More than 50 students came to Friday’s caucus for people of color on campus. The caucus followed Friday’s rally that called for the renaming of Saunders Hall and the contextualization of the Silent Sam monument.
Saunders Hall was named after William Saunders, a confederate colonel in the Civil War, a UNC trustee and a chief organizer for the Ku Klux Klan.
Members of the Muslim Students Association, the Black Student Movement, the Radical Asians, The Real Silent Sam Coalition and Ujima created the caucus to address the lack of minority representation on campus.
“There’s this feeling in class when you’re the only person of color, and you feel like you have to speak on behalf of everyone in your race,” said Ashley Winkfield, an organizer with The Real Silent Sam.
Tasia Harris, who facilitated Friday’s caucus, said it was a welcoming environment for students of color to voice their concerns and create a sense of community at a predominantly white institution.
“Some spoke towards feeling like they were not seen as full, whole people or that they had to prove themselves at the University,” Harris said.
Harris cited both national and local events that made students of color feel isolated, mentioning the Wainstein report’s racial undertones and the Board of Governor’s proposal to cut research centers and institutes that serve minorities.
“It’s especially bad on Yik Yak, where there have been many hurtful comments made under anonymity,” Harris said. “These racist sentiments are still in people’s minds today on this campus.”
The movement continues Monday, when activists plan to gather outside Saunders Hall from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Winkfield, who is an organizer for Monday’s action, said the group will use symbolism from the civil rights movement and slavery to illustrate the oppression people of color feel on campus.
“Monday’s action is geared at giving a physical representation of trying to do your best while walking into spaces that say you don’t belong here,” said Harris. “We want to represent the violent history that these students of color face every day.”
Altha Cravey, a geography professor, made Friday’s rally one of the topics students could choose to write about for an outside assignment. She has incorporated the study of many on-campus rallies into her course on space, place and difference.
Cravey, who is also a member of the Progressive Faculty Network, said many professors in her department bring up the history of Saunders Hall because their offices are in that building.
Cravey said she could remember an incident when two faculty members who worked in Saunders Hall were describing how they enjoyed intimidating a black student.
“They were casually laughing about it over lunch with me,” Cravey said. “Having that name on the building facilitates that kind of behavior.”
Cravey said the geography graduate students have been supporting the undergraduate activists, recently making a video demanding Saunders take on a new name.
“The administration better get on board, or they’re going to be on the wrong side of history.”