Radical Collaboration: Wake/WSSU Annual Basketball Fundraiser. It Could Work

The Journal’s John Dell reported that about 800 fans turned out for Friday night’s WSSUWake men’s exhibition game at Lawrance Joel. This was the first men’s basketball game between Winston-Salem State and Wake Forest in years. Sadly, Winston-Salem State only received a paltry $22,000 for playing Duke and Wake Forest in successive weeks. 

Here’s a crazy idea: Wake could host WSSU at the Lawrance Joel annually and use the game’s proceeds as a fundraiser for Winston-Salem State and a public relations coup for Wake Forest. 

Back in the 1990s, there was a local community group in Winston focused on increasing dialogue and addressing systemic racism’s legacy east of Highway 52. Crossing 52 had a critical mission. Though Crossing 52 ceased to exist decades ago, its focus is as relevant today as ever. Winston-Salem remains two cities divided by “Jim Crow in concrete.” Wake Forest has come to represent Winston west of Highway 52, and WSSU has come to represent East Winston.

If Wake invited Winston-Salem State’s basketball team to the Lawrence Joel on an annual basis, the cross-town matchup could serve to strengthen ties between the two fan/alumni bases. The Crossing 52 game could become a local institution in time. Wake Forest using the game as a fundraiser for WSSU; now that would be a radical collaboration between the two schools.

 

Though Wake and WSSU are separated by only a few miles, the two universities are worlds apart. There is a massive discrepancy between the two universities’ resources and endowments. An annual basketball game won’t change the financial gulf between the two institutions. But it would be a shot in the arm for Winston-Salem State. And it would help bring the city together.

Uniting Winston-Salem, a city divided along racial and geographic lines, was part of the City’s original vision for the Lawrance Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Please don’t call it the LJVM. (Sadly though it was named in 1986 and opened in 1989-at the same time that the Darryl Hunt case showed just how racist the city was)

Yes, the Lawrence Joel was named after the most decorated soldier in the city’s history. But Joel was also a Black man born and raised in East Winston. Naming the city’s coliseum after Joel was a big deal at the time, one that racists bitterly opposed.

A new, cross-town series at the Lawrence Joel would bring fans out in droves. Instead of less than a thousand fans attending the Wake-WSSU game, in time, the game could become the hottest ticket in town. Sellouts would not be out of the question, particularly if the two schools scheduled complimentary events centered on friendship, education, and dialogue during the week leading up to the game.

A Wake-WSSU annual basketball fundraiser. It could work. February should not be the only month that the Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State work together.

Winston-Salem Chronicle, Feb 2, 1995

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