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After The Fall: Activist Maya Little Reflects On Silent Sam And Her Own Fate

Gabriella Bulgarelli
Maya Little, a doctoral student in history at UNC, faces criminal charges for defacing the Confederate monument Silent Sam, which was recently toppled by demonstrators.

Silent Sam may no longer be standing on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus, but activist Maya Little says the fight is far from over. 

Little defaced the Confederate monument earlier this year with red paint and her own blood and faces criminal charges for her actions. In the aftermath of the statue’s toppling, Little says the empty pedestal speaks to the anger and agency of the activists.

Host Frank Stasio speaks with UNC history doctoral student Maya Little about her involvement in Monday night’s events, her reflections on the power of protesters and her criminal charges.


On the power of the movement against Confederate monuments:

It’s been direct action and community solidarity and people taking these things into their own hands which has changed the landscape. And that’s not just in Chapel Hill. That’s in Durham, that's in Charlottesville, that’s in Portland. That’s been people taking to the streets marching against fascism, marching against institutional white supremacy, marching into the forces that deny us our dignity.

On the long history of action against Silent Sam:

This movement has been 50 years in the making. There've been so many protests of students —black student activists, workers and community members — against this statue and against white supremacy at UNC. And the administration has never responded. When students have said: We’re in pain. This statue is causing us direct harm. The people who gather around this statue are dangerous, and they call for us to be lynched. The university didn’t respond. The only time the university has responded has been to harass, surveil and target anti-racist activists.

On what should happen now in McCorkle Place:

I’ve heard a lot of different takes on that. I mean for one, it is now a historical place itself. The pedestal — completely empty now — has a lot of meaning too. [It] has now become a historic moment as well. I think the empty pedestal is something we can remember. People have stopped and stared at this empty plinth where a couple days ago a 20-foot-tall smirking armed Confederate soldier stood.

On the criminal charges and expulsion she still faces:

In terms of what I’m facing for my honor court charges, I could be expelled by the university for, apparently, actions unbecoming of a UNC affiliate. I don’t think standing against a racist monument is actions unbecoming a UNC affiliate. That’s not the UNC I want to be at. In regards to my criminal case, the maximum punishment I’m facing is 60 days in jail … When it comes to the criminal charges, I mean this is in Orange County. This is very interesting because the Orange County court system also has a history of being incredibly reactive to black activism.  

Laura Pellicer is a digital reporter with WUNC’s small but intrepid digital news team.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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