creekwood, an early run-in with the WPD, and how being from Creekwood helps him as a police officer and what he hopes his legacy is.

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Hear from Chief Donny Williams.