Cheek-Clark Building

Chris Baumann on students’ supportive role in workers’ movements

Excerpt Description: Chris Baumann describes his role as a white student in the housekeepers’ movement as supportive and behind the scenes, recognizing the strength of the housekeepers in telling their own stories and being the face of their own movement.

Interviewee Name: Chris Baumann

Interviewer: Charlotte Fryar

Excerpt Transcript: “What I tried to do—and I guess you could ask them whether I did it well—it was their movement to lead, right? I always saw my role as a support role. I mean, I would speak at rallies, you know, here and there, but always thought a lot of my work was kind of behind the scenes and helping, you know, and trying to, you know, make sure that they had the space to lead, you know, because they were amazing. I mean, Marsha and Barbara, Larry, I mean, René, Chris, Smith, even Annie Pettiford, they were great speakers, just natural, you know, leaders, right, that could get up and move a crowd, and so that wasn’t where the real need was, right? The need was, you know, working two jobs with kids and things, they didn’t have the time to do a lot of that in-between work, which I was willing to do, you know, and not a lot of other folks were really stepping up to do it. But we got close pretty quickly, you know, and I think a lot of it is it’s just about showing up, right? And trust is built on “I can depend that you’re going to be there every day no matter what happens.”
And, you know, we had fun, like, at the parties. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. So I think that was, you know, where we would talk, you know, and we went to—as we would go to trainings, we were certainly in anti-racism trainings and, you know, things of that nature, and so, you know, we were exposed and would talk about it. But I really think, you know, from the beginning—and, of course, Al had his role, right? You know, I mean, Al’s Al, right? I mean, he always had a big role in that front, so I always kind of saw myself as more behind the scenes. And again, I would speak at a rally, you know, just like when you’d have like a laundry list of speakers that would do that, but I think that’s how we really—and that’s how I really approached it, was, you know, how to support their organization and building that from that—and that’s kind of what I’ve really tried to do my whole career. You know, I’ve been an organizer now thirty years. It’s about helping other people have those moments inside of that.”

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

Excerpt Length: 2:04

Interview Date: 12/22/2017

Interview Location: Tucker, Georgia

Campus Space: Cheek-Clark Building

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.