ABC has ordered a pilot for a horror-drama called “Murder Town“, featuring Delaware’s largest city. The script calls for Jada Pinckett Smith to play “Delaware’s first African-American district attorney” who “finds herself confronted by old loyalties and loves, a shocking revelation about her murdered husband and a polarizing, racially-charged case that threatens to burn her and her city to the ground.”
Wilmington isn’t burning literally, but the city is in serious trouble, and needs a solid plan for education and economic opportunity to turn it around. Some of our elected officials, however, appear to be more concerned with the city’s public image than in making the moves necessary to truly lift tens of thousands of Wilmingtonians out of poverty and into safe, community-friendly neighborhoods.
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Wednesday morning that he’s upset by the proposed show.
“I’m trying to think of what I could do to reach out to ABC and say to them that this is an unfair characterization,” Coons said. “I, frankly, would far prefer they pick a fictional city, but the reality is that we need to address our problem and our public safety challenges.”
Some officials are concerned about how they will be portrayed:
Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams, who was at Sherry Dorsey Walker’s announcement of her run for Delaware lieutenant governor Tuesday night, did not think much of the idea.
“That’s unfortunate,” he said. “A bunch of has-beens playing in different roles to try to rebuild their acting careers. That’s OK. If they want to come into Wilmington and spend some of that money, go to the west end, the Hotel du Pont, bring in 500 people to spend at our restaurants. I’ll take their money. I just hope they get somebody good looking to play me.”
As for the residents, the vocal majority are against this show being made.
“Oh my God. Just what we need,” said Will Minster, director of business development for the nonprofit Downtown Visions, upon hearing the show‘s title and description.
“I guess they heard enough about Wilmington that they thought, ‘Why not go ahead and stab at them,’” he said. “I don’t like it by any means.”
Tilaki Barksdale, whose son was killed in a Wilmington shooting last month, said the ABC television pilot “Murder Town” is insensitive to those mourning loved ones and dealing every day with the effects of gun violence in Delaware’s largest city.
“I felt angry and upset,” Barksdale said. “I felt enraged because my experience that I’m living through is still very real to me. My son lost his life a little over two weeks ago, so I don’t appreciate the city or ABC, for that matter, capitalizing on these parents, not just me, but all parents who have lost their children to the city and to the streets in the last couple of years.”
Barksdale said she was angered by Mayor Dennis P. Williams’ comment Tuesday that if the show wanted to film in Wilmington, he would welcome the production company to come and spend its money in the city.
“Why capitalize off of this ‘Murder Town’ series with what people are going through now?” she asked, adding that Williams should be more focused on addressing the drugs and guns on the streets.
And one resident even started a petition to cancel the show.
The question still remains: Where Wilmington goes, so goes the rest of Delaware. The city needs a better education plan for its students so they have a chance to succeed after high school, a jobs plan that encourages businesses to move into the city and not move out of it. The city needs a plan to grow its population, as it has been stagnant for years even as American’s population has grown. About one in four Wilmingtonians live in poverty, according to the census bureau.
But maybe ‘Murder Town’ will have a new script for Wilmington by the time the show is ready to air. A script which deals with crime, with education, with poverty, with quality of life. Maybe the city residents and elected officials, and officials from Dover, will figure out how to solve the city’s problems before they worsen and more businesses move out.
They can start by borrowing this script. There’s no reason to despair. All we need to do is move to action to improve our state and country.
All quotes were first reported in The News Journal November 12, 2015. Accessed same date.