Students of color celebrate a year of heightened visibility on LDOC

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Student activists placed a banner reading "Hurston Hall" over the name plaque of Saunders Hall Friday. 

On the last day of class, students with The Real Silent Sam Coalition hung a banner over Saunders Hall that read "Hurston Hall" with an image of Zora Neale Hurston in the center. 

Students of color, many from The Real Silent Sam Coalition and #NotSafeUNC, organized their own last day of class celebration on the quad. The People of Color Takeover of the Quad recognized a year's worth of organizing around issues affecting people of color on campus, including the campaign to rename Hurston Hall. 

"It's about coming together and celebrating activism at the end of the semester by reclaiming a space on campus where it's typically a very white-dominated space," said Nicole Fauster, who participated in the #NotSafeUNC campaign. 

During an open mic portion, students and faculty shared their thoughts on racism, freedom of speech and the campus climate.

"People have been misconstruing it as a protest," said Mars Earle, who writes for Siren. "I find it really funny that it's automatically a protest just because it's people of color discussing political issues through some poems and people talking. These are heavy things, sure, but we carry these things on a daily basis, and we love each other so much that we're still able to make this space fun and celebrate the fact that we're here, we're alive, and so many of us are graduating. So we're just having a party."

Students made T-shirts that read "Hurston Hall" and "#NotSafeUNC," and signs around the area explained the history of William Saunders and the legacy of Hurston. The event was sponsored by UNC Monsoon, UNC Siren, RadAsians, Students for Justice in Palestine, Student Action with Workers and the Board of Governors Democracy Coalition. 

"The thing about being visible is that it's taking back, or taking over, a space where students are going to see you," said Shamira Lukomwa, who contributed to the #NotSafeUNC campaign. 

Organizers chose to congregate on the quad because of its visibility and its significance to the campus community.

"I think the quad signifies a larger part of what UNC campus is, so to be able to be free and actually be a part of this space as everyone else enjoys it is great," Fauster said. 

Although most students on the quad expressed their support for the event, some posts on Yik Yak complained about the activist presence.

"We're saying we have the right to be here, and we're going to share how we feel whether or not you want to hear it because if you're just passing through to get drunk after class, you're going to hear it," Lukomwa said. 

Fauster said she thinks people of color do not always feel welcomed in public spaces on campus. 

"It's empowering to be here," Fauster said. "Personally, a lot of times I've walked past the quad and maybe sat here for 10 minutes doing some homework, but I've never actually felt that I could sit on the quad and chant and spray paint T-shirts and sing along to songs. I've just never felt that I've had that opportunity to use this space how I want to."

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