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Real Silent Sam group draws attention to memorials

Omololu Refilwe Babatunde, a geography and African studies major from Newark, Del., speaks about the Unsung Heroes Memorial on Wednesday.

Omololu Refilwe Babatunde, a geography and African studies major from Newark, Del., speaks about the Unsung Heroes Memorial on Wednesday.

The Unsung Founders Memorial, installed in 2005, is a bronze table-like structure found in McCorkle Place, but is often overlooked because of its shorter stature.

Senior Omololu Babatunde, a Real Silent Sam organizer, said the goal of the demonstration was to unsettle people and make them take a second look at the memorial because the history of black people on campus is minimalized.

“As a person of color on this campus, the memorial makes me angry,” Babatunde said. “I think it makes me angry because it was built to have a certain function that is used not for the memorial of a certain people, but is used for sitting down and changing a baby’s diaper.”

She said instead of memorializing the legacy of black people on campus, like the University intended, the Unsung Founders Memorial generally serves the public, exactly what the people it is supposed to be honoring did — serve.

The group is planning an educational campaign this year, called “Get to Know Your School,” which will focus on a different contested site each month.

What Real Silent Sam is trying to do is illuminate the history, but it’s also trying to allow students to complicate the present, too, to see that these things are still occurring,” Babatunde said. “We realized that what we were frustrated about wasn’t necessarily that these things exist, but more so that people aren’t talking about them.”

The Black Student Movement is a partner to The Real Silent Sam and helped publicize the event.

Trey Mangum, president of BSM, did not attend the event, but said he was shocked the memorial is not more prominent.

“It is interesting that a memorial for people who literally built this University has such a minimal presence on this campus, especially in relation to monuments like Silent Sam,” he said.

Destiny Planter, vice president of Black Student Movement, said The Real Silent Sam successfully hosted the progressive demonstration.

Planter said she does not think the memorial does a good job of making students aware and respectful of black history.

“It’s seen kind of as like a table,” Planter said. “People don’t really pay as much attention to it. Some people even smoke there. So I think that it’s a big disrespect to my culture.”

The Real Silent Sam plans to continue the conversation Thursday in the Pit with a similar demonstration at 12:20 p.m., Babatunde said. The group is also promoting a discussion on blackness at UNC and the Unsung Founders Memorial at 7 p.m. in Saunders Hall.

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