Dear Carolina Community:
Last night I had the privilege of attending an inspiring program at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History commemorating National African American History Month. Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, award-winning author and civil rights scholar, recounted the struggles and successes of African Americans here in North Carolina, and encouraged us to “keep the pressure on” in the fight for justice, equality and freedom in our state and our nation.
We also heard from several of our own esteemed faculty, including Dr. Reginald Hildebrand, who reminded us of the power imbued in thoughtful actions. They “resonate with something that is in each of us, something decent and strong, that has integrity…Something that says, ‘I will no longer allow my worth and value to be dismissed and discounted. I will not be a silent witness while that happens to others.’ In Greensboro, many years ago, four young students from N.C. A&T took such an act of quiet courage and character, and it resonates with us still.”
The Greensboro Four, including Joseph McNeil, and the friends and families of Jibreel Khazan, Franklin McCain and David Richmond—whom we honored and recognized last night—launched the sit-ins, an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement that catalyzed change in our country and on our campus. Empowered by the movement, African American students together with faculty and staff here at Carolina spoke up and took action — and they made history. Their efforts transformed our community, including the formation of the Black Student Movement; the realization of the Stone Center; and the creation of what is now the Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies. Carolina is richer for the efforts of those pioneers, and today’s leaders continue to guide us as we learn from the past, shape the present and prepare our students for the future.
As we commemorate African American History Month, let us heed the call to keep the pressure on. Let us each seek opportunities to engage in “quiet acts of courage and character.”
Our nation’s Black history is our shared history. I encourage you to participate in as many of the campus observances this month as you can. For more inspiration, please read the statement from the Carolina Black Caucus. Their impassioned proclamation reminds us of our power when we come together as a Carolina community.
Together we are stronger. Together we are Carolina.
Carol L. Folt
Published February 6, 2014.