The school crisis at 60: A light show and light cast on the lack of progress | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The school crisis at 60: A light show and light cast on the lack of progress

Posted By on Sun, Sep 24, 2017 at 8:31 AM

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The Times' Brian Chilson captured images last night from a Central High crisis 60th anniversary program that will be repeated at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. tonight.

'Imagine if Buildings Could Talk' video projection and music

Imagine, if you can, a video projected on the school's facade that uses special effects to transform the entrance with vivid color, animates the statues over the front entrance (representing ambition, personality, opportunity and preparation), and projects historic photographs from 1957 along with visions of the future. Better, go see Scott Meadors' 9-minute 3D mapped video, which will be projected in loops over the evening, with music composed by percussionist Blake Tyson. Both are professors at UCA.
And speaking of the 60th, whose ongoing events can be found here for today and Monday, I'd be remiss given some past misgivings about the city's "Progress" branding of the event not to note the frank remarks being made.

Some quotes worth noting from today's Democrat-Gazette (even if it did bury Donald Trump's continuing race war, with pro athletes as foils, on 2C of the sports section):

* CIRCUIT JUDGE WILEY BRANTON, son of an Arkansas civil rights pioneer, acknowledged progress, but the newspaper reported his remarks:

"But all is not well," he said. "Take Little Rock as an example of what has happened in a number of cities around the nation. The Little Rock School District is overwhelmingly populated by black students in a city where we have a majority-white population. If as Brown tells us that segregation harms black students, are our students now being harmed by a re-segregated school system, which has been caused in some measure by white flight and some governmental policies?"

He questioned the effects of independently operated public charter schools and school-choice initiatives, as well as the state control of the Little Rock district, which has left the district without an elected School Board. On a national level, he said, "overt racism has gained new respectability."

"We are at another major crossroads in our history, with issues that challenge the very core of our democracy and freedom."


* CARLOTTA WALLS LANIER, of the Little Rock Nine:

"I have seen a lot of changes. I see some progress going on. I see progress going on in our country. I also see that there is a necessity for us to be vigilant about what is going on in our country. Speak up. Vote. Help change what is going on. As you know, there are people who are trying to reverse all of the progress we have made."
* TERRENCE ROBERTS, another of the Little Rock Nine, wrote an op-ed for the D-G that asked whether there'd been 60 years of progress or one year repeated 60 times. Institutional racism, he said, "continues to inform policy, practice, decision-making, and patterns of response in virtually all aspects of our life." He also said:

For those who have been captivated by the promises of the "progress narrative," I can only offer that saying it is so does not make it so. Whatever linguistic fiction you may employ does not translate into objective fact.

....A review of the social and economic statistics for a majority of the 99 percent of us tells a story at odds with the progress narrative.

Along with the remaining seven of our group of nine in Little Rock, I will participate in the latest of the ongoing rituals designed to highlight the year we spent at Central High School as one of the key elements in the modern civil rights struggle. While I am not unalterably opposed to such ventures, I find it curious that the closure of all high schools in Little Rock in the following year, 1958-59, rarely gets mentioned. That was but one of many tactics used by true believers in white supremacy to protect a status quo held in high esteem. We are forced to ask the question: What was really accomplished in Little Rock in 1957?
There's more. It deserves a full read.

But on a day when Donald Trump's pandering to white supremacists is on full display, is there a better observation than Branton's on the new respectability for overt racism. It is framed not as racism but a rejection of "political correctness."

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