Category: Teens

Applications Now Open for 2019 Disney Dreamers Academy to be Held at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida

Disney Dreamers Academy Class of 2016 (photo by Gregg Newton)

100 high school students to be selected for all-expenses-paid mentoring experience of a lifetime

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Applications are being accepted now through Oct. 31, 2018, for the Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence magazine. This annual outside-the-classroom mentoring program is scheduled for March 21-24, 2019, at the Walt Disney Resort in Florida.

The program helps 100 select high school students, ages 13-19, from across the United States jump-start their life goals and pursue their dreams. Disney Dreamers Academy turns the entire magical setting of Walt Disney World into a vibrant classroom.

Disney Dreamers learning how to build rides in Imagineering workshop (photo courtesy of Disney)

Students participate in a series of sessions and workshops designed to help them imagine bright futures, make exciting discoveries and learn how to put their goals into action. Disney Dreamers engage in a wide variety of experiences at Walt Disney World while working side by side with celebrities, community and industry leaders and Disney cast members.

For more than a decade, Disney Dreamers Academy has inspired young people from across the country by fueling their dreams and showing them a world of possibilities as they prepare for the future.

Each year, students participate in hands-on, immersive career seminars in a wide range of disciplines found at Walt Disney World. Participants learn how to improve their communication skills, what it means to be a leader and networking strategies, among other skills. They are also inspired by celebrity speakers and other special guests who share their stories and provide insights on how to achieve their life goals.

The second decade of Disney Dreamers Academy is focused on challenging young people to relentlessly pursue their dreams through the “Be 100” campaign. This promotional push is inspired by the powerful impact Disney Dreamers Academy has made on graduates, who have gone on to become doctors, nurses, engineers, pilots, journalists and more. Some have started their own public relations firms, while others have worked with national political leaders.

Applicants must answer essay questions about their personal journeys and dreams for the future. Studentsare selected based on a combination of attributes, including strong character, positive attitude and determination to achieve their dreams. A parent or guardian accompanies each student on the trip.

This four-day, all-expenses-paid experience at Walt Disney World will continue to help change the lives of young people in 2019.

For more information or to apply, visit DisneyDreamersAcademy.com

Jordan Thomas Wins Harvard Debate Competition as He and 24 Other Students from Atlanta Make History

Atlanta students celebrate win at Harvard Debate Council (photo via huffingtonpost.com)

by Jenna Amatulli via huffingtonpost.com

A group of 25 black students from Atlanta, competing against hundreds of young scholars from around the world, made history over the weekend with winning performances in a Harvard debate tournament.

Jordan Thomas, from Atlanta’s Grady High School, won the competition. He said in a press release that he “was determined to represent my city and my story. I wanted people to see where I came from and how I could keep up with them.”

“Being a young, middle class, black, public school student from the South created a stigma that automatically set me back in comparison to the competition, most of who were international students or from preparatory schools in the Northeast,” said Thomas.

“To bring the championship back to Atlanta was the most satisfying feeling, and to walk onto the campus of one of the most elite universities in the world and meet personal and council goals, brings a unique and new satisfaction that I’ve never experienced.”

The young scholars were the first backed by scholarships through the Atlanta-based Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project to participate in Harvard’s summer debate council residency.

Harvard Debate Council, which runs the annual summer program at the school’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, divided nearly 400 participants, including high school students from Asia, Europe and Russia, into 12 teams for debate competitions.

Harvard Debate Council (photo via huffingtonpost.com)

The 25 Atlanta scholars, selected for Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project’s inaugural class from about 150 applicants, began the residency program with a daily, 10-hour academic regimen to learn research, analysis, argumentation and political science. Then, using their new skills, they were split into teams for the competition with other high school students from around the world.

Thomas described the project as “not a competition between each other, rather it is an incubator of intellect and a cultivator of brilliance.”

Notably, most of the Atlanta students were inexperienced debaters. They were from 16 different schools in the region. Brandon Fleming, a Harvard assistant debate coach who founded Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project, said the project aims to be a “pipeline that would recruit, train and send students of color to Harvard on full scholarship.”

Nigerian-Born Taofeek Abijako, 19, is Youngest Designer to Show at Men’s New York Fashion Week

Head-of-State+ founder Taofeek Abijako (Photo by Nicolas Hunt via Getty Images)

by  via teenvogue.com

At just 19-years-old, this week, Nigerian-born designer Taofeek Abijako became the youngest designer to present a collection at New York Fashion Week: Men’s. Taofeek held a presentation for his brand Head of State+s spring/summer 2019 collection, which paid homage to 70s afro-futurism styles and West African youth culture.

Head-of-State+ first caught the eye of the fashion community weeks after its official launch in 2016. According to The New York Times Style Magazine, Japanese luxury retailer United Arrows found his self-produced lookbook on Twitter and began stocking the brand shortly after. The following year The New York Times Style Magazine labeled Head of State+ a “brand to watch”, and sure enough, the industry took notice. At the time, Taofeek was a senior in high school living in his parents Albany, New York home. He had only immigrated from Nigeria just two years prior and had just retired his soccer cleats to focus on fashion completely.

The brand’s latest offering, entitled Genesis, is the fourth collection from Taofeek. Genesis reflects the high-end streetwear aesthetic Taofeek has been exploring since its inception, and featured light trucker jackets, white tailored pants, and fitted knitwear. Speaking to the CFDA Taofeek explained, “Genesis is the translation of Afro-futurism portrayed by the likes of Parliament-Funkadelic and Sun Ra through the lens of West African youth – while at the same time celebrating the vibrancy of West African youth culture in the ‘70s and drawing parallels to modern time. The continuous homage to Fela Kuti is also portrayed.”

SS19 “Genesis” – LOOK 5 (Jean Mark)

A post shared by HEAD OF STATE+ (@headofstate_) on

Now in its second year of operation, Head of State+’s visions as a brand is beginning to manifest into something that is much bigger than clothing. “I approach Head of State+ as less of a brand and more of a case study,” Taofeek told the CFDA. “It’s me digging into my cultural upbringing while trying to have a firm grasp and understanding of it.” In addition to his cultural advocacy, Taofeek is making a case for youth culture and providing the blueprint for how young designers can bypass the fashion industry’s hierarchy and establish a solid brand with minimal financial backing or formal training.

Source: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/taofeek-abijako-mens-nyfw-youngest-designer

Students Jayla Tolliver and Taylissa Marriott, 15, Win Settlement in Racist Bullying Lawsuit in Nevada

Jayla Tolliver and Taylissa Marriott thank students at Swope Middle School, who wrote them letters of support. (Screenshot via rgj.com)

by Clarissa Hamlin via newsone.com

Two students now have some relief after being bullied for months at their Nevada high school because of race.

Jayla Tolliver and Taylissa Marriott, who are 15-year-old sisters and freshman at Yerington High School in Yerington, have won a settlement in their federal lawsuit against Lyon County School District on Monday (June 25), the Reno Gazette Journal reported. Their case has pushed the school to re-examine how it deals with bullying and racist behaviors from students, and it is making changes to existing policies.

Tolliver and Marriott suffered through some of the worst taunts and bullying from their peers — actions that are known to have driven many students of color to consider or commit suicide. The young women were called slurs on social media and were targeted in an online photo of the son of a Lyon County sheriff’s deputy holding a gun with the caption, “the red neck god of all gods…we bout to go [racial slur] huntin” last October.

Yerington school officials didn’t do enough to help the teens, who were harassed for at least six months over the 2017-18 school year. While the school was supposed to be a welcoming safe space for them, it became a nightmarish hell.

Police weren’t involved in any investigation of the social media threats against the teens. Yerington Police Chief Darren Wagner told the Reno Gazette Journal last October that the threats were protected by free speech, and the family’s statements to police about the matter were shredded accidentally. However, what was called “free speech” was in fact hate speech.

Fast forward to now. Tolliver and Marriott, who filed the lawsuit in January, have renewed hope despite their horrible experience. “In the beginning, we didn’t realize how much of a change we have made, and by us being some of the many to stand up and let their voice be heard, [it] made me feel that we did change the way people judge and look at someone before they actually know them,” Marriott said.

The school district has agreed to consult the U.S. Department of Education’s racial harassment experts and pay for counseling for the teens. They will also pay a lump sum to the teens’ family and for all attorney fees, an amount totaling $160,000.

Jayla and Taylissa released the following statements:

I would like to thank everyone who had our back and listened when no one would, through this long painful experience. I learned that you should never let your voice be unheard even when people turn their backs and tell you to lower your voice. Racism is something I never thought I’d go through. Racism is also something many people have done nothing about, but I am proud to say that I am one of the few who stood up when my race was an issue to others. I will always look back on this tragedy knowing that it made me the strong African-American woman I am today! Racism is something that I knew went on through the world but for a long time I forgot it existed. I cannot dream about having so much hate for another group of people because of their skin color yet there are people all over the world who find people of color disgusting and repulsive because we are different but don’t realize how beautiful and unique we are because we are different. I hope that our story inspires others. Always remember no matter where you are from, what you look like, how different you talk, or how you walk we are all equal. Jayla Tolliver

I just wanted to start off saying my sister Jayla and I are so thankful. I would never in a million years believe we would have to go through what we did. For having you guys say that you are here for us and standing by our sides gave us so much hope that we could fight and overcome all the horrific behavior. In the beginning, we didn’t realize how much of a change we have made and by us being some of the many to stand up and let their voice be heard made me feel that we did change the way people judge and look at someone before they actually know them. But I want to say a BIG thank you to Swope Middle School for being some of the biggest supporters and some of the first to reach out to my sister and me. Taylissa Marriott

Source: https://newsone.com/3814608/black-students-racist-bullying-lawsuit-settlement-nevada/

Christina Lewis’ All Star Code Nonprofit Raises Over $1 Million to Expand STEM “Summer Intensive” Program for Boys of Color

by Selena Hill via blackenterprise.com

All Star Code (ASC) will carry out its mission to educate, prepare, and place young men of color in the tech industry through its fifth annual “Summer Intensive” STEM summer program. The nonprofit announced Tuesday that it raised over $1 million for the growth and development of the program. ASC also received a record number of applicants—nearly 1,000 for just 160 spots. According to Christina Lewis, who founded ASC in 2013, the organization is on track to educate a total of 10,000 young black and Latino men in tech and entrepreneurship by 2022.

“All Star Code’s impact continues to spread as we establish a pipeline of talented and ambitious young entrepreneurs who are ready to enter the tech industry,” said Lewis in a statement. “Tech is one of the most influential and lucrative industries, so it’s vital that Black and Latino young men are better represented in this space to capture its economic opportunity.”

BOYS WILL LEARN WEB DEVELOPMENT AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN STEM SUMMER PROGRAM 

ASC’s flagship “Summer Intensive” program is a free six-week course that teaches students web development skills and about entrepreneurship. It also empowers students with soft skills and a network of like-minded peers. It will take place in New York City and Pittsburgh.

The effectiveness of All Star Code’s curriculum is amplified by corporate partners like AT&T, Cisco, Goldman Sachs, Google, JPMorgan Chase, MLB, and Medidata, as well as the academic institutions Chatham University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, which provide operational and financial support and services. Through these partnerships, students will gain access to mentorships, speakers, and professional work culture.

Since its creation in 2013, about 300 students have participated in ASC’s flagship summer programs. Of the summer intensive students, 95% of All Star Code graduates have gone on to four-year colleges, while half of the graduates have created their own business or tech-related project, reads the press release.

Lewis says she was inspired by her late father, iconic businessman Reginald F. Lewis, to launch ASC as a vehicle to diversify the tech space. “I channeled his legacy to start All Star Code,” she said. Before his death in 1993, Reginald created TLC Beatrice International Holdings, the first black-owned global enterprise to earn more than a billion dollars in revenue. “I realized that if my father were a young man today, he would no doubt be working in technology, the growth industry for building wealth in the 21st century,” Lewis told Black Enterprise.

Source: http://www.blackenterprise.com/black-boys-stem-summer-program/

Fraternal Twins Malik and Miles Georges, 18, Named High School Co-Valedictorians, Set to Attend M.I.T. Together

Fraternal twins Miles and Malik George were Woodbridge High School’s co-valedictorians. Now, they head to MIT together in the fall. (MILES GEORGE)

by Christopher Brito via cbsnews.com

To be named high-school valedictorian is an honor for any family. For the Georges, that distinction came in the form of fraternal twins, Malik and Miles, who are now heading to their dream school together: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The 18-year-old brothers from New Jersey delivered a rousing and light-hearted speech at their Woodbridge High School graduation ceremony on Thursday, capping off years of academic excellence and hard work. The twins took turns giving their combined oratory address to their nearly 400 classmates, each one putting a spotlight on subjects dear to them like climate change and having support groups.

“It was an amazing experience,” Malik said. “To have all four years to culminate that moment is an enriching experience.”

The graduates, who earned near perfect SAT scores and didn’t have a grade lower than an A-minus in high school, now head to M.I.T., the school they’ve been laser-focused on since freshman year at Woodbridge High. So much so, the George brothers applied early –– and found out they got in weeks before their birthday in December.

“It was our dream school,” Miles said. ” We were looking at top ten schools and we fell in love with everything it had to offer.”

In addition to MIT, the brothers were also accepted into Harvard and Johns Hopkins University. They attribute much of their achievements to their parents, who recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary.

“From a very young age, our parents have been active in our education,” Malik said. “If we ever did get a B, they never forced us to do anything, they just wanted us to do our best.”

Away from their parents, now the brothers have each other to look out for once they head to college. Malik is 11 minutes older, but Miles is two inches taller.

“We’re each other’s big brother in a way,” Malik said.

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-jersey-fraternal-twins-named-co-valedictorians-head-to-mit-malik-miles-george-woodbridge/?ftag=CNM-00-10aab8d&linkId=53447969

Black Fire Brigade in Chicago Opens Center for City’s Youth, Plans to Provide Mentorship and Training

Chicago’s Black Fire Brigade opens new facility (Photo via twitter.com)

via newsone.com

Chicago’s Black Fire Brigade—a group of the city’s African American firefighters and EMTs—wants to inspire youth to pursue careers in fire science. The group recently opened a new center in Ashburn designed to train the firefighters of tomorrow, ABC Chicago reported.

The brigade pays homage to firefighters and paramedics of color who have lost their lives while serving, the news outlet writes. The group hopes that the legacies of these fallen heroes will live on through youngsters who come to the center and show interest in joining the fire department when they get older. At the center, they will provide mentorship and training to help Black men and women prepare for the firefighter’s exam.

Founder and president of the Black Fire Brigade Quention Curtis says that he hopes the new center will serve as a haven for Chicago’s Black youth and prevent them from getting involved in the streets. “This is about saving these kids’ lives who are dying in the streets every day,” he told the news outlet. “It’s about bringing these firefighters together so we can do that.”

The center was also created as an avenue to overcome racial inequalities that Black firefighters have experienced in the department. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the city has shelled out $92 million in settlements due to the Chicago Fire Department’s discriminatory hiring practices against people of color and women. “There are so few of us, and we’ve been so separated. We’ve never come together as a whole to discuss our issues, how to address them. My thing is to end all that,” said Curtis.

The center will live at 84th and Kedzie. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on Saturday.

Source: https://newsone.com/3813064/chicagos-black-fire-brigade-youth-clubhouse/

Craig Kirby’s “Golf. My Future. My Game” Foundation Works to Teach Game to Youth and Diversify Industry

Image: Craig Kirby, back right, with participants in "Golf. My Future. My Game."
Craig Kirby, back right, with participants in “Golf. My Future. My Game.” (Photo: Courtesy Craig Kirby)

by Michael Cottman via nbcnews.com

Craig Kirby, founder of “Golf. My Future. My Game,” is on a crusade to introduce more black teens to the game of golf.

Kirby started the non-profit golf foundation in Washington, D.C., in 2014. He’s been working to expose the predominantly white sport to young kids who may not think the game is accessible or possible as a career option. Roughly 80 percent of recreational American golfers are white, according to the 2015 Golf Diversity & Inclusion Report. Within golf-industry workers, that percentage jumps to nearly 90 percent.

Kirby, 55, said he knew nothing about golf until he was invited to play by three white classmates in college. He hasn’t looked back since. “We teach them the game of golf, the business of golf — from soup to nuts,” Kirby told NBC News of his foundation work. “They learn everything — from the pro shop to the cart shop to the back office. It’s a complete golf experience. If kids don’t want to play golf professionally, there are plenty of great jobs within the industry.”

Kirby, a former Democratic political strategist, said he handles everything from fundraising meetings to arranging local transportation for the program’s participants. He tries to open professional doors on the golf course and behind the scenes, making connections with golf-club owners, caddies and even golf-wear designers. He also emphasizes the availability of college golf scholarships.

Since the foundation’s inception, Kirby said about 300 kids from all types of socio-economic backgrounds have participated in the various programs, clinics and internships. Kirby’s mission comes as several prominent golf industry leaders acknowledge racism as a persistent problem in the sport.

“There are real diversity issues in golf and there is a real history of exclusion and racism,”said Jay Karen, CEO of The National Golf Course Owners Association, which represents more than 3,400 courses. “We need to reconcile this history, but we also need to do better. We need to welcome and invite people who have not traditionally been part of the golf industry.”

One of Kirby’s most steadfast supporters is World Golf Foundation CEO Steve Mona. Mona said he tries to give Kirby a national platform to grow his program and introduces him to some of golf’s most prominent leaders. “We want to make sure golf reflects the diversity of our country and, ultimately, it’s good for the game,” Mona told NBC News.

In April, a Pennsylvania golf club owner called the police on five black women golfers, claiming they were playing too slowly. Last week, the women filed formal complaints against the club alleging they were discriminated against due to their race and gender.

The women did receive an apology, but the incident made national headlines and led the club to lose some business. “It’s not a golf issue, it’s a human issue,” Karen said. “It’s a shame the police were called to resolve a conflict that could have been handled through a conversation, talking to each other as human beings. These kinds of conflicts should not happen on golf courses and they shouldn’t happen at Starbucks.”

Only two black golfers have earned their PGA cards since Tiger Woods began his career in 1996. No African-American woman has ever won an LPGA title. Among America’s 15,000 private golf courses, only about a handful are black-owned, Kirby said. Kirby takes his students to one of them: The Marlton Golf Club in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

“We take our kids to golf courses and give them a whole new experience,” Kirby said. “They get lessons, guidance and advice from experts in the golf industry who look like them. I don’t want black kids to say they can’t play when get they get invited to play.”

To read more: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/foundation-aims-steer-black-kids-golf-course-n884011

Akosua Haynes, 10, an Aspiring Astronaut, and Rylee Paige Johnson, 13, Healing from Losing Her Mother, Win Writing Awards from Library of Congress

Akosua Haynes, 10, wrote a letter to Margot Lee Shetterly, author of “Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race,” letting Shetterly know her book solidified Akosua’s decision to become a NASA astronaut.

Rylee Paige Johnson, 13, wrote a letter to Gabrielle Zevin, author of “Elsewhere,” thanking Zevin for helping her heal after the sudden death of her mother.

The letters — each a thing of beauty — were part of a Library of Congress writing contest that invites fourth- through 12th-graders to write to authors and let them know the impact of their work. Close to 47,000 students from across the United States entered this year’s contest, which began a quarter-century ago.

Out of those tens of thousands of letters, Akosua and Rylee each brought home first place wins. Akosua, a fifth-grader at St. Thomas the Apostle School in Hyde Park, won the fourth- through sixth-grade division, and Rylee, a seventh-grader at Dwight D. Eisenhower Junior High School in Hoffman Estates, won the seventh- and eighth-grade division.

Their letters are night and day — one born of sorrow, the other born of joy. But they share an authenticity and richness that speaks to the ability of books to guide us through life’s various triumphs and travails.

“One night my siblings and parents were in the living room watching our favorite show,” Rylee wrote to Zevin. “A commercial came on so I got up to make cookies in the kitchen. Then my oldest sister, Sydney, started whispering, ‘Mom? Mom?’ No answer. I looked over to see my dad standing over a shaking body. ‘I’m calling 911!’ She had had an aneurysm and wasn’t waking up. I spent those few days in that hospital room listing all the things I did wrong and what I would change once she woke up. She never did.”

In “Elsewhere,” 15-year-old Liz ends up in an Earth-like place called Elsewhere after being hit and killed by a taxi. From there, she watches the world she used to inhabit.

“Liz tortured herself by going to the observation decks to see her old life every day,” Rylee wrote. “She sat there watching her best friend being happy without her. She watched everyone move on. Everyone except Liz. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I didn’t want to become a ghost person living in the past.”

Rylee said the letter to Zevin was the first time she’d written at length about losing her mom, who passed away in December 2016.

“Last year, I wrote some poems and random paragraphs, but not anything like a full piece of writing,” she told me last week. “I don’t think I was ready before to put it down on paper because things are so much more real when you put them on paper.”

In her letter, Rylee told Zevin that “Elsewhere’s” theme of acceptance really struck her.

“Liz took some time learning how to move on from the life she used to know,” she wrote. “She was stuck. Thandi, her roommate, had no problem at all. From the start she said there was no point being sad at what she couldn’t change. I read that, wishing my heart could catch up like Thandi’s did in two pages. But everyone takes their own time to keep their mind and soul in sync. Knowing that my mom wasn’t coming back home was difficult to even imagine. I had to accept that life would go on without her, but only if I moved on.

“I wanted to live my life and not wait for it to be over,” Rylee wrote. “Thank you for a world where my own mother can see me writing this letter from an observation deck. Thank you for the idea that once I leave this world, I will return. Thank you for the lessons I couldn’t live without, and the book I won’t forget.”

Continue reading “Akosua Haynes, 10, an Aspiring Astronaut, and Rylee Paige Johnson, 13, Healing from Losing Her Mother, Win Writing Awards from Library of Congress”

The Forgotten Girls Who Led the Movement for School Desegregation

Millicent Brown, left, 15, daughter of state NAACP President J. Arthur Brown, one of two black girls to enter Rivers High School in Charleston, S.C, chats with fellow students while awaiting a report from police and fireman concerning a bomb scare at the school on Sept. 3, 1963. (AP Photo)

by Melinda D. Anderson via theatlantic.com

There’s an enduring myth that the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was “the first step” in the fight to desegregate schools. Rachel Devlin, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University, is looking to upend that myth. A Girl Stands At The Door, her new account of the black girls and teens who laid the groundwork for the historic ruling, draws from interviews and archival research to show that before Linda Brown, a 9-year-old, became the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, a generation of black girls and young women from the Deep South to the Midwest fueled the grassroots crusade to strike down the “separate but equal” doctrine in America’s public schools and colleges.

Before Brown, some dozen lawsuits were filed on behalf of young black women attempting to enroll in all-white schools—and after Brown, black girls, almost exclusively, did the hard labor of walking through all-white mobs and sitting in previously all-white classrooms, with sometimes hostile classmates and teachers, in pursuit of school integration.

I spoke with Devlin about the black youth who led the effort to racially integrate schools and catalyzed the broader anti-segregation movement. The interview that follows has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.


Melinda D. Anderson: A disproportionate number of black girls were at the forefront of the school-desegregation movement from the late ’40s to the mid-’60s. Why were black girls continually chosen to break the color barrier?

Rachel Devlin: Interestingly, there are no written records about why girls were chosen over and over again in individual lawsuits. These choices were made on a level that was not always entirely conscious. Parents would explain why they should file a lawsuit, and girls agreed. Many of them said, “I was willing.” Other parents drafted their daughters, and the young women cooperated, yet most of the young women who participated were fully invested in school desegregation.

The other thing about girls is that they were good at it. To speak to principals and lawyers and the press you have to be poised, you have to be personable and diplomatic, and young black women had these attributes. They dealt with constant verbal and sexual harassment on the streets of southern cities, of northern cities, and they were acutely aware of their self-presentation in public. It was drilled into them as a way to protect their dignity. Also, very few African American girls and young women did not at some point in their lives work in a white home, and they had to learn how to navigate around white people.

But I want to be clear. This was not just about being accommodating—they knew how to stand their ground. Girls were good at combining different forms of bravery; they could be both stubborn and tough, but also project social openness. They had that sense of self-possession that was extremely useful in these situations.Anderson: You write that the language in the Brown v. Board of Education decision contains “the same moral conviction that inspired black girls to walk up to the doors of white schools and seek to cross the threshold.” In what way are these girls’ untold stories reflected in this landmark ruling?

Devlin: A black girl walking up the steps of a white school and announcing her intentions to go to school with white children was a radical act of social optimism.  Most white people—and a good many African Americans—in the late 1940s and early 1950s believed that white and black children would never be able to learn in an integrated setting. That racial hostility was intractable.

In fact, judges who ruled against these plaintiffs said just that in their decisions. By showing up at the schoolhouse door, these girls were asserting not only their right to attend historically white schools, but that they believed they were capable of sharing a classroom with white students. Their actions and moral clarity reflected their confidence that they and their white peers could coexist in the intimate setting of a school. The Supreme Court decision asserted this same presumption: that it was fitting, right, and possible for children of different races to attend school together in the United States.

Anderson: The battle for school integration sparked bitterness, anger, and even violence. Some of these black girls were elementary-school age. What was the physical and psychological cost of being first?Devlin: Tessie Prevost-Williams and Leona Tate integrated T.J. Semmes Elementary School in New Orleans, in third grade. Along with Gail Etienne, the three of them received the worst violence that I recorded in the book. Because they were so young and so little, people would punch them, trip them, spit in their food. They said they could hardly go to the bathroom because that was a very dangerous space. It was a war inside the school. Tessie, Leona, and Gail all said it was a living hell.

I think the resilience that these young women had is hard to imagine. One would think that it would have been a crippling experience, but they sensed from a very early age the weight and enormity of what they were doing. They came to understand the notion of sacrifice for social justice. The stamina that it took to survive was fed and reinforced by the magnitude of what they were accomplishing.

I think it’s very hard from a current-day perspective to imagine a child going through that. In some ways we just have to be astonished at what they did. America was effecting social change on the backs of young children, and we have to ask ourselves what this means about political change in this country, that we leaned on young children to do this work of racial reconciliation.

Anderson: You talked to some of these women in your research. How do they view the resegregation of schools today—what some have called the broken promises of Brown v. Board of Education?

Devlin: Of the nearly 30 people that I interviewed, to a person, they still very much believe in what they did. They tend to look at the broader changes that have happened as a result of Brown v. Board, the day-to-day interactions between white and black Americans in a society that is diverse and desegregated. They see a larger tableau that has been fundamentally altered because the schools desegregated—the ripple effects of the Brown decision.

They also understand that people within the black community question desegregation. Some of them have even been the object of complaints: If you hadn’t done this, we would still have all-black schools. But they say it had to be done. Millicent Brown, who was among the first to integrate schools in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1963, put it in a way that’s quite striking: “We could not have apartheid in the schools.”

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/05/rachel-devlin-school-desegregation/561284/