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UNC Black Student Movement holds a demonstration in support of Nikole Hannah-Jones

A sign sits at the demonstration in support of Nikole Hannah-Jones organized by the UNC Black Student Movement on June 25, 2021 at Polk Place.

The Black Student Movement held a demonstration Friday afternoon in support of Nikole Hannah-Jones after she was not offered a tenured position at UNC.  

The event was scheduled to occur outside of the South Building, but was moved to the tent outside of Wilson Library due to inclement weather. Over 200 people attended, most of whom were in the tent, but some also gathered outside of it. 

The demonstration occurred four days after Nikole Hannah-Jones’s legal team wrote a letter saying she would not become a member of the UNC faculty without tenure.

Throughout the event, demonstrators stomped on the raised platform, shouted “mic check,” and “no justice, no peace,” in support of what the various speakers said. One sign brought by a demonstrator read “Hussman Alumni We Stand With #NikoleHannahJones.”

Leaders of BSM read a list of 13 demands for Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, which are:

  1. Permanent memorial for James Cates
  2. No UNC police at resident hall move-in
  3. Alert Carolina be used when dangerous white supremacists are on campus
  4. No aid be given to white supremacists on campus
  5. Increased funding for CAPS
  6. More BIPOC representation in CAPS
  7. Better signage for Unsung Founders Memorial
  8. Change name of Battle Hall
  9. Reporting system for incidents in the dining hall
  10. More diversity at the Carolina Women's Center
  11. Do not replace Gloria Thomas, director of CWC who's leaving the center, with a white woman
  12. Revise the mandatory UNC sexual assault training
  13. Make the process of grade appeals more transparent

Taliajah Vann, president of BSM, said she doesn't fully trust everything that UNC administration says. 

“You are not interested in action, you have not been interested in action for decades,” she said. 

BSM also provided a list of demands for the Board of Trustees:

  1. Make Nikole Hannah-Jones a tenured professor 
  2. More diversity on the Board 
  3. A more transparent tenure process

The floor was then opened up for others to speak. BSM organizers made it clear that Black students did not have to alter their message in any way, and that the demonstration was a place where their voices could be heard.

One student and member of BSM, Derrick Davis Jr., called for the dismantling of the Board of Trustees.

“The last thing we want to do is be fighting for our academic and physical lives,” Davis said. “Because if the Board of Trustees can't protect our academic interests by providing teachers that look like us to promote diversity and inclusion as they say, then what purpose do they have?”

UNC Student Body President Lamar Richards also spoke at the event and said he supported the demonstration and was displeased with the decision not to grant Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure.

“They say Trustees aren’t supposed to talk, aren’t supposed to speak out,” he said. “But I was elected by a population of 30,000 students to represent them, and I’m going to do that.”

The speaker's section was closed out with a UNC Alumna playing guitar and singing. The song included repetition of the phrase “We’ve come too far to turn back now.”

The event ended with all Black members of the crowd being invited forward and repeating a chant led by the leaders of BSM.

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

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