Open Community Letter: #KeepUNCSafe

To our community in Chapel Hill:

Last semester, a group of concerned students created a phrase to summarize the growing focus of their activist work: #KeepUNCSafe. It arose in response to seeing our friends repeatedly hurt on our campus, experiencing such injustice ourselves, and seeing the social brokenness that surrounds all of us. It arose from responses to situations such as rape culture, unchecked racist events on campus, and institutional attacks on students.

We had reached a breaking point.

We would not continue to be quiet, complicit, and segmented on our campus in ways that allowed violence to continue unchecked. We would not continue to keep our politics contained in academic classrooms and single-issue campaigns. We wanted to highlight how the intersections many of us discussed in small classrooms and groups were being experienced in the lives of students. There was, and is, a large, vibrant community of student activists and mentors on this campus. We realized how badly we all needed to be in communication to be doing real change. We wanted to help that conversation.

Working around this idea of safety on our campus, we began harnessing our collective power to respond. We asked for stories, experiences, and skills from all parts of campus to create art, hold dialogues, and support rallies. By the beginning of summer, new parts of the activism on campus had been connected. We were beginning to reclaim our community through a shared understanding of our strategies of survival and how we could best support each other. #KeepUNCSafe continued to grow into conversation about how to resist. We continued to work on understanding how our individual and collective experiences were not in isolation.

With that consciousness,  we also stand in solidarity with Ferguson. We stand in solidarity with Palestine. We stand in solidarity with Durham resistance in our own backyards. We recognize that it is not enough to simply discuss the theories of community empowerment and change, and it is certainly not enough to engage in struggle only in places removed from us. We must have these conversations and do this work in our own communities, families, and homes.

Over the course of the semester, we plan on Siren continuing to be a safe platform for this kind of dialogue. We want to continue to stand in solidarity and support with the transformative work of so many other organizations on our campus. We hope to encourage all community members to speak if they feel called to, in whatever mediums they practice. We hope to encourage a more accessible student activism on campus that is not removed from the wider community. We hope to work alongside faculty, staff, and general community members as well as students to join #KeepUNCSafe with other community building.

We hope you will join the conversation.

Love and solidarity,

Mars Earle, Sarah Pederson, and Wilson Hood

Siren Editors, Fall 2014

We invite you to continue this consciousness raising by reading a recent piece by staff writer Wilson Hood on his experiences of harassment and violence in the Chapel Hill community.