“Learn Together, Live Together (LTLT) hosted a #Bollingat65 event on May 19, 2019, at Sousa Middle School in Washington, DC to commemorate the 65th anniversary of DC’s historic desegregation case Bolling v. Sharpe and join the campaign to #RetireSegregation once and for all…
By Alana Serfaty, Community Organizing Fellow, LTLT
Learn Together, Live Together (LTLT) hosted a #Bollingat65 event on May 19, 2019, at Sousa Middle School in Washington, DC to commemorate the 65th anniversary of DC’s historic desegregation case Bolling v. Sharpe and join the campaign to #RetireSegregation once and for all.
Bolling was a companion case to the four other cases consolidated into the Brown v. Board of Education landmark Supreme Court decision. Unique in its own right, Bolling challenged school segregation under federal jurisdiction (which is the case for public schools in DC), whereas the other four cases challenged segregation under state law. The event was held at Sousa Middle School, the school at the center of this important civil rights case. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Anacostia Community Museum, National Coalition on School Diversity, EmpowerEd, Integrated Schools-DC, and Kindred were among some of the many co-sponsors and partners for the event.
With nearly 90 people in attendance – including volunteers, panelists, and community members from across the District – the event served as a productive and engaging springboard for conversations about the importance of understanding history to inform and shape policy for today and the future of education in DC.
Through a series of panels and small group discussions, attendees were invited to think critically about the current policies in place, how they affect both students and educators, and what would need to change to increase school diversity and equity in DC schools.
The first panel included Chelsea Coffin, Director of Education Policy Initiative at the DC Policy Center; Elizabeth Davis, President of the Washington Teachers’ Union; Kimberly Springle, Executive Director of the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives; Michaele Turnage Young, Senior Counsel at NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Dawn Williams, Dean at Howard University School of Education; and Janel George, Senior Policy Advisor of the Learning Policy Institute, who moderated the panel. The purpose of the panel was to understand the significance of the Bolling case and the history and context of school segregation in DC.
Another panel featured students from Ballou High School, Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, Thurgood Marshall Academy, and Washington Latin Public Charter School, who were asked to discuss their thoughts about the Brown/Bolling cases, school diversity and equity in DC, and the challenges and opportunities from their perspectives.
After a brief networking break that included opportunities to sign a ‘retirement card’ and enjoy a ‘retirement cake’ for segregation, attendees engaged in facilitated small group discussions.
Using IntegrateNYC’s 5 R’s of Real Integration framework (Race and enrollment, Resources, Relationships, Restorative justice, and Representation), groups discussed the following questions to identify solutions to prioritize:
- Goals: What do you want for your school and for DC schools more broadly?
- Challenges: What do you see as the biggest challenges that stand in the way of achieving these goals?
- Solutions: How do you think parents, educators, policymakers, and other education stakeholders both in your school and across DC, can and should address these challenges?
Once each group captured their answers to the questions on giant chart paper, a “gallery walk” was held, whereby all participants were able to read each group’s solutions and vote on their favorites with colorful stickers. Following the gallery walk, each group presented their ideas and briefly discussed any questions that arose. With more time, the conversations that surfaced had the potential to go into much greater depth, yet it was nonetheless a productive and open environment to discuss issues that are often difficult to broach.
As the event came to a close, attendees were asked to participate in short video interviews to share their connection to school diversity and equity and why the issues matter to them.
Between the panels, small group discussions, gallery walk, and interviews, the conversations held at the event were the first steps in brainstorming what it would take to make the promise of Bolling a reality in DC and creating a shared vision for school diversity and equity to inform LTLT’s work moving forward. Stay tuned for more from LTLT and opportunities to plug into the #SchoolDiversityDC movement!