Desegregated or Integrated: Is There a Difference?

Panelists at today’s “Brown at 60” symposium at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute tackled the question of the difference between schools being integrated and those that are desegregated.

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala.–  On this the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision that supposedly desegregated the nation’s public schools, some have suggested the schools were never really integrated.

The U.S. Supreme Court on this date in 1954 declared “Separate but equal” is unconstitutional.  Later on the court ordered schools to dismantle desegregation “with deliberate speed” by working in five areas:

  1. facilities
  2. staff
  3. faculty
  4. extracurricular activities
  5. transportation

Wait a minute.  Did the dismantling of separate schools for whites and blacks mean those institutions were “integrated” or just “desegregated?”

You’ll get a different answer depending on who you ask.  During a panel discussion at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute today at a symposium “With All Deliberate Speed; Education Equity 60 Years After Brown,” University of Alabama at Birmingham Education Professor Tondra Loder-Jackson posed the definitional question to panelists.  Loder-Jackson directs the Center for Urban Education at UAB.

Here’s how they responded:

Samantha Elliott Briggs
Samantha Elliott Briggs

DR. SAMANTHA ELLIOTT BRIGGS, Consultant and Curriculum Specialist, Professor, Samford University
Integration conjures up ideas of assimilation.  Desegregation is more “all-encompassing.”  It provides choice, opportunities, and options

“I was part of a desegregation program.  I was part of the first generation of a group in 1984 to desegregate St. Louis County (Miss). Schools.

The schools were already INTEGRATED.

There were black students there, who lived in suburban neighborhoods.  But they wanted to provide a choice opportunity for students who were coming from an inner city urban environment to desegregate to have rare opportunity not only for inner city students going to the suburbs, but for the suburban students to come into the city.

“Integration will allow for us to come together and have a ‘kum ba yah,’ but without desegregation, we’re not really dealing with some of the walls, some of the attitudes and some of the behaviors

Michael Wilson
Michael Wilson

DR. MICHAEL WILSON, Principal Glen Iris Elementary School in Birmingham, Ala.

“I believe that integration should be a very natural thing.  It should be like integrating ideas.

It’s coming together being a human race rather than looking at skin color and things like ethnicity and where you’re from. .. Like in desegregating the workforce, we were forced to INTEGRATE because it was not happening naturally.

It should come from our hearts, souls and who we are.   The other one (desegregation) someone has to come to tell you do it because you’re not doing it.”

Margaret Zimmerman Beard
Margaret Zimmerman Beard

MS. MARGARET ZIMMERMAN BEARD, integrated Jefferson County, Ala. School System, now retired after 51 years and 10 months 

I think there is a difference.  Desegregation is simply a dismantling or un-doing the segregation.

No thought about the mechanics of the situation, no effort to change things.

We closed black schools and showed a lack of respect for their culture and their tradition.   The culture that existed in those walls.
Integration is fine.  That’s what happened with us.

Cameron Young
Cameron Young


CAMERON YOUNG,  Senior, Spain Park High School, Hoover, Ala.

At my school, we are integrated.  We have different types of races, different colors of skin at my school.

But, there still is segregation in the lunchroom.  You have white people over here.  You have Hispanics.

And then you have black people over here in different parts of the room and they don’t really come together and speak to each other.

They’re just kind of separate.  The only time you see them coming together is in the classroom… I think we should just come together and basically be one.

 

State School Superindent Bice Touts Change Strategies for Alabama Schools on 60th Anniversary of Brown Case

Alabama’s Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice used an address on the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education to challenge residents to join his campaign the “change the way Alabama does school.”

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.– On the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that desegregated the nation’s public schools, Alabama’s Superintendent of Education has a challenge for every Alabama resident: be the voice that creates change in our schools.

tommy-bice-0e1fa66951f3d972
Alabama State School Superintendent Tommy Bice

“If you don’t see things happening in your school system, ask why?.  You’ve been given permission to do so,” said Tommy Bice, in delivering the keynote address for a education symposium commemorating the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

The symposium took place this morning at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Bice talked about the importance of 90,000 Alabama residents”reframing the message” for changing schools around what’s best for state’s children and not just about teacher salaries and benefits.

His 40-minute address centered on ways Alabamians can “imagine” the state’s school systems where accountability was based on more than just standardized test scores, where students are involved in project-based learning experiences that exist beyond the traditional 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. school day.

He touted the differences he’s already made since taking over as the state superintendent nearly three years ago such as the end of the Alabama High School Graduation Exam.  In its place, new assessments tied to state standards are being implemented.

The change is part of new statewide effort to ensure students are “College and Career Ready,” part of the state’s “Plan 2020” that seeks to achieve a 90 percent graduation rate.

Bice says the biggest challenge he faces as state superintendent is “getting the right people in the right seats to teach the children who believe that regardless of what they bring to the table we can make a difference.”

“We can’t continue to do school like we’ve done school.,” he said. “We’ve got to do it very differently.

Mixed Results in This Week’s Media Coverage of 60th Anniversary of Brown Decision

WIS-TV gets it right when reporting on the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Media must help resident see local relevance of anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court decision.

On this 60th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision, the mass media have done an ok, though not outstanding, job of explaining the key issues still at play in public education today.
The 1954 decision declared that “separate but equal” schools were unconstitutional.  It eventually led to desegregation (but necessarily integration) of public school classrooms.

In a story that ran on the front page of my local newspaper here in Tuscaloosa this week, Associated Press Reporters Jesse Holland and Kimberly Hefling mostly focused on Gary Orfield’s “Brown at 60” report, which was released this week.

ABC News also published this same AP story.

Gary Orfield
Gary Orfield

Among other things, it found that in places like New York, California and Texas, more than half of Latino students are enrolled in schools that are 90 percent minority or more.  Orfield is a perennial expert on the issue of school desegregation.

The report is one of the few that gives a comprehensive look at where we stand as a nation.

The Civil Rights Project at UCLA is definitely to be commended for its work in this area.  I just have read an executive summary of the report released this week.

But, in reporting only on this “national” picture of Brown, the media may not go far enough.

These stories do little to make the issue of school desegregation (or in some cases “resegregation”) relevant to most Americans, in terms of their local schools.

With smaller news staffs,  most local news outlets probably didn’t bother to “localize” Holland and Hefling’s story.

While not as recent as the UCLA study,  the Brookings Institution looked at the overall issue of segregation in 2013 and examined the issue of class, which has to be included in any retrospective look at school desegregation.

Many of the pseudo-events  (i.e. rallies and press conferences) staged this week on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Brown called attention to the issue of resegregation.

For example, US News and World Report, on its web site, provided coverage of a rally by the National Education Association (NEA) among others.

 

WIS-TV recognizes Direct Beneficiaries of Brown

WIS-TV in Columbia, SC featured those who broke racial barriers more than a half-century ago in two South Carolina communities.
WIS-TV in Columbia, SC featured those who broke racial barriers more than a half-century ago in two South Carolina communities.

I haven’t seen many television stations like WIS-TV, which features Oveta Glover and Millicent Brown, who were among the first South Carolina students to attend all-white schools.

The NBC affiliate in Columbia, SC and perennial top-ranked Raycom-owned station included not only those from their market, but also someone who lived in Charleston (“the low country”) who was involved in desegregated schools there more than a half-century ago.

WIS-TV reporter Meaghan Norman gets a star for her story.

In spite of thin reporter ranks in, local news outlets, especially TV stations in the midst of May ratings sweeps, ought to be enterprising stories that make today’s discussion of race, education and equity relevant for their local viewers and readers.

 

Should Journalism Schools Add Workplace Safety and Security To Their Curricular Offerings?

Wednesday’s scare for employees at WMAR-TV might raise a question about what we in journalism education can do to prepare students to thrive in instances where the security of their workplace is compromised, yet they have to cover THE BIG STORY, of which they are a part.

The TV News business is a very small business.  Even for those like me who have moved away from the day-to-day TV news production, Tuesday’s events at a Baltimore area television station where a suspect drove a stolen truck into the building gave all of us in broadcast journalism a scare.

Here at the University of Alabama,  within the last month we’ve just started broadcasts from our brand new Digital Media Center and we have to wonder not only is our building secure enough, but how much should we as journalism professors prepare our students to handle situations like what confronted our friends at WMAR-TV?

One of the first pictures of the staff in the Digital Media Center.
One of the first pictures of the staff in the Digital Media Center, which is located in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

A decade ago when I worked as a news producer,  we had a disaster plan of action to COVER the biggest breaking news stories (a tornado, a plane crash, even a mass shooting).

But,  what happens when your OWN station becomes the story?    How do you balance staying calm while at the same time telling the news as it’s happening?

YOUR station is THE BIG STORY

Tuesday’s events in the Baltimore market happened to occur during what’s commonly known as “sweeps.”   The month of May is one of the four times a year when TV stations are particularly concerned about their program offerings and performance.   So, the employees at Scripps-owned ABC affiliate had to realize that their competitors were going to be all of the story,

A truck rammed into the front of WMAR-TV ABC 2 in Baltimore Tuesday. Photo courtesy of NBC Washington.
A truck rammed into the front of WMAR-TV ABC 2 in Towson, MD Tuesday. Photo courtesy of NBC Washington.

I can remember back at my first station (in my hometown of Richmond, Va.), at WTVR-TV,  in early 1990s, a man fell from our antenna casting the station into a major local story that was covered by our competitors, WWBT NBC 12 and WRIC-TV 8, the ABC station.

WMAR is owned by the E. W. Scripps company.

Scripps Senior Vice President Brian Lawlor applauded the WMAR employees for following their disaster plan and handling Tuesday’s events very well.
“We actually practiced evacuations within the past three months, ” Lawlor said.

But,  is there a teachable moment for up-and-coming young broadcast journalists  in all of this?

Newsroom Intruders Not a New Thing

In 2006, a 50-year-old was arrested after a more than two-hour standoff at the Spanish language version of the Miami Herald.   In this case, the suspect actually worked as a contractor  with El Nuevo Herald, and had problems with paper’s position on Cuban emigres.’

Since then in 2012,  a disgruntled man broke into WIBW-TV, the CBS affiliate a Topeka, Kansas.

Decades ago, ironically at ANOTHER Scripps-owned television, WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, a man stormed into the station then located downtown and took eight station employees hostage.  One of those employees, Elaine Green, who died recently, is remembered for her courage during the tense situation on October 15, 1980.

Perhaps it’s those stories of courage that we would be best served to share with our students as we urge them to have a plan for remaining calm in tense situations.

Unfortunately, workplace security breaches are a reality of the world we live in today.   It’s unfortunate that our friends at WMAR-TV had to be reminded of that this week.

It’s a good thing no one was hurt, but an even better thing that we can all be a little more intentional in our planning for disasters.

 

 

 

 

Social Media Tips Best Takeaway from Day One of Latest UA System Scholars Institute

Social media panel featuring University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration proved to be a signature event of the first day of the 2014 UA System Scholars Institute in Tuscaloosa. Day Two begins later this morning.

The first day of the 2014 University of Alabama System Scholars Institute is in the history books and I’m thinking the tips on how to use social media to enhance our academic mission have been the most memorable and most useful of the Institute.

Monday a team of faculty and staff from the second largest college here on the Tuscaloosa campus presented what I considered the best panel of the day.  But, a faculty member in my own College of Communication and Information Sciences, also shared some ways platforms such as Instagram and Tumblr can be integrated in our teaching and learning model.

Gary Ward, Susan Fant, Kyle Fondren and Ashley Joiner-George presented an outstanding session at the UA System Scholars Institute Monday in Tuscaloosa.
Gary Ward, Susan Fant, Kyle Fondren and Ashley Joiner-George presented an outstanding session at the UA System Scholars Institute Monday in Tuscaloosa. Photo by Vincent Palmer

In talking about “Teaching and Utilizing Social Media at Culverhouse College of Commerce,” Gary Ward, Kyle Fondren, Susan Fant and Ashley Joiner-George, offered a template for any academic unit to use no matter what  discipline.

28-year-old Fondren utilized his youth to make a compelling argument for why Twitter is essentially a must for an academic institution in communicating with its constituencies.

In outlining the “pipeline approach” that his College uses with a main Twitter handle, @culverhouse, Fondren shared a little bit about his own news consumption habits, something of particular interest to those of us in the field of journalism.

Fondren also made it clear why he’s the web content coordinator for Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration.  Full disclosure: Fondren is a graduate of the UA journalism program, where I am a member of the faculty.

What he brought in youth, Ward brought in experience of years as the leader of the Career Services unit.

Here are five more reasons why the Culverhouse panel was tops for me:

1. It involved both faculty and staff
The audience for the Scholars Institute is a mix of professor-types whose primary focus is our teaching and research and technology support personnel who help us do what we do.   There are also a fair number of administrators from the three campuses who attend.  This panel touched all three constituencies.

2.  It included alumni in the conversation
Most of our conversations at the Scholars Institute tend to be focused on what we’re providing and delivering for our current students.  The panel from Culverhouse made a key point about the role of social media in maintaining relationships with one’s alumni, an important role for any academic unit.

3. It touched on changing demographics

One of the best points of the panel was made by Ward as director of Graduate Career Services.  He stressed the importance of recognizing the aging demographic on Facebook, compared to those using other social media outlets. Those ‘older folks’ still are very important when it comes to influencing a young person’s decision about where to go to College or making a donation to one’s alma mater.
Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 5.17.41 AM
4. It showcased how Alabama is setting the tone for other institutions

One of the biggest lessons I learned from this presentation is how much C&BA Dean Michael Hardin and Manderson Associate Dean Brian Gray have become leaders in their use of Twitter. They’re setting the tone for other peer business schools around the region. We all want to do that in our respective fields.   But, it takes a commitment from the top administration and administrators willing to “model” such a commitment in their own everyday work.

5. It demonstrated a technological shift “IN PROGRESS”

None of us who are talking about the technologies we’re using have “arrived.”  The Culverhouse team are just finishing their first year of offering Digital and Social Media Marketing class as a part of its Masters of Science in Marketing degree.  Meanwhile, the C&BA administrators (and faculty) who are tweeting are still slowing building their Twitter following.  They’re sharing lessons they’re learning as they are learning them.

More Good Social Media Tips From Rachel Raimist

Rachel Raimist
Rachel Raimist

Also Monday, Rachel Raimist, an assistant professor in the UA Department of  Telecommunication and Film, did a solo presentation on her use of social media in two travel courses designed to socialize University of Alabama film students into the world of film festivals and the Hollywood scene.

One of the few UA faculty effectively using the relatively new “Winterim” three- week term as a teaching period, Raimist has offered her “TCF at Sundance” class twiee.   Her talk Monday was less about how to get students acclimated to the Sundance Film Festival, and more about how the structure a teaching and learning experience with such platforms as Tumblr, Instagram and yes, Facebook.
All three also have a place in her upcoming 8-week “TCF in Los Angeles” travel course that will run again in June and July.

Still digesting much of what she had to say.

University of Alabama Student Film on Journey to Integration Wins National Award, Showcases Student Journalists’ Role Then and Now

Daniel J. Roth’s film, “Stepping Through,” on University of Alabama’s 50-year-old journey to integration has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists at the “Best Use of Multimedia.” It spots the role of UA’s student journalists in 1963 and 2013.


I suppose we should just be excited that UA Telecommunication and Film Student Daniel J. Roth beat out students at several of the nation’s top journalism schools to win the Society of Professional Journalists’ First National Student Award for “Best Use of Multimedia.”

The 17-minute film, “Stepping Through” was chosen as the National Winner in the Mark of Excellence Awards,  an annual recognition of the top student work in journalism.

It was chosen from among 11 other regional winners that included student work at the Missouri School of Journalism, Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State and the Merrill College of Journalism at University of Maryland.

In "Stepping Through," Abbey Crain and Matt Ford recall why they wrote they published their story about Alabama's segregated Greek system in September 11, 2013.
In “Stepping Through,” Abbey Crain and Matt Ford recall why they published their story about Alabama’s segregated Greek system in September 11, 2013.

While SPJ has recognized online student work for several years, this is first time an award is being given specifically for the “Best Use of Multimedia.”

While I did not serve on the awards committee or as a judge this year,  I know there has been an ongoing discussion about the best way to judge journalistic work that is produced online, given that most student publications have a website.

But,  my excitement is not about The University of Alabama being the first to win in this brand new category.

As both a multimedia journalism instructor of 11 years here at UA and an advocate for diversity, I am most excited that this award recognizes a film showing the role student journalists played in the integration of the University of Alabama 50 years ago in 1963 and in 2013 when the University’s Greek system was integrated.

In the film, Hank Black, editor-in-chief of The Crimson White 1963-64 recounts his involvement in the integration aspect of the University of Alabama.
In the film, Hank Black, editor-in-chief of The Crimson White 1963-64 recounts his involvement in the integration aspect of the University of Alabama.

Roth’s film includes extensive interviews with Hank Black, the editor-in-chief of The Crimson White from 1963-64, who spoke of his own personal role in encouraging students from the all-black Stillman College here in town to make the move that would make history.

His words today about showing his friend, the late Dr. James Hood (who Black knew as “Jimmy Hood”) around campus prompted the name of Roth’s film, “Stepping Through.”

“I went through this period of integration frankly shaking in my boots every day.  Yet there was nothing to do except go through it.  You have to just step through,” Black said.  “What I did was nothing compared to what Vivian and Jimmy did in facing their fears and stepping across that line into a world they didn’t know.”

Yet Black’s courage seems to have been repeated five decades later when Crimson White Culture Editor Abbey Crain and Magazine Editor Matt Ford published their award-winning story “The Final Barrier” on the still segregated Greek system.

“It was the right thing to do and it needed to be talked about, ” said Matt Ford.  “These barriers stopping change needed to be addressed,”

Roth’s film also included interviews with Melody Twilley-Zeidan, who was twice denied a chance to be in a traditionally white sorority and Wendell Hudson, the first black scholar athlete at the university.

The award for the best use of multimedia had an unintended impact in shining the light on the University’s diversity efforts and the students here both in the past and the present who are integrally involved in making the University of Alabama an inclusive campus.    I can think of so many other students who are not only concerned about diversity, but also producing media projects that are directed at effecting change.

We have  Daniel Roth to thank for capturing the University’s 50-year journey from integration to Greek system integration on film.  It’s exciting to know his film, which is our story as a University of Alabama family,  is being recognized as THE BEST student multimedia work in the nation this year.

Roth will be presented his award in September in Nashville at the 2014 Excellence in Journalism Conference, sponsored by the Society of Professional  Journalists and Radio-Television Digital News Association (RTDNA).

With Photos, Panel Discussion, Tuscaloosa Area Students Re-open Dialogue About Outcomes of School Desegregation

A brand new photo exhibit and a high school student panel discussion Friday at a downtown Tuscaloosa arts center re-visit issues over the desegregation of all U.S. schools, just two weeks before the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Five schools from Tuscaloosa's Northridge and Central High School participated in a panel discussion at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center Friday, May 2.
Five students from Tuscaloosa’s Northridge and Central High Schools participated in a panel discussion at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center Friday, May 2. NPR’s Gene Demby (far right) moderated the discussion.

Just two weeks before we officially mark the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that desegregated American schools,  high school students in Tuscaloosa, Ala. laid out some issues in education that need to be discussed not only here, but across America.

Two generations removed from those who in the wake of 1954 Supreme Court decision broke racial barriers as black and white students began attending classes at the same schools, 20  students at Northridge High School and Central High School showed how a digital camera can capture the realities of so-called “resegregation” in 2014.

Starting Friday, May 2 and continuing through the May 17th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the fruit of their labor with the camera lens is on display at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in downtown Tuscaloosa.  To coincide with the opening of the photo exhibit, ProPublica hosted a screening of Maisie Crow’s mini-documentary Saving Central, which was produced in conjunction with the publication of  “Segregation Now” story in the May issue of The Atlantic Magazine.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative reporter with ProPublica produced "Segregation Now" for The Atlantic Magazine.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative reporter with ProPublica, produced “Segregation Now” for The Atlantic Magazine.

“On top of me writing an article, we wanted to give students a chance to show what race in education looks like for them instead of adults always speaking for them,” said Nikole Hanna-Jones, the award-winning investigative journalist who spent more than a year researching the situation in the Tuscaloosa City Schools.

“She is basically the best reporter on desegregation and integration out there,” said Gene Demby of National Public Radio’s Code Switch Team, which focuses on issues of race, ethnicity and culture.

Demby moderated a brief panel discussion Friday, which featured five of the 20 students whose photography work followed up on issues raised in Hanna-Jones’ reporting on resegregation.

Taking Action

The students wrote six-word essays as part of The Race Card Project, but also captured images using digital camera that served as a status report on the situation with race in the Tuscaloosa City Schools.

The glaring omission from the group of students who were involved were those from the city’s eastside at Paul W. Bryant High School.

“We picked Northridge [High School] because it’s the most integrated high school in the city.  And we picked Central [High School] because it’s the most segregated high school in the city,” Hanna-Jones said.  “They produced really amazing work, beautiful photos that tell the truth that not just Tuscaloosa, but communities all across this country are largely ignoring.”

The Issues:  Through Today’s Students’ Eyes

ISSUE 1:  EXPOSURE to those of other races

Students were queried about the whole idea that 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education, schools that did desegregate are now segregated again.  In Tuscaloosa, Northridge High School is the best example of an integrated high school setting.

“I actually am happy that I go to the school that I do because I am able to interact with people of other races rather than just black and white,  said Camri Mason, sophomore at Northridge High School.

“We all learned about Brown versus Board of Education in history class, but you never really think segregation still exists in our school system,”  said Rebecca Griesbach, a sophomore at Northridge High School.  “I remember the first time we collaborated with the students at Central and they told us that they really had any diversity at all and it really shocked me.”

ISSUE 2: EQUAL DISTRIBUTION OF RESOURCES

Perhaps the topic that received the most attention during the panel discussion was Tuscaloosa City School System’s allocation of resources to the three high schools.   Pre-1954, predominantly black schools were known to have inferior textbooks and sub-par facilities compared to white schools.   The desegregation of the schools was supposed to correct that problem.

Today, with re-segregated schools, the matter of “unequal” class offerings was identified as an example of how the experiences of the more integrated Northridge High School was different from the nearly all-black Central High School.

Board Vice Chair Earnestine Tucker, who several years ago raised the issue of why Physics courses were not offered all the schools, tonight made it clear that now “resources were not the issue,” even though some of the students felt that they were not getting all the resources that were needed.   In some cases, something as similar as a whiteboard was mentioned as a lacking piece of equipment at one school.

After a somewhat heated exchange between members of the audience and those on the panel,  it was suggested that students needed to know the manner for requesting resources when they are needed at their school.

ISSUE 3: SEGREGATED STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS

During the question-and-answer session,  a member of the audience introduced the matter of segregated sororities and fraternities,  a problem that cast the University of Alabama’s Greek System into the national spotlight last fall.    Students from the local high schools were asked if this type of segregation was evident at their high schools.

One of the student panelists indicated segregated student sororities are a problem at the high school level. Often these sororities are “by invitation only.”

ISSUE 4: SCHOOL ZONING MAPS
At least two questions were asked tonight about why students living a few minutes from one school were zoned to travel a far distance to another school?

Clearly the concept of “neighborhood” school is not fully understood or being implemented to the satisfaction of all in Tuscaloosa.

Through The Camera Lens

jazmine
Jazmine Thompson, a senior at Central High School, had four photos in the exhibit at Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in downtown Tuscaloosa.

Many of the 15 students who did not participate in the panel discussion expressed themselves through the photos that are on display at the Cultural Arts Center.

Among them is Jazmine Thompson, a senior at Central High School.

Thompson says she’s found herself frequently having to dispel myths about students at her school being under-achieving or not having the same excitement about their school as Northridge High School and Bryant High School.

“We do have school spirit like other two schools, “said Thompson, who recalls painting her own face half red and half white as part homecoming.

Thompson plans to attend Shelton State Community College, which is located in Tuscaloosa,  in the fall.

In the past, she’s written stories for her school publications.

Meanwhile at Northridge High School, James Niiler, who will be the editor of award-winning Northridge Reporter next year, took some photos that were included in the exhibit.   His photo entitled “BUSED” was designed to show the experience that many face when they are transported out to his high school north of time.

jamesniiler
James Niiler is a sophomore at Northridge High School and member of the staff of The Northridge Reporter.

Niiler also participated in the panel discussion.

“We can’t constantly be focusing on the wrongness of the past,” said Niileer, who recalls attending school with people from different racial groups virtually all of his life, including during a brief school experience in Texas.  “We just have to learn to live together.”

Clearly the students at Central High School and Northridge High School are learning a lot about the educational dilemmas that face our nation six decades after Brown v. Board of Education.

When May 17th rolls around later this month,  the nation can turn to these Tuscaloosa area students for an understanding of where we are as a nation in providing equal access to a quality education to all children.

“The whole point of this exhibit was the be able to foster a conversation, to be able to see the truth through photography and then invite the community in, talk about the issues and decide what is to be done,” said Hannah Jones.