To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the falling of the Berlin Wall that divided Germany for a quarter century, students constructed and added graffiti to four, nine-foot walls — addressing the question, “what walls hold you back?”
After the walls were decorated, students reconvened to break down the barriers.
Sponsored by the Department of German and Russian and the Pro Humanitate Institute, the Wake Forest “Berlin Wall” was to remind the community that the campus is made stronger when people feel empowered to be themselves.
“I wanted to encourage students to celebrate the feeling of freedom and promise that accompanied the fall of the Wall,” said Molly Knight, assistant professor of German. “For me, the Berlin Wall lends itself well as a symbol for all the barriers that hold us back, as a community and as individuals.”
Andrea Becker, a junior sociology major from Charlotte, N.C., visited Berlin, Germany last spring. She found a passion for the German culture and language, so she decided to take an intermediate German class this semester to continue to grow her German vocabulary and knowledge.
“The Berlin Wall is one of the most important events in European as well as modern history. The western Wall, a portion of the Wall that was preserved, still stands today as a reminder that divides still exit,” said Becker. “Even if the Wake Forest wall was temporary, it got discussions started on campus.”
Students could paint or draw anything on the Wake Forest walls that they believe causes division or makes it hard to be oneself.
Becker painted a tile about gender equality, a topic that is close to her heart. As an executive board member of the Gender Equality Allies, Becker joins a community of Wake Forest students who work to resolve gender-related issues on campus.
“It is important to come together as a community to make a united Wake Forest,” she said.
Uniting what was divided
Students, faculty and staff stopped by Friday evening to bring down the “Berlin Wall” with hammers and bats. With each donation of a non-perishable food item for the Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest, participants got one whack at the wall. Students were encouraged to take a piece of the wall with them as a reminder to support a diverse and inclusive learning environment.
While every student may not have actively participated in painting the wall, most walked by Manchester Plaza one of the three days it was on display.
Kimberly Bowen, a sophomore from Washington, D.C., was eager to participate in the tearing down of the “Berlin Wall.” Along with 20 or so students, Bowen took several hits at the plaster.
“Seeing all the students here – supporting one another – shows that we can conquer our fears and anxieties together,” she said.