Students and alumni kept Sonja Haynes Stone’s memory alive and well at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History Thursday night.
Approximately 150 people packed the building to hear keynote speaker Karol V. Mason, UNC alumna and the U.S. assistant attorney general for the Office of Justice Programs, deliver a speech on the challenges racial minorities face in America.
Mason discussed the history of the building — the only building on UNC's campus named after a black person — and the effort it took students to support it.
“We helped build a building, but you gave it life,” Mason said.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jim Dean and Chancellor Carol Folt attended the talk and echoed Mason's words.
“Anytime anyone talks about the Stone Center, they talk about students,” Folt said.
Mason was asked to speak at the anniversary celebration by members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. because she had been involved in petitioning for the building of the center.
She credited her success to Stone's paving the way for other black women.
Mason gave one statistic after the next that showed the progress the U.S. has made toward racial equality while also commenting on the progress it must still make, mentioning the pepper spraying of a teen in his own home in Fuquay-Varina by local police.
“The disparity is real, but so is the damage being done to our communities and our families,” Mason said.
In honor of Stone, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. hosted the celebration and dedicated a seat in the front row of the Stone Center Auditorium to her memory.
Folt gave the opening remarks and emphasized that the lecture was not only for Sonja Stone, but also for the students who keep the center going.
“It does give me goose bumps to think that I’m standing here, about to hear another trailblazing woman speaking up here in a series honoring another trailblazing woman,” Folt said, as she applauded Mason. “So today women rule.”
Junior and political science major Jasmine Jennings, who introduced Mason, was rehearsing intently minutes before the opening of the lecture.
“When I read her bio, I thought, 'I must introduce this woman, she’s amazing,'” Jennings said.
After the celebration Jennings said she was pleased with how the event turned out.
“I think that it went really well, and Mason really embodies the Stone Center mindset.”
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