Wednesday at The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History, the Carolina Black Caucus celebrated 45 years on UNC’s campus at its annual welcome event.
The Caucus hosted Black faculty and staff members, as well as some higher-level UNC administrators, including Executive Vice Chancellor and Provos Bob Blouin and interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.
Dawna Jones, chairperson of the Carolina Black Caucus, said 45 years at UNC is worthy of celebration, as it shows the impact the caucus has made on the community.
“The caucus was founded in 1974 by some of our first African-American and Black faculty and staff,” Jones said. “They started the caucus really to advocate at that time for affirmative action and then the retention of Black faculty and staff, making sure that there was an inclusive environment and that there was an opportunity to make sure that any race-based discrimination was heard fairly."
Today, the caucus’ main goal is to create a sense of community among UNC’s Black faculty and staff, Jones said.
“Our theme for the year is ‘Stronger Together,’” Jones said. “We really want to make sure that both faculty and staff have a place where they can come be their authentic selves, look at their research, look at their scholarship, look at whatever excellence or initiative they really want to move forward and not have that be challenged by racism or harassment or any form of discrimination.”
Diane Baker, a longtime UNC staff member who works as a program manager at UNC’s School of Medicine, is a strong believer in the new theme. She said the sense of community the caucus creates gives her a voice when it comes to issues involving race.
Baker said she feels more comfortable using her own voice because she feels supported by the caucus' community.
Barbara Foushee, a member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and close friend of the caucus, believes that "Stronger Together" is an important message for the UNC community now more than ever given recent events like the removal of Silent Sam.
“I just feel like it’s a time for all of us to pull together," Foushee said. "Not just Black people, but just everybody in general to just pull together and be as one.”
When it comes to the subject of Silent Sam, Jones said the caucus’ work is far from over and that it is necessary to keep the discussion of race on UNC’s campus a continuous dialogue.
“I think it’s still very important to remember how far we’ve come, and that we had 70-some years where that statue was on our campus," Jones said. "Hopefully, it's not coming back, but we don’t know... Just having to keep at the forefront of people’s minds that these experiences are different for all of us, but we need to keep communication open and dialogue going."
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