Nicole Barnes, a track and field star from T. Wingate Andrews High School, in High Point, North Carolina, led the North Carolina Tar Heel athletes, as they Marched On in Chapel Hill…Nicole Barnes, is a leader, at UNC-Chapel Hill….Nicole Barnes, daughter of Earl Barnes, track and field coach, at High Point Andrews High School…
**********What started in Tennessee, ended on Franklin Street**********
Nicole Barnes(High Point Andrews High School), a junior on North Carolina’s women’s track and field team, saw on social media that athletes at the University of Tennessee were organizing a march calling attention to institutionalized racism for Saturday and had challenged their peers throughout the NCAA to join. Barnes, sprinter Lauryn Hall and Rachel Jones from women’s soccer put the plan into motion for Carolina’s athletes to be a part of #MarchOnMyCampus2020.
“We’re kind of looked over because we’re seen for entertainment and sports but people don’t realize we’re people too,” Hall said. “People love to watch you come play, but don’t really care about black lives and we’re the main ones doing the sport. That really hit home with me.”
Barnes said it was important not only to have the march, but to be seen. So when the talk of a route initially focused on potentially going through campus, she pushed to be on Franklin Street. Although they did not get a petition to shut down the street itself, they took over the sidewalk and Chapel Hill police stopped traffic when they crossed over an intersection. The entire march went from the McDonald’s on West Franklin and ended at Graham Memorial Hall in front of the Morehead Planetarium.
Jones and Madias Loper, a junior thrower with men’s track and field, were the only scheduled speakers. They were followed by sophomore Michael Spragley and senior Daniel McArthur, who are both on the track team, and were both moved to say something.
Jones addressed police brutality and the killing of George Floyd when a Minneapolis police officer kept a knee to his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Barnes said McArthur, who is white, moved some to tears by imploring whites to stand up when they witness injustice towards blacks.
Barnes(High Point Andrews High School) said she discussed logistics with campus police chief David Perry, who asked how big did she expect it to be.
“I said maybe 100, but we might not even get that many,” Barnes said. “We had well over 150-200 people — all masked up. I’m extremely surprised by the turnout considering we sent it out 24 hours beforehand.”
Hall made a flier she posted on social media. Barnes called or texted with every athlete she had saved in her contacts. Jones also reached out to make sure they let as many programs know as possible.
They requested that everyone wear the black, team-issued Nike shirts that listed their sport under Carolina. Barnes said that every varsity sport at UNC had at least one participant in the march adding that some teams were still adhering to quarantine protocols, which may have kept more from marching.
“The coaches came out — that was something we didn’t expect to happen,” Barnes said. “Our (track and field) coach Chris Miltenberg brought the whole coaching staff. We were super excited for that. They were very supportive.”