On May 17th, 1954, the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka struck down the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling. This ruling made state-sanctioned segregation in schools unconstitutional. Today, despite the abolishment of laws prohibiting children of different races from learning together, student demographics show that many schools remain wildly racially segregated. This indicates the need to continue to work toward full integration, despite current progress.
On the 69th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Dudley Flood Center hosted its second Mapping the Movement for Racial Equity in Education event in Durham. Attendees were given the opportunity to network and discuss actionable steps towards combating inequities in education.
Mapping The Movement is an initiative launched by the Flood Center in 2019 to help build a visible network of organizations engaged in equity work across the state. It’s designed to highlight the efforts that are already underway, especially by those that are centering and being led by communities of color. The initiative is also meant to connect organizations to one another across sectors, facilitate the sharing and building of resources and collective action, and elevate and support the critical work of individual organizations.
The Flood Center now takes it a step further by connecting organizations to strategize and organize around common priorities. Those priorities are:
- funding and implementing the Leandro Comprehensive Remedial Plan,
- recruiting and retaining a diverse educator workforce,
- school mental health and safety, and
- eradicating inequities.
Deanna Townsend-Smith, the senior director of the center said, “By focusing on these common priorities across organizations, we can work together to protect and support every student for collective impact.”
The first Mapping the Movement event was held earlier this year during Black History Month. At this initial meeting, connections were made between nonprofit organizations, philanthropic organizations, educators, advocates and elected officials all working toward furthering education equity. Building upon those connections, attendees of the second event were able to work towards creating action items for achieving the common priorities established through Mapping the Movement.
The keynote speaker of this event was the Flood Center’s namesake, Dudley Flood, who led the effort of desegregating public schools in North Carolina.
“We need a team. One person can’t do this, and one concept can’t do this,” Flood said. “We need a variety of ways of thinking about what we’re trying to get done and a variety of strategies. The broader the group, the better chance we have of coming up with something that will be workable for the whole state.”
Flood says he continues to fight for equity in schools today because he believes in the work.
“If your avocation and your vocation are the same, you don’t work. You just get up in the morning and do what you believe in,” Flood shared. “I can’t stand by and watch something disintegrate that we’ve worked so hard to try to put together. So what do we do now? Do we let it continue to go downhill, or do we try to get together with people with like interests and like capabilities, and see if we can navigate this thing in a different direction?”
The event also included a spoken word performance by Guadalupe Luna Rojas, a junior at Cedar Ridge High School in Orange County and the 2023-24 Cedar Ridge High School Youth Poet Laureate.
Among the event’s attendees was another high school student from Orange County, Tia Hilber, who emphasized the value of student voices when looking for ways to improve the education system.
“I think that right now, there’s a lot of adults having conversations that affect kids, but I think kids should have a place in those conversations with adults to try to find solutions,” Hilber said. “Adults are smart and experienced, but kids are smart too, and kids are being affected all the time by what happens in schools, so I think it’s important to really get us involved.”
The Flood Center will continue the Mapping the Movement initiative at Color of Education on October 7, 2023. This annual summit brings together a diverse group of individuals and organizations to discuss issues around race, education, and community centered around the need for social justice.