"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Covers the campus like the magnolias
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Editorial: Bryan Stevenson is right; we need to get proximate

We would do well to heed Stevenson’s advice when fighting for justice


Evan Harris

Kenneth Townsend from the Office of Leadership and Character welcomes Bryan Stevenson to the Wait Chapel stage.

Editorial Committee

Bryan Stevenson had a message for students this past Thursday: if you want to be a force for justice, you need to get proximate to those who are suffering.

Stevenson, a capital litigator and founder-director of the Equal Justice Initiative, did not just aim his advice at would-be lawyers in the crowd, but at all students. This university, and all who comprise its community, would do well to heed his message.

In many ways, Wake Forest exists in a bubble — fenced off (literally) from the wider Winston-Salem community. It can be tempting to live in this bubble and not engage with the city that surrounds our campus, but it is not just.

There are many organizations on campus that do great work getting students involved beyond the bubble. Campus Kitchen, for one, distributes hot food to organizations that work in food-insecure areas of Winston-Salem. The Student Association for the Advancement of Refugees works to lift up Winston-Salem’s refugee population and to form meaningful connections between students and community members. Multiple Wake Forest students are currently part of a program through AmeriCorps to promote public health in the Winston-Salem community. And, at Wake Forest, many of these initiatives are funded through the Office of Civic and Community Engagement. 

These are just some of the ways Wake Forest students can and do “get proximate” to the Winston-Salem community, and we applaud the work that students, faculty and staff put into these initiatives. As a university community, however, we can do more. There are many more organizations that are doing important work across a variety of issues. One such organization is Housing Justice Now, which is seeking volunteers for their tenant organizing initiative and their campaign to make access to eviction counsel a civil right. 

We encourage those in this university community to also remain humble as they plug into the struggle for justice and to listen for where they are needed. Sometimes, the best way to fight for justice is to help an organization with its paperwork or data entry. 

We also encourage Wake Forest and its community to name and reckon with the adverse impacts the university has had on the Winston-Salem community, such as its contribution to gentrification. The Old Gold & Black reported last year that some Winston-Salem residents do not trust Wake Forest and believe that the university only advances the interests of the wealthy and powerful. The Old Gold & Black’s magazine, The Magnolia, will be illustrating this history in its Spring 2023 edition. We cannot ignore the mistakes of the past when we strive to fight for justice in Winston-Salem; we as a university community must actively atone and fight to do and be better.

We thank Bryan Stevenson for his work and his wisdom, and we commend Wake Forest for bringing him here to speak as part of the Face-to-Face forum. Now, it is time to follow his call and get proximate.

The Old Gold & Black’s editorial committee writes the paper’s weekly editorial. The above editorial expresses its opinions and the editorial voice of the paper. The committee is chaired by Online Managing Editor Aine Pierre and also comprises Opinion Editors Shaila Prasad and Lauren Carpenter and Staff Writers Sophie Guymon, Ashlyn Segler and Hope Zhu. The content of all editorials is reviewed by the Executive Board of the Old Gold & Black before publication.

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