The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History

Carol McDonald on cycles of activism and change

Excerpt Description: Carol McDonald recounts the cycles of activism that occur and the frustrations that students can sometimes feel about these cycles of engagement in justice work.

Interviewee Name: Carol McDonald

Interviewer: Charlotte Fryar

Excerpt Transcript: “The one thing that I will always take away from that experience here was that, yeah, it sort of took a while after we all left campus, but eventually we were successful, and that doesn’t always–[laughs] that doesn’t happen a lot for those of us who are committing our lives to social justice. You wind up mostly losing or winning incremental gains, and this in some part was not a full victory. A full victory would have been in the center of campus, but it’s a big deal that you can look back on something like, “Hey, we fought for something, and then it happened,” and I would like to think that it, at least, has since then changed the conversation on campus. I know that waves of activism kind of come and go, and I remember a couple years after we left we sort of all lamented about, like, “Oh, these students now, they’re not as engaged. They’re not fired up. They’re just taking this for granted. They’re not even visiting the BCC. They’re not calling it the BCC anymore. Now it’s just the Stone Center.” [Laughs] Which–even the name of it, we were like, “It is the Black Cultural Center. It needs to be called that!” But I think–and I wonder about the role that the center plays now, because I look at the movement for black lives, and I look at the way that they talk about and frame the issues, and it just actually gives me chills. I’m so excited about this, the new wave of activists nationally, because they are unapologetic about what the fight for dignity and humanity looks like, and they are not taking anything less-than. I find that really inspiring, because we sort of did it on a symbolic level, but I feel like the new crop of kids, man [laughs] they’re–they’ve really changed the national conversation.”

Organization: Black Student Movement, BCC Movement

Excerpt Length: 2:15

Interview Date: 3/31/2017

Interview Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Campus Space: The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History

Citation:  Interview with Carol McDonald by Charlotte Fryar, 31 March 2017, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.