What pushed you to petition to lift the UNC Board of Trustees’ moratorium on renaming campus buildings?
It kind of started back when I was on campus, with Silent Sam, just seeing how hard people of color on campus—specifically African Americans—were working to get that changed after the Saunders Hall incident. That was kind of the start of my interest in history and knowing what was going on at my university, and what these symbols and different names on these buildings stood for. Fast forward to more recently: I was doing some research on my hometown, which was named after Reuben Reid, who was a huge slave owner. He owned a 700-acre plantation that encompassed some of Reidsville. I was doing research and came to realize my town is named after him. His son was also a segregationist, a Southern rights advocate, and was a part of every level of government from local all the way up to federal. He served as a governor, he was a slave owner, he believed in Southern rights, and it just made me realize, “This is what we come from, this is what our cities are built off of.” A lot of times we don’t know, because we’re educated by the people around us, and it comes to a point where it’s like, “Man, do they even want us to really know what’s going on?”
The petition seemed to gain traction really quickly. How did that happen?
I just posted it on all three of my pages, and on Instagram people just started sharing it. The post had more shares than it had actual likes. I realized people were latching on to those same demands and they wanted to see the same change that I did. I actually had several people start reaching out to me, ranging from athletes like James Michael McAdoo to old UNC alumni, some going back as late as the ‘90s. I had the pleasure to talk to a former trustee, Mr. William Keyes, about certain things that were going on as well. From there people just started spreading the word and it started getting a lot of traction. I actually had no actionable steps per se when I put the Facebook post up, but from that people kept asking me, “Where’s the petition? What can we do? Where’s the protest?” And I was like, “Man, I hadn’t thought that far.” Basically, due to the time and circumstance, I think a protest would be good, but just starting to petition first and getting that out there will start to give a picture of the change the UNC community wants to see.
The petition still has two action items to address: recontextualizing Kenan Stadium (named after one of the leaders of the Wilmington Massacre) and renaming buildings with ties to white supremacy and slave ownership. What are the next steps for you?
I think the first step is just to continue to push the petition. I say we need to be in contact with our university, letting university officials know that this is not how we want things to be, staying in contact with them. Specifically for me, I’ve been in contact with a lot of staff and faculty at UNC who don’t align with the way the Board of Trustees thinks. A lot of African American faculty specifically saw what the Board of Trustees was doing as a huge issue and really not respecting them. As university officials, you have to respect the people that we asked to come here and that we hire.
Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.