In June, members of the James Cates Remembrance Coalition signed a proposal to rename the UNC Student Stores building after James Lewis Cates Jr., a 22-year-old Black man murdered by a white supremacist biker gang in 1970 next to the Pit on UNC's campus.
The proposal was sent to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert Blouin and the members of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Naming University Facilities and Units. It was endorsed by local organizations, groups and individuals.
The Student Stores Building was formerly named after white supremacist Josephus Daniels, and the name was removed last July through a vote by the UNC Board of Trustees. Here's a look at what's happened since.
James Cates Building proposal
Guskiewicz said in a March 2021 campus message that said his goal was for Aycock Residence Hall, the Carr Building and the Student Stores to be renamed by the time students returned to campus this semester.
However, at a September meeting of the Commission on History, Race, and a Way Forward, co-chairperson Patricia Parker said renaming recommendations are not expected to reach the BOT until November at the earliest.
Danita Mason-Hogans, a member of the commission, said this renaming effort is important because it’s time to reckon with the history and the people who have caused harm to the Black community at the University. Mason-Hogans said she did not think the process to rename Student Stores would take this long.
“I do wish that there would be better communication and letting us know what we can expect,” Mason-Hogans said.
Here's an overview of where the proposal stands:
- Guskiewicz announced a committee last fall to conduct a year-long exploration of the events of James Cates' murder, a committee that named itself the James Cates Remembrance Coalition.
- The coalition recommended that Student Stores be named for Cates and submitted a dossier to the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for Naming University Facilities and Units.
- That committee reviewed the request and made a recommendation to the chancellor.
- The chancellor has forwarded a recommendation to the Board of Trustees leadership.
- The next BOT meeting is in November, which would provide the next opportunity for the board to consider recommendations.
UNC graduate Kira Griffith, former Residence Hall Association president, is a member of the James Cates Memorial Committee, another group working to honor James Cates. The committee has been advocating for a permanent memorial for Cates.
Griffith said the story of Cates is a critical part of UNC’s history and it is important for the whole University community to understand its importance.
“Having a memorial in particular will be helpful for current students to learn more about James Cates and also for future students to understand up how the University history ties in with modern day issues that we're talking about every day, particularly after the murder of George Floyd last summer,” Griffith said.
Theodore M. Shaw, a distinguished law professor who signed the James Cates Building Proposal, said the history of white supremacy, racism and slavery still exists on this campus and this history has not been completely confronted yet.
“I think it’s important to honor individuals and honor history that exemplifies principles of equality and fairness,” Shaw said. “And so we still have work to do.”
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