Saunders Hall

Erica Smiley on self-empowerment and the fight against tuition hikes

Excerpt Description: Erica Smiley remembers the moment in which she utilized her power as a student to challenge the University.

Interviewee Name: 
Erica Smiley

Interviewer: Charlotte Fryar

Excerpt Transcript: “I remember looking at her and saying, you know—I was sweating and I was nervous, and I just kind of looked at her, and I was like, “If you’re going to raise our tuition, we’re going to have front-row seats.” And I looked at the students and I said—I just kind of looked at them, and they all just sat back down, and it was like this really empowering moment that I hadn’t—like, I was scared. I had never really challenged authority that directly, but in doing so and then getting validated by the students who then took my lead and then just sat back down, I felt so empowered, and not like in an arrogant way, just in a—like, I was still shaking and sweating, you know—but in a way that was like, ‘Right. Okay. We deserve to be here. We aren’t imposters. We aren’t being disrespectful. We are fighting for something that’s really right for us.'”

Organization: Black Student Movement

Event Mentioned Date: 10/14/1999

Excerpt Length: 0:57

Interview Date: 12/8/2017

Interview Location: Washington, D.C.

Campus Space: Saunders Hall

Citation:  Interview with Erica Smiley by Charlotte Fryar, 8 December 2017, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.