TO THE EDITOR:
A poem for my people: What to the Negro Wench is University Day?
What, to the Negro Wench, is University Day?
What, to the Negro Wench, is the Carolina Way?
What, to the Negro Wench, is a “University of the people?”
What, to the Negro Wench, is a Carolina girl?
University Day represents the “Birth of a Nation.”
A time in our history that has been deliberately rewritten.
Today marks the birth of a University without remorse, without conscience, without dignity, without the courage to see itself at its worst.
The University of the people is exactly that: people, not unsung founders with a table on their backs; people counted as one, not property worth three-fifths; people who whip Negro wenches, and dedicate monoliths.
The Carolina Way is to have selective amnesia.
They use you at their convenience and dispose of you when they no longer need ya’.
The Carolina Way needs to be turned on its head.
We will open Carolina’s closet, revealing skeletons of unsung survivors raped in Tar Heels’ beds.
A Carolina girl is not a Negro wench.
A Carolina girl falls in love and seals it with a kiss on marriage bench.
She doesn’t get chased down Franklin Street and dragged from her shelter.
She doesn’t get whipped in the shade of Davie Poplar.
She doesn’t have a target on her chest like a Northern invader.
Silent Sam was placed here to serve and protect her.
She isn’t raped by Tar Heel brothers in the house of the president.
Her legacy isn’t denied because her children are illegitimate.
“People of color bond and free” did not build this school.
They were slaves who were beaten until they were “Black and Blue.”
They laid every brick and built every building.
They toiled in the sun while singing Of Their Spiritual Strivings.
So today when we celebrate the Birth of this Nation, and we lie to ourselves that this is white men’s creation.
From Columbus to Carr, they didn’t discover or build s—t.
They spilled the blood of millions on their own land and then put their name on it.
I will stand on this monument to white supremacy whenever I f—ing want!
My words will ring from this landing, and forever they will haunt the halls of these buildings including the one named after Carr.
The unsung founders will be sung today. They will be heard near and far.
I’m more than a Carolina girl. I’m a Carolina survivor.
I may be a Negro Wench, but this is my alma mater.
I stand on the shoulders of giants, not mere figurines.
I don’t have to read an inscription to know what that table means.
Today, stand up and proclaim with me: “I AM A NEGRO WENCH!”
I’ll marry whomever I want and kiss them on the marriage bench.
And when I walk across that stage, doctorate in hand, I’ll do it in honor of my people who cultivated this land.
I am a Negro Wench descended from slaves.
My ancestors are unsung, buried in unmarked graves.
They were Tar Heel born, and they were Tar Heel bred, but their legacy will never die, even though they’re Tar Heel dead.
Shelby Eden Dawkins-Law
School of Education
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