Avery Walter (they/them)

Interview by Diego Vergara (he/him)

How did you arrive to Higher Ed?

I arrived at App state after receiving a full-ride scholarship for young people who fell below the poverty line. Part of my goal for pursuing higher ed is to be a sociology professor at some point. I love that being a teacher gives you such an important place for students, and eventually want to be the professor I always needed.

As a black queer and genderqueer student activist, I felt like my school wasn’t for me. Many people I went to school with didn’t care about people with my identities. During my first years at App, I witness professors saying the n-word and allowing their students to say hateful things. My colleagues would report these instances to higher-ups, but they never resolved the issue. Eventually, I started to piece together these individual acts violence and noticed that people who ran the university were allowing this to happen.

Avery at Michael Brown protest. Photo by Mickey Hutchings

What brought you to organizing?

The first time I was like “yeah we can make administrators listen to us” was during the HB2 occupation at App State, in 2016. We occupied the administration building on campus for six days to get our chancellor to release a statement that publicly went against HB2. During the occupation, we had a lot of conversations about the UNC Board of Governors, who are the people who make decisions about our college environment.

I got deeper into organizing my senior with Ignite NC. That year, a couple of organizers and I got together to hold App Sate’s administration accountable for the safety of their students. That year we rallied folx to pressure administration adequately respond to a white supremacist banner drop on our campus. The next semester, the administration allowed Michael Brown, a guest speaker, come to our school with a hidden anti-LGBTQ and xenophobic agenda. As response students protested and we were placed with heavy restrictions of free speech.

As a result of our organizing that year, we brought back to life App Social Justice Educators, a student-led group that was instrumental in organizing students to fight against HB2. At first, administrators were mad about us coming back, but now administrators and professors reach out in support of the work they are doing and the work they hold.

Avery at Michael Brown protest. Photo by Mickey Hutchings

Anything you want to ask from the community?

Organizing at App State has been a hard battle. There has been a long cycle of students trying to affect change but one way, or another they have been pushed out. During my time at App, I wish I could’ve asked more people who shown interest in the work to support me. At times I was holding down all the work.

If you see your campus organizers running around doing all this work, ask them how you can support them. You can say, “I want to help lessen the workload in any way I am able too.” See where you can plugin. You can always help fold pamphlets or hand out sheets, or buy them a coffee.

What are you currently dreaming about for App State?

I dream that I’ve been thinking about lately, is campus and community organizers collaborating with people in direct conversation with an administration, like the association of student governments (SGA). I don’t like that there is a separation between student government and student activist. For example, if SGA was to write a bill that’s like “we are gonna have gender-inclusive housing.” If there is no way to hold your chancellor accountable for making gender-inclusive housing, then they are probably not going to do it. It would be a dope paring to have student government and student activist work together because the ladder can help with the follow-up aspect of a bill like “gender-inclusive housing.”