The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History

Renee Alexander Craft on building an usable institutional memory for student organizations

Excerpt Description: Renee Alexander Craft describes her wish that students archive and document themselves as they build their movements so that future movements can build on their work.

Interviewee Name: Renee Alexander Craft

Interviewer: Charlotte Fryar

Excerpt Transcript: “It’s hard not to reinvent the wheel when you don’t have a good map of what people did before, and so what we did not—I wish we had had the time. I’m glad so many people have their personal private archives. I’m glad people like you and Southern Oral History Program are taking a moment to really record this moment in history, because it’s so important. I want to see more student organizations have archivists. I think it’s so important, because we lose time because we don’t know the work that came before us, and every four years, student body changes, student energies change, and then the politics change, so you don’t necessarily—unless your organization has been very forward-thinking, you don’t have the tools you need not to recreate the errors of the past and to be able to move forward efficiently. So I wish—the Black Ink, at the time, in a way, did important work to help archive some of the mission of the movement. I think Black Ink now has moved to a magazine, and it comes out maybe monthly. I don’t know how often it comes out. But that was important. That was so important. So I didn’t have a sense of how important it was then. I do now.
The other part is just about understanding structure. Some of the way I fell into my ability to have the kind of mobility I did or even to have the kind of sense of empowerment that I did was because of wonderful serendipity and happenstance. So, because I was at the Center so often, I was a part of conversations that were helping me understand structure in a way I might not have sought out on my own, and there were people with long memories in the room to help make an argument about where we were now versus where we were at another point and the key players who could be advocates. So, you know, it’s like a maze you’re moving around, and you need a guide every once in a while to say, ‘Nope. We’ve been down that way. Don’t go there. That’s a dead end. We need to go this way, because we’ve never done that before.’ So, just both voices and help with institutional memory so you have a sense of closed and open doors and can move appropriately and effectively.”

Organization: BCC MovementBlack Student Movement

Excerpt Length: 2:52

Interview Date: 2/2/2017

Interview Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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

Citation:  Interview with Renee Alexander Craft by Charlotte Fryar, 2 March 2017, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.