Excerpt Description: Chris Baumann reveals that students and workers have and can collectively leverage power on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus to create lasting social change, citing both the BCC movement and the housekeepers’ movement as examples of using student power and worker power to win victories.

Interviewee Name: Chris Baumann

Interviewer: Charlotte Fryar

Excerpt Transcript: “So ultimately, that’s what we learned, that it was all about power. The Black Cultural Center was students taking our power back saying, “You know, we pay the bills at this university. We’re sick and tired of the hypocrisy of this university.” And again, that’s a first step, right? I mean, you know, to have the Black Cultural Center, does that fix everything? Of course not, you know, but at least, you know, it’s important that it recognizes the study of African American history, culture, music, arts, everything, is that if we are going to be a beacon of the South, you’ve got to have that institution. And I remember for me, walking in with my son, right, to the Black Cultural Center. That was the first time I’d ever walked into it, right? I mean, that was, like, for last year. I think I’d seen it on the outside maybe, but I don’t know that I’d been in, and just like, “Wow. We did this,” right? You know, we had a vision, and you can make change. And I’ve, you know, been lucky to win a lot of victories over my career, that when people use their power, we can win.
You know, the housekeepers, you know, with Marsha and Barbara and Larry, that’s what we were fighting for, was power, right, an equal seat at the table to, “Let’s be what this university says it really is,” you know. And it’s still not, you know. I mean, look. You know, Silent Sam is still there, right? I mean, we definitely mentioned a number of times getting that down. It wasn’t our top focus, but it’s still there. The Confederate Monument is the first monument you see looking up to the north. You know, it was on campus. And I know they did the little monument to recognize, you know, housekeepers and the generations that won, but it’s little compared to the Silent Sam piece. So to me, it’s all one movement, but I really think that worker power is where it all starts, and I learned that—I mean, we learned together. I mean, Larry Farrar always told me, he said, “Just because I don’t have an education doesn’t mean I’m not intelligent,” you know, and that’s a very important point that I always try to teach people, right? Marsha, Barbara, and all them, they’re smart as hell, you know. They just don’t have the degree next to their name that we hold up in society that says that they’re smart. They were brilliant. The courage that they had to put everything that they had on the line, I mean, that’s what inspired me. They were putting everything, their little job, on the line. You know, if they lost that job, you know, Marsha could have been out on the streets, Barbara could have been out on the streets, Larry could have been out on the streets, and they never had any fear. They know what was right, and you had to stand with them on that. But at the end of the day, it’s about power, student power, worker power, people power.”

Organization: UNC Housekeepers Association, Student Environmental Action Coalition, Campus Y, BCC Movement

Excerpt Length: 2:43

Interview Date: 12/22/2017

Interview Location: Tucker, Georgia

Campus Space: Cheek-Clark Building, The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History

Citation:  Interview with Chris Baumann by Charlotte Fryar, 22 December 2017, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.