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I was born in Farmville Va., located in Prince Edward County It is my ancestral home. My parents, aunts, uncles and cousins attended R.R. Moton High School in Farmville. They experienced the injustices of a separate and unequal education policy in the school for "Negroes." 
Although I was born in Farmville, my parents were established in New York and that is where I grew up. It was because of family ties to Farmville and frequent visits back home to "Old Virginny" that I became aware of the news of a two-week student protest, which was led by Barbara Johns in April 1951. 
The protest of nonviolent direct action launched by the students attending the segregated and overcrowded Moton High School is often cited as the start of the civil rights movement. It led to a lawsuit, Davis v. County School Board, which became one of the cases making up the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that rejected the premise of separate but equal education. 
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(The Martha E. Forrester Council of Women, formerly Council of Colored Women, composed of many retired teachers, raised $300,000 to buy the one-story Moton school and convert it to a center for the study of civil rights in education. For more information, visit their website: http://www.motonmuseum.org/)
Writing for the Organization of American Historians, Susan Bagby, a professor at Longwood College, noted: " Moton High School, named for Virginia educator Robert R. Moton, president of Tuskegee Institute, opened in 1939 designed to accommodate 180 students. By the time of the 1951 walkout, 450 African-American students were crowded into the school. The three 'tar paper' shacks erected by the school board beside the high school to add classroom space symbolized for Moton students the inequality in facilities and sparked the protest for a new high school in 1951."
While attending Hunter College in New York City in 1959, I was able to escape the misery of the South and its horrific Jim Crow laws. New York did have remnants of the Jim Crow laws, but for the most part, discrimination was more subtle and racism was institutionalized.
Virginians faced the day-to-day blatant realities of separate and unequal facilities. Even the newspaper, the Farmville Herald, had a little section for the Colored News.
And of course there were colored cemeteries.
"The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors closed the public schools rather than desegregate. Thus, the arenas for the legal battles were the courts. This culminated in the 1964 Supreme Court case Griffin v. County School Board, which forced local authorities to fund public education and reopen the schools," Bagby writes.
President Kennedy sent U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy to Farmville to ensure the reopening of the public schools. Our national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers, established its Human Rights Department at that time to address the concerns related to segregation in public schools. Dr. Barbara Van Blake, director of the AFT Human Rights Department, recalls how the AFT sent educators to Farmville to teach in the newly integrated schools. AFT President Sandra Feldman and other members of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City were also involved in this civil rights struggle.
Many private homes in Farmville were opened to the teachers from the North. My grandfather's home was one of those available to members of this delegation of teachers.
"The vast majority of the county's 1,700 African American students went without formal education between 1959 and 1964," Bagby writes, "although some families sent their children to relatives outside the area, and other students were placed by the American Friends Service Committee with families or private schools in the Northeast and Midwest." 
Hence, my cousins came to New York and New Jersey to complete their education. Barbara Johns, the young student activist, was sent to Alabama for her safety. Years later, the Johns family moved to the nation's capital. Their Farmville home was burned to the ground.
"The students who lost five years of public education have been variously dubbed 'the lost generation' and 'the crippled generation' by reporters and researchers studying the long-term effects of educational deprivation," Bagby says. It is sad to sa, yet true, that white students who could not afford to attend the segregated private schools were also a part of the lost generation.
The problems faced by one member of our society become everyone's problem.
After visiting Farmville, Va., in the 1950s -- after not being permitted to sit at a counter in the local Woolworth's or the local pharmacy -- after remembering the colored-only balcony in Farmville's movie theater -- it was easy for me to return to Hunter College and participate in the first march on Washington with a rainbow coalition of college coeds from around New York state.
Our caravan of buses left New York City at 3 a.m., joined by students from Bard, New York University, Sarah Lawrence, Barnard and all the City University of New York colleges. 
With singer Harry Belafonte a part of our delegation, we marched along Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Lincoln Monument. Neither the president nor any member of his Cabinet greeted us.
Our march is often forgotten in official accounts of the civil rights movement, but our fervor carried forward. Protests continued in areas surrounding the University of Pennsylvania's campus. As a graduate student at Penn in 1960, I helped the undergraduates make placards, which were used to protest Woolworth's discriminatory policies and Tastykake's discriminatory hiring practices. 
Today's problems with racial discrimination are only mirrors to the former years of slavery in the North. Lest we forget, even the nation's capital had its problems with segregated buses, schools and facilities -- again, remnants of slavery.
Fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, the New York City public schools and housing are still virtually segregated by economics. Minorities, also known as the poor, rest at the bottom of the economic ladder. They live in poorer neighborhoods known for their failing schools, high crime rates and inadequate services.
Teachers in these inner-city schools are always struggling to get the necessities for their students. When lobbying in Albany does not do enough, many teachers are forced to take out-of-pocket monies to create the proper classroom environments. But despite their efforts, the schools become as poor as the neighborhoods they serve. 
The impoverished schools are placed on the bottom of a list for repairs and renovation. Crumbling ceilings, walls, floors become the daily realities of students and teachers. Mice, roaches and more are a part of the setting for lessons unrelated to science. And both students and teachers become caught in the crossfire on the streets and in the schools as crime makes daily inroads.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is evident that we cannot build a strong foundation for this nation on a foundation of misery for any one of its citizens. There is more work to be done. 
Brown v. Board of Education was merely a beginning. 
We must press on.

There is a crisis in education. This state of crisis in the schools is not new. The minority populations have felt this for a very long time. In 1972, I began to chronicle the events in the school, as parent involvement became an issue. And now in retrospect, I can see that the idea of public education as a big business and its failure to produce a marketable product is not new; nor is the inability of our students to pick up the ladder of social and economic mobility, which rests horizontally at the base of all walls that surround the inner city.

In 1964, Martin Luther King warned us about partially educating youth in the following statement: "huge masses are left handicapped in the shadows of ignorance and submerged in second class status."

"We are told of one stunning educational success after another, with ever more children passing the standardized tests. But in reality, the city's public school students, particularly those students of color in inner city neighborhoods, are receiving a less than quality education." --Education Planning Council Of Harlem, N.Y., July, 2006.

"The system still fails to educate its African American and Latino students to the degree that they are ill-equipped to compete, academically and intellectually, with children of other racial and ethnic groups, attending schools in other neighborhoods. Our children are graduating at too low a percentage, we can also say poorly prepared for the challenges of higher education and fulfilling, lucrative new millennium careers."--Education Planning Council Of Harlem N.Y., July 2006.

National Assessment of Educational Progress: In 2007, there has been "no significant change in the average scores for Black, Hispanic ... students compared to 2003 and 2005." --Jackie Bennett Edwize Nov. 22, 2007 "T.U.D.A. and D.O.E. Response -Part II".

These statements are not new. Our youth are in crisis. And the educational system is in crisis. This means that we need to look for ways to end the cycle of failure, which is systemic throughout the impoverished inner city communities. Everyone should be involved in the process of ameliorating this situation. If not, that is the problem.

Since one size does not fit all, we should certainly try to look at exemplary programs for our schools, which will work. Of course, there are success stories whenever these programs work and enable students to reach their academic potential. Nevertheless, we are constantly assessing the progress of students and tailoring instruction to meet their needs. The hours spent by effective teachers are incalculable. But at least as educators, we try because we are dealing with human lives. We try, because the alternative of not trying is too costly, as prisons await those children who have failed to become productive citizens. We try, because the school to prison pipeline is a reality for far too many of our students, as police in our schools takeover the role once reserved for teachers and administrators.

Educators in N.Y.C. public schools know that smaller class size is a priority; adequate resources are a priority; staff development is a priority; and parent participation is a necessity. We know that we need highly qualified teachers, paraprofessionals, social workers, guidance counselors, psychologists, mentors, administrators, and union leaders. Surely, the schools that have the aforementioned cadre of professionals are fortunate.

However, it is unfortunate that N.Y.C. has left parents and teachers out of the decision making process for too long. Therefore, I applaud any positive effort that is being made on behalf of children in N.Y.C. Certainly, we have a long way to go. But we must pull out all stops to make this broken system work.

N.Y.C. Public School System was once a viable force for its earliest immigrants, like Henry Kissinger, who attended George Washington High School at night and worked in a shaving-brush factory during the day. Today, the N.Y.C. Public Schools must work for all of its students, again. Arthur Eisenberg is right: "The state must seek to break the cycle of discrimination and disadvantage". Certainly, the future of America, as a strong nation, depends on it.

"Education is a field where this contest of ideas for the legacy of the civil rights movement is perhaps most evident, both because of the ways in which Brown had meshed the civil rights agenda with the quest for quality schooling for communities of color and the fact that so much of the promise of Brown remains unfulfilled."... "Democratic citizenship and collective self-empowerment means that one stays and fights the good fight." From: American Liberalism, Education And The Legacy Of The Civil Rights Movement: By Leo Casey.
Surely it was Martin Luther King who fought the good fight, and it was Martin Luther King who kept the faith. "Visionaries like James Foreman, Kwame Toure, Ella Baker, Diane Nash, E.B. Nixon and Martin Luther King crafted strategies around mass mobilizations in African-American communities, and deliberately, creatively violated the law in order to change the nation's misguided public policies. It was common practice, for instance, in towns and cities where the 1960s Freedom Movement was in high gear, to turn out a city's colleges and high schools for days on end," states Bruce Dixon, Editor of The Black Agenda
But who will finish the course? Who will lead us today when schools fail to reflect democracy in action? Who will help ensure that parents, students, and teachers share in the decision making process in these turbulent and critical times?
"A significant portion of the black leadership in those days was responsible to black communities alone," notes Bruce Dixon while reflecting on the past. "They crafted political responses to the public policy crises of that era which they pursued both inside and outside America's legal system, responses aimed at changing public policies that harmed African-American communities."
Who will speak out against the school-to-prison pipeline, which has fostered mass incarceration of people of color and created slave labor camps in 21st Century plantations aka prisons? Bruce Dixon reminds us that: "Attorneys Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall crisscrossed the continent defending black prisoners on death row and filing cases to overturn legal segregation. It was due to years of these efforts that Thurgood Marshall, in the 1940s became known as "Mr. Civil Rights."
As we move through the 21st Century, we are reminded that the dream of a new and just American society must not die because, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The dream of a new and just American society must not die because it is a dream based on the American dream of liberty and justice for all. The dream of a new and just American Society will not die because, "The arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice." The words of Martin Luther King are remembered, today. Lest we forget that our time has come to ensure that the American dream is fulfilled for all of its citizens. Leo Casey is right, "Democratic citizenship and collective self-empowerment means that one stays and fights the good fight." Surely, we must press on!

What is Justice in America?

"There is a principle -- which is compatible with the presumption of innocence, and is deeply ingrained in our sense of justice -- that individuals wrongly accused of a crime should suffer neither stigma nor adverse consequences by virtue of an arrest or criminal accusation not resulting in conviction," Governor David Paterson, June 16, 2010
Thus, Governor Paterson signed a bill limiting Stop-and-Frisk Database of the names and addresses of those stopped. This action requires some reflection because we are living in the 21st century and not the 17th century. This action was necessary because there is still a resistance to equity before the law for persons of color in this nation.
While one would think that after years fighting the institution of slavery and subsequent Jim Crow laws, the nation would be able to move on to a new day of freedom and justice for all Americans, but it has not happened. 
Apparently, there are new racist laws that have replaced the old unjust laws. And so once again, we must take up the mantle to strike them down. In the past we had courageous leaders, white and black, Jews and gentiles, who would make the ultimate sacrifice to see that justice was served. We had dynamic lawyers like Thurgood Marshall who crisscrossed the nation to fight injustices. However, today, there seems to be less outrage to the injustices that plague our nation as the growth of intolerance continues. The quiet storm of outrage is limited primarily to the affected communities.
In 2007 Julian Bond said that each and every citizen, irrespective of color, should be assured of the equality of opportunity and equality before the law, which underlie our American institutions and are guaranteed by the Constitution.
Martin Luther King said: "I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds."
Fredrick Douglass warned, "Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe."
I believe Douglass, King and Bond were correct. However, not many people were listening. Because today our basic rights are not fully protected. And therefore the racial profiling in Arizona and New York that impedes our liberty, justice, and pursuit of happiness must end. 
King also stated, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." If that is true, we must applaud Governor Paterson and President Obama for taking a quantum leap forward in the right direction. "Because human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals," King said. 
"The Arizona immigration law is poised to inflame the already widespread problem of racial profiling in the United States. This law, S. B. 1070, would require law enforcement officers to investigate a person's citizenship status if they think that the person could be in the country unlawfully. This is a clear invitation to racial profiling, and because of this new law, more people will be put into jails and the criminal justice system merely because of their race or ethnicity. When law enforcement is invited to question people based on appearance and without evidence of criminal activity, dire consequences occur," according to the ACLU
"Similarly, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's support for New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy is another abysmal example of racial profiling in law enforcement. According to the New York Times, in 2009, African-Americans and Latinos were nine times more likely to be stopped than whites but no more likely to be arrested. From 2004 to 2009, almost 3 million people were stopped and frisked; 90 percent of these people were not charged with a crime." --ACLU
Surely there will be more difficult days ahead. The U.S. Justice Department recently sued Arizona over SB 1070. Yet, throughout these tumultuous times, we can take comfort in knowing that "the moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice." --Martin Luther King, 1964
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