Episode 5: The Movement

 
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Everyone needs to be a part of this movement.
— Hebh Jamal, 17

Hebh Jamal grew up in the Bronx but attended an elite public high school in midtown Manhattan. That experience gave her a sense of just how big of a difference five miles can make when it comes to schooling – and it prompted her to start asking questions about race, class, and enrollment. Eventually, she teamed up with a youth-led group called IntegrateNYC4me, and together, they found some answers.

Now, Hebh is an activist on a mission to integrate the nation's most racially segregated public school system. This present fight echoes of a similar one, six decades earlier.

Will the result be different this time around?


EARLY INTEGRATION BATTLES: NEW YORK TIMES HEADLINES (1956–1964)

TENSIONS BOIL OVER

On January 29, 1964, New York City Board of Education president James Donovan outlined a comprehensive school integration plan, which you can listen to below. The Board hoped the release of the plan would avert a boycott organized by civil rights groups frustrated by years of false promises and inaction. It didn't. Five days later, nearly 460,000 black and Puerto Rican students boycotted the public schools to protest segregated and unequal education. It was and remains the largest civil rights demonstration in U.S. history.

As for the city's integration plan? Among other initiatives, it included changes in school assignment policies, staff integration, culturally responsive training for teachers, and the creation of a citywide council on integration. But most of it never came to pass because school leaders bowed to pressure from white parents' associations who opposed "forced integration." They said "normal, natural integration" would be okay. Decades later, we're still waiting for it.

The audio comes from the New York Public Radio Archives.

For more coverage of the 1964 school integration battle, check out audio stories here and here, from WNYC's Yasmeen Khan. 


Click the photo to RSVP for the upcoming Teens Take Charge event featuring Hebh, along with Whitney and Nelson from Ep. 3!


Click the photo to learn more about Laundry City, from EPIC Next Theatre Ensemble.