Saunders Hall

Chris Faison on the evolution of the Black Student Movement

Excerpt Description: Chris Faison describes how the political engagement of the Black Student Movement has been forced to change over time, stating his belief that the current BSM is different from the original BSM created in 1967.


Interviewee Name: 
Chris Faison

Interviewer: Charlotte Fryar

Excerpt Transcript: “It’s easy to become status quo, and I think the very BSM that Preston Dobbins and company that basically kind of hijacked NAACP meeting to form the BSM. The BSM has become that NAACP in some ways, but I don’t fault the students. I fault the context of not only alum that have been disillusioned and haven’t really kind of kept in touch with the institution, or that organization, but even people that have worked here in the past, or maybe even in the present, who for self-preservation’s sake have not given the students a lot of example–and I’m not saying anyone wants to lose their job, but you can be outspoken and do it in a tactful manner in a way that won’t alienate you or make you lose your job or feel like you’re being intimidated or retaliated against. And so, groups like The Real Silent Sam, who helped push for the Carolina Hall renaming–it’s so interesting when you look at the history. They basically have become, or at least at the time–they have kind of dissolved, I think, or been disbanded in the last year or so, or since last spring–they have become that very BSM in the [19]60s. So it’s like– and being able–when I saw that, because I actually started looking at some of the digital history maybe about two years ago, whenever the Carolina Hall stuff was really starting to ramp up, and I was like, wow, this is so interesting how things cycle.
But I do think that, one of the things, I think, when we think about BSM, or just student groups of color, that we have to be mindful of is that there are so many different types of student groups now, and it’s really hard to expect for–, like, students don’t–just like we don’t really look for an MLK or a Malcolm X anymore in our present day, like on the national level, for black leadership, it’s really hard to expect for BSM to have that same level of preeminence, I think, within student groups, because it’s just not–, I mean, when we look at Black Lives Matter as an example, it’s an extension of black liberation movements throughout the history of our country, but the thing that’s so smart about the architects of it, which are not much younger than me–they’re, I think, early to mid-thirties, so I feel good about not being too much older than them, but–they have a decentralized approach. Like you can’t really–if you were to try to go after one, you really can’t. I mean, there are some whose names rise to the top, but I feel like that’s what’s happening on college campuses too, so I think–I appreciate the fact that people defer to the BSM historically, but what I tell people who are interested in engaging with students, I say, ‘Well, you really have to dig a little deeper.'”

Organization: Black Student Movement

Excerpt Length: 2:32

Interview Date: 12/9/2016

Interview Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Campus Space: Saunders Hall

Citation: Interview with Chris Faison by Charlotte Fryar, 9 December 2016, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.