Upcoming events for the 65th anniversary of Brown

May 17th will mark 65 years since the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Brown vs. Board of Education. It’s a key moment in the year for the school integration movement, a time to reflect (often on the pace of resegregation or the unfulfilled promises of Brown) and a time that many groups use for conversation and action. Along those lines, I wanted to list some of the key events happening next month. I’m sure I’m missing stuff- please let me know via email (psu.cecr@gmail.com) or in comments.

Brown@65: A national symposium for the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education Center for Education and Civil Rights on May 10th at Penn State University

I’m particularly excited about this event, as the Center for Education and Civil Rights (where I work) will be co-hosting with Penn State’s Africana Research Center. It features Nikole Hannah-Jones as the keynote, but it does not stop there, with panel presentations that include folks whose work/research factors regularly into my writing on this blog – Ansley Erickson, Derek Black, Janelle Scott and Gary Stein (a special counsel in this important NJ lawsuit), among others. As we say on our website, “Speakers will discuss Brown’s promise of racial integration amidst major contemporary threats to civil rights in education.”

We are already near our registration cap, though we have a few more spots available for the lunchtime keynote. If you are in the State College area then, you can register here. Also, we’ll be tweeting about this even under the #Brown65 hashtag, and we hope to promote conference proceedings after the event. I will include updates here.  

#RetireSegregation IntegrateNYC, a 6-week campaign that ends in a party on May 17th in NYC

Last year, the youth activists at IntegrateNYC organized a 5-week campaign that included teach-ins on each of their 5 Rs for real integration, under the hashtag #StillNotEqual. They are following that up with the very cleverly named #RetireSegregration event as the Brown decision turns 65 years old. Like last year, they’ll focus on their 5 Rs for one week each, followed by an additional week that focuses on teacher representation. Specifically, they’ll use social media and various events to raise awareness about fact/statistics related to each R, share student stories and promote concrete policy recommendations. This all culminates in a retirement party for segregation on the Brown anniversary. Throughout the campaign, they aim to mobilize more than 3,000 students to sign on to and act for Real Integration, and to get commitments from 5 policy makers to act to reverse school segregation. I’m proud to say that the CECR and this very blog are both allies for the campaign. If you want more info, please email hello@integratenyc.org or visit integratenyc.org/retiresegregation.  

Bolling 65th Anniversary Community Event: The Past, Present, and Future of School Diversity in DCLearn Together, Live Together on May 19th in Washington DC

This is not commonly part of the conversation about Brown, but it’s an important part of the history – Brown wasn’t just one case, it was 5 separate cases (from various states with legal segregation at the time) that were bundled  under the heading of Brown. One of those cases – Bolling v. Sharp – came from Washington DC. Learn Together, Live Together – a DC-based org is hosting the event, which includes a panel discussion on the history of segregation in DC, a student fishbowl to explore contemporary educational justice issues, and a gallery walk to develop solutions. As they describe:

“This community event to elevate the history and present context of school diversity and equity in DC, foster conversations on how to address issues of inequity, and develop next steps for creating a cohesive vision and movement for diverse, equitable, and inclusive schools for all of DC’s students.”

It’ll be held at Sousa Middle School, which was at the center of the original Bolling case. The registration link for this event is not yet live, but you can check back here for updates and/or check in with LTLT on twitter.  

Summit for Civil Rights Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity (IMO) on May 2-3 at Rutgers University

This event isn’t specifically tied to the anniversary of Brown and it’s a bit earlier than the others, but it is obviously closely related. And, it looks fantastic. There’s a long list of influential and prominent speakers, including Rep. James Clyburn, Keith Ellison, Sherrilyn Ifill, and President of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson. IMO has a description of the event on it’s blog. Here’s an excerpt with some background/framing:

“The 2nd annual Summit for Civil Rights comes at a difficult political moment for the civil rights community, when its values are being forgotten in institutions such as the federal Department of Justice and the U.S. Supreme Court. This national Summit is intended to reverse this narrative of defeat and decline, and explore the ways in which this dark political moment is in fact a time of immense social opportunity for racial and social justice, rooted in unexpected places.”

The preliminary agenda includes sessions on what is working in the field and on aligning the progressive agenda with contemporary civil rights, andt he main website for the event has a lot of other useful info.

Brown-related podcasts

Especially if you’re not able to attend any of these events in person, I wanted to close by highlighting a few great podcasts on Brown and civil rights more generally:

  • Brown V. Board: The stories we tell ourselvesIntegrated Schools
    • Building on its extremely engaging and popular podcast, Integrated Schools is doing a mini-series on the Brown anniversary, which will release episodes over the next month or so. As they describe, the Brown anniversary often (and rightly) inspires much discussion of the numerical data on how schools have re-segregated since Brown. It’s at least equally important, however, to talk about the stories we tell ourselves about Brown (e.g., that Brown solved segregation). So, each episode in this series will “unpack some of these popular narratives and the ways in which they have undermined our ability to deal with racial and educational injustice.” The first episode came out last week, and it features Rucker Johnson, whose work is extremely influential in its identification of the academic and social benefits of integrated schools, as outlined in his new book Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works. Subsequent episodes will include Noliwe Rooks and Amanda Lewis.
  • Cape Up: Voices from the MovementJonathan Capehart of the Washington Post
    • This also isn’t specifically tied to Brown, but is definitely related. It’s a series of short podcasts that feature voices from the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Jonathan Capehart, an opinion writer for the Washington Post, traveled to key areas of the South to interview prominent as well as lesser-known figures from this time. Three episodes have already been released. Frankly, I’ve been glued to every word. One episode featured Minnijean Brown Trickey – one of the Little Rock Nine – and Carolyn McKinstry, who narrowly survived the KKK’s bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Another features MLK’s lawyer, who describes how he smuggled paper to Dr. King in jail so that he could write the Letter from the Birmingham Jail. Just incredible, incredible stories. They’ll be releasing one episode per week through May.

There’s a lot of fascinating stuff in the conversation with Minnijean Brown Trickey. One of the things she says, though, really hit me – she says that she expected the white students at Central High School “would be as excited for me to go there as I would be to go to that school, and there would be this sharing of what teenage life is like.” There’s so much in this quote. It’s heartbreaking to know that this was her hope. And, it’s also a reminder that amidst all the struggle and violence over the last 65 years (and more), what we’re advocating for is something that is beautiful and, in a way, simple.

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