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July 2011 Archives


A faded photograph is still able to tell a story. Furthermore, it can be used to jog the 
collective memory and conscience of folks for decades. The story is an earnest one. It is the story of the black families in rural Scarsdale, N.Y, who were given an opportunity to acquire an education and seized that opportunity. This education prepared them and their descendants who followed, for participation as citizens in our society. Fortunately, this phenomenon has not changed.
Today, Scarsdale is known for excellence in education. It is the community of choice for many families who seek academic excellence for their children. And it will take an entire village to ensure excellence and equity in education continues for all.
The Petersons, Pitts, Johnsons, and Upshaws attended the Dixon School in Quaker Ridge Distinct #2 on Griffin Avenue. "I believe the Quaker Ridge School was owned by the Saxon Woods Golf Course," Albert Surya Peterson (SHS '52) recalls. "Today the building is used for storage by the golf club. It should have been listed as one of the New York State historical sites. Stones were used to build this four-room schoolhouse. There were two classes in each room. The Quaker Ridge school at that time (circa 1940) consisted of four classrooms and a basement. We were served chocolate or plain milk in the basement as we ate our lunch from our lunch pails or brown bags. These two rooms had dividers. When opened, the rooms became our auditorium. We pushed our desks back and lined up chairs or each assembly. As the years moved on, a class was moved to the principal's office."
Surya continues: "Finally, it was necessary for Scarsdale to build a new school on Weaver Street in Quaker Ridge District #2. The teachers, principals, and custodians (who served us milk at lunch time) were caring and concerned about our education. This concern and support went beyond teaching." Ms. Dixon, the head schoolmistress is revered even today by many ... especially, Hazel Gill and George Peterson. Both, now in their late eighties, attended the Quaker Ridge School. Peterson retired from NASA after years of service in engineering and astronautics."
As indicated by Suyra, "Some of the students at the Quaker Ridge School routinely called me EIGHT" which was the black comic book character named Eight Ball. The comic strip was about the game of pool. I spoke to a former student at a recent SHS 50th Class Reunion. He stated that everyone had a nickname and he apologized for the incident. I don't know that the person who said that to me at the SHS reunion was from the Quaker Ridge Griffin Avenue school. And I did not ask him exactly what was the nature of the incident. I knew where I was at that time, and what could have been planted in the conscious mind by any American/Westchester culture, I believe the alum was sincere. And I felt good about it because perhaps the buck would stop there. Therefore, even though we had racist things happening in Westchester, every victory is a step forward toward oneness. The more I think about it, perhaps at that moment, I did not know how to think about what he may have said or done inappropriately to me in school. Surely, so much time has passed. Perhaps I need to revisit and talk about incidents that are still happening throughout Westchester and recently in Chappaqua a few months ago and even in Scarsdale High School. Where are the solutions? The healing must start at home. I urge all to visit Michael Lapsley's book titled: Healing of Memories Toward Humantiy."
It has been said that time heals all wounds. What remains is the fact that a good education was afforded to all Scarsdale residents, black or white. And that education became a launching pad for the better things that came along. All of the families along Saxon Woods Road prospered: These were American citizens who fought on European battlefields with our allies in W.W.II: American citizens who later worked for the federal government. These were stalwart citizens of Westchester.
Martin Luther King reminded us that education is the road to equality and citizenship. And it has been made more elusive for minorities. And the warding off of African Americans from an equal education is part of the historical design to submerge him in second-class status. This faded photograph teaches us that public education in Quaker Ridge was a gift. It did not cost anything but meant everything to the Saxon Woods Families. If this tradition is to continue today -- if there is to be equity for all -- we must protect the integrity of public schools. Surely, it will take an entire village to ensure that excellence and equal access to education continues for all. 
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