The Flag: Navigating Southern Identity, Race, and Symbolism – Sept. 2nd.

I received the email below from the Office of the Dean of Students yesterday and wanted to share it with parents and families in the hope that you will encourage your students to attend this event.  One of the highest goals of university life is to engage students intellectually and to do so in a manner of civil discourse.  We might not always agree, but we can learn from each other and have constructive debate and dialogue.

Your students will have the opportunity to hear from several prominent national voices in this program, as well as hearing from the president of our own Kappa Alpha Order on campus, Edward Tillinghast (’16).  Following the panel discussion, our students will have the opportunity to take this national conversation back down to a local level in facilitated students-only small group discussions about the broader issues of race and inequality, inclusion, and the values of our campus.

No matter where your student stands on the Confederate flag yeah or nay continuum, I would urge their open and honest participation in this endeavor.  To make the most of our community, we need to hear student voices that represent all opinions.  When we seek to understand others’ perspectives, even when they differ from ours, we increase our capacity for understanding and empathy.

I applaud Kappa Alpha’s leadership for wanting to initiate this conversation on our campus, and to our talented campus offices who have helped bring this event to fruition.

As I so often say, Wake Forest is a rich buffet of many experiences.  The more you taste, the fuller you will grow.  There will be few times in life, I suspect, that your students will have access to a national panel of this stature.  They should not miss it.   And if you as parents and families want to participate from afar, a livestream webcast of the panel will be available at

— by Betsy Chapman


Wake Forest University’s chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order, Pro Humanitate Institute, Division of Campus Life, and Office of Diversity and Inclusion invite all members of the university community to attend this important panel discussion. After the panel discussion, WFU students are invited to participate in facilitated student-to-student small group discussions.   To register for the post-panel students-only discussion, click here.

The Flag: Navigating Southern Identity, Race, and Symbolism

Wednesday, September 2

Wait Chapel

5:30 PM (doors open for WFU); 6:00 PM (start)

This event is free and open to the community.  Flag Panel Discussion 9.2.15

The panel discussion will be moderated by Melissa Harris-Perry, Executive Director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and Presidential Endowed Chair in Politics and International Affairs.  Panelists will include:

  • Bree Newsome – A filmmaker, singer, songwriter and community organizer, Newsome made headlines when she climbed a flagpole and removed the Confederate flag flying at the state capitol in Columbia, S.C.
  • James Ian Tyson – Tyson is a grassroots organizer who was arrested alongside Bree Newsome after they removed the flag from the South Carolina state capitol grounds.
  • Katon Dawson – Dawson was first elected Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party in 2002, was unanimously re-elected twice, and served on the Republican National Committee from 2002-2009. A leading voice in removing the flag from the South Carolina state capitol, he is now president of Dawson Public Affairs.
  • Alicia Garza – An organizer, writer, and freedom dreamer, Garza is Special Projects Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the nation’s leading voice for dignity and fairness for the millions of domestic workers in the United States. She is also the co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter.

“The events of this summer led to an outcry that focused national debate on symbols of the Confederacy as reflections of inequality and racism in America today.  Like many people throughout the country, members of our chapter discussed these issues and reflected deeply about our identity, our symbols, and our responsibility to bring about positive change in the world around us.  By engaging in formal campus dialogues and informal conversations that foster learning and self-awareness, we are given the opportunity to address harmful biases, better ourselves and our community.

We hope you will join our chapter at this important program.”

– Edward Tillinghast, Kappa Alpha Order, Wake Forest Chapter President

“An academic environment is the ideal place for a thoughtful and thought-provoking conversation about the intersection of racism, symbolism and the South.  The unique and timely perspectives of each panelist will challenge, motivate and inspire those seeking social justice on our campus and in our community.”

– Melissa Harris-Perry


The students in Wake Forest’s chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order actively engaged in campus dialogues about race and inclusion throughout 2014-15.  They were aware that the party they cancelled early in the Fall 2014 semester had negatively impacted the community and understood their responsibility to learn from the incident and help Wake Forest move forward.  Over the summer, the chapter’s leadership asked Campus Life staff about ways they could help the community start the year differently in 2015-16.  When the murders in Charleston brought focus on Southern iconography, the chapter – often associated with the confederate flag – began preparing a statement to inform the Wake Forest community that they do not support display of the flag.  This statement will appear in Thursday’s edition (8/27) of the Old Gold and Black.  They also asked if the university could help them develop a program that would support/encourage student dialogue about these issues.  Campus Life staff invited the Pro Humanitate Institute to a meeting with the KA chapter president and alumni advisor to discuss the possibilities.  Melissa Harris-Perry immediately suggested the program that is now occurring on September 2.  This event would not be possible without Melissa’s ability to contact and secure these national figures.

This program is occurring because of the leadership demonstrated by the brothers of Wake Forest’s Kappa Alpha Order.  The fraternity president will open the program, brothers are serving as Program Ushers with leaders from multicultural organizations on campus, and brothers are serving as small group discussion facilitators during the post-panel conversations with other students trained by Pro Humanitate.  This program is also occurring because of the leadership, reach, and support of Melissa Harris-Perry.  Additional support for this event is provided by staff in Pro Humanitate, the Division of Campus Life, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.  Funding for this program has been provided by the Diversity and Collaboration fund.

A livestream webcast of the panel will be available at


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