Black Culture Stands in Spite of UNC Leaders

If you don't know me that well, you might be surprised to learn that I am one of the happiest people in town to witness the long-awaited opening of the free-standing Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History at UNC. It's future existence was the primary purpose of my day-to-day existence during my last two years of college. As a member of the Student Coalition for a Free-Standing Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center, I organized marches, spoke at rallies, met with administrators, slept in South Building, and wrote flyers, press releases, and site analysis reports. I dedicated myself to helping the University community understand the compelling need for this institution.

I was glad to read coverage of the upcoming festivities around the opening of the new free-standing center in last week's Chapel Hill Herald. But I was confused by the severe contortions they went through in that editorial. Comparing the CBHC (I still think of it as the BCC) to Carolina North was strange. But citing it as an example of administrators' long-term vision and tenacity was absurd.

The opening of the CBHC's new building is in spite of UNC's leadership, not because of it. Chapel Hill Herald Assisant Editor Ray Gronberg ought to know this, since he was there. I remember meeting him in the lobby of South Building when I was among about 100 students who occupied it for two weeks to protest the Chancellor's foot dragging on the BCC. It was almost 10 years before some UNC administrators realized the center would be an asset to the campus and the state, and saw that it wasn't going to happen without their support (ie: funding).

In the early 1990's, it was the UNC Board of Trustees and administrative leaders (like then Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Edith Wiggins) who stonewalled us that the Herald cites: "One of the arguments made then against the project -- that it was a frill -- finds echoes today in the general criticisms of what some in this community see as UNC's mindless expansionism."

In fact, the institutions that now support massive campus expansion, are the same ones who stonewalled against building a black cultural center for many years. They are are ones who claimed "we don't have the money," "we don't need it," "it's divisive." One could raise those same objections to Carolina North, but you don't have to when there are so many more substantive things to critique.

So it's putting it lightly to say that I think it's a stretch for the Herald to compare UNC's leadership on the BCC to it's vision on Carolina North. If they supported the idea of building Carolina North like they did the idea of building a black cultural center, you'd find administrators claiming that the current campus is really quite adequate, and these research programs aren't really that important to the university or the state, and the best location might be in distant Chatham County, if it really must exist at all.

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This is the UNC press release announcing events.

News Release

For immediate use

July 28, 2004 -- No. 363

For photo information, see end of story.

Stone Center for Black Culture and History

to open after years of effort, fund raising

By L.J. TOLER

UNC NEWS SERVICES

CHAPEL HILL – More than a decade of advocacy and fund raising will culminate Aug. 21 when the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill opens its new building for the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.

The center’s new, permanent home will be one of few such facilities nationwide that combine cultural programs, research, community service, teaching and learning under one roof, said Dr. Joseph Jordan, center director and professor of Afro-American studies.

"The completion of the Stone Center is an important milestone for the university," he said. "It comes after a great deal of struggle, reconciliation and renewal, and it sets us on a very clear path. We now have a site that can serve as a focal point for work on African-American, African and African diaspora subjects. It is a great moment for all those who saw these possibilities early on."

Harmonyx, a student a cappella choir, will open a free public dedication ceremony outside the new building at 10:30 a.m., leading participants in "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Speakers will include members of Stone’s family, Chancellor James Moeser, Board of Trustees Chair Richard "Stick" Williams, UNC President Molly Broad and UNC students Erin Davis, Black Student Movement chair, and Matt Calabria, student body president.

Tours of the building, just west of the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower off South Road, will follow the ceremony.

Students will kick off the celebration at 8 p.m. the day before with a candlelight vigil and procession from the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery to the new building. The event will honor early – and mostly unrecognized -- African-Americans and others buried in the old cemetery who contributed to the building of UNC, as well as all who helped make the center possible. The event will be open to all; participants will gather at 7:30 p.m. in the cemetery, off South Road just west of Country Club Road. The march will end with a brief ceremony.

All costs for the 44,500 square-foot, three-story building were funded with private gifts, contributed by more than 1,500 donors. Those contributions covered more than 95 percent of the total project cost, which topped $9 million. UNC provided the balance, less than 5 percent, for instructional technology in the building’s six classrooms. The registrar will schedule the classrooms, which will be available to all academic departments university-wide.

"Situating the Sonja Haynes Stone Center in Carolina’s academic affairs division was an important decision that assured us of our role in helping the university address its academic mission," Jordan said. "The entire university community has always had access to the center. Now we can offer support for their intellectual and cultural pursuits."

Other resources in the building will include a 10,000-volume lending library, an art gallery, seminar rooms, a 360-seat theater, a dance studio and a multipurpose room. The library will be part of the University Libraries and be filled entirely with new acquisitions. The collection, emphasizing African-American, African and African diaspora materials, is intended as a resource for the public, visiting scholars and artists, and members of the university community.

Offices will house the center staff, visiting scholars, the Institute of African-American Research and Upward Bound, a federally funded education program.

Open since 1988 in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union, the center was named for the late Carolina professor in 1991. In its early years, it focused on raising awareness of and appreciation for African-American culture. The center has maintained that role but also evolved into a primary site for developing intellectual capital about Africa and the African diaspora, Jordan said.

The building dedication caps more than a decade of effort by students, faculty, staff, administrators and others. Individuals and businesses contributed to the building. Students sponsored benefit concerts and led community walks. In 1997-98, students pledged to raise $20,000. Members of the UNC Board of Trustees promised a five-to-one match, or $100,000, from their own pockets if students met that goal. They surpassed it, and the trustees made their match.

In 1999, UNC received a $28.6 million unrestricted bequest from the estate of alumnus David Benjamin Clayton of Alabama. The late Chancellor Michael Hooker designated some of the income from the gift to complete funding for the center.

Architects from The Freelon Group Inc. of Raleigh and Charlotte incorporated African design elements into the building. Construction began in 2002, with Clancy and Theys Construction Co. of Raleigh as general contractors.

"Our hope is that we will surpass the expectations of all who took part in the struggle to establish and build the center," Jordan said. "Our intent is to serve students, faculty, staff and the community to the best of our ability."

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Photo URLs:

* Dr. Joseph Jordan: http://www.unc.edu/news/newsserv/pics/faculty/jordan_joseph.jpg

* Stone Center 1: http://www.unc.edu/news/newsserv/pics/buildings/stone_ctr_arch_1.jpg

* Stone Center 2: http://www.unc.edu/news/newsserv/pics/buildings/stone_ctr_arch_2.jpg

Stone Center contacts: Antoinette Parker, public relations officer, 919-962-9001, aparker2@email.unc.edu; Dr. Joseph Jordan, director, 919-962-9001

Here is a new Herald Sun article about the opening of the Black Culture Center.
http://www.herald-sun.com/orange/10-512056.html

News should not start with a three sentence apology.
ex. from afore mentioned article, "He didn't mean to be divisive. He didn't mean to be confrontational. And he certainly didn't mean to cause any pain."

IMHO...there are too many attempts in this article to influence the written history of a apologetic UNC Chancellor Paul Hardin and the strong feelings of the students at the time.

 

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