Willie Vereen and his wife Gail have been rebuilding their home and lives following Hurricane Florence. After the hurricane, their home was infested with black mold. However, with the help of the Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity, their home was restored in six weeks and Gail stated, “Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity did a wonderful job on this house.” Willie and Gail also received furniture through the Cape Fear Volunteer Center and the Furniture Finders program. They were excited to arrange their new furniture and decorate their restored home, including an item standing proud in the corner of their house, a 40th anniversary poster, “Don’t Forget the Wilmington 10.”
Willie Vereen is a member of the Wilmington 10, a group of 9 black men and 1 white woman, who were falsely convicted of charges of assault and arson in 1972 following a boycott protesting for equal treatment in Wilmington schools. Willie was arrested at 17, he is now 65. Willie served time in prison before the Wilmington 10 received their full pardon of innocence by Governor Perdue in 2012. Willie is a musician, a husband, a protector of the defenseless, and a person who was victimized by racism. Willie described the racial divides, inequality, and problems in Wilmington as present before the boycott and stated “some things make no sense.” The harm inflicted on Willie and the Wilmington 10 took aspects of their lives that are irretrievable, and following their release and pardons, Willie described the community backlash as “no one would have anything to do with us…we were like people without a country.”
The obvious injustices inflicted on Willie and the Wilmington 10 are a horrific truth of the history of Wilmington, however Willie and Gail expressed their sentiments of appreciation in finding community following Hurricane Florence. Gail recounted the days after the storm when “a lot of houses were affected and a lot of people didn’t know where to go.” In their own house, they had no power, but their neighbors brought them a generator. “They gave us power” Gail said, “everybody came together pretty much in the neighborhood.” Through their neighbors coming together to help and the aid provided by Habitat for Humanity and the Cape Fear Volunteer Center, Wilmington is rebuilding and supporting its own to work for better and for each other.