The Boston City Council Brown v Board Controversy

Posted: May 23, 2014 by Donna Bivens in Uncategorized
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Across the country, the recent 60th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education created an opportunity for cities across the country to affirm their commitment to equal public education for all. In Boston an effort to do that last week went awry when 3 city councilors – Bill Linehan of South Boston, Sal LaMattina of East Boston, and Stephen Murphy of Hyde Park–declined to support a city council resolution honoring the Supreme Court order. It got a lot of media attention. Some like the Globe sought to shame them, others like the Bay State Banner and the Dorchester Reporter sought to educate. At BBDP, we’ve heard history and outrage but just as importantly we’ve heard story, including this email from Charlotte Spinkston:

I am avid advocate of inclusion, including desegregation and it grieves me to know and hear of the creeping return of desegregation of our schools and am dismayed to witness the edges of its return even here in my place of birth. As a High School freshman, I was bused to Charleston High School in 1975. I must admit to feeling conflicted still, as are many others about busing because of that experience. As my mother told me when I left for school that morning “I didn’t think we’d have to do this again, but remember, you’re not just doing it for you.

That being said, it is SHOCKING that City Councilors Linehan, LaMattina and Murphy chose to remain silent rather than stand in support of the commemoration of Brown V Board of Education. Regardless of Boston’s convicted past, it speak volumes that our elected representatives remain silent rather than commemorate the liberation of an entire race of people. #wherestheoutrage

Those at BBDP who’ve been listening to stories, histories and legacies of the busing/desegregation era were not entirely surprised by the anxiety this Brown anniversary raised given that it comes just weeks before the 40th anniversary of Boston’s court-ordered desegregation. We  agree that the two cannot be conflated.  At the same time, most of us know that Brown is in a process of being dismantled in what one writer described a couple years ago as Brown devouring Brown (and the feast continues).  The truth is we –as a nation – are in struggle about that decision, our commitment to race and class equity and the way forward as we were forty years ago and sixty years ago.

BBDP has learned that there’s a lot of listening and learning we collectively must do to get beyond the repeating cycles of justice and inequity in education and in life for Boston residents and our nation. To paraphrase local writer and activist Kathy Dwyer, “We cannot move froma history we deny we share”.

We encourage residents in these councilor’s districts (and that’s everyone for Councilor Murphy – he’s citywide) to let them know your story and what you feel and think about their votes. We look forward to continuing to engage together the dialogue surrounding these potent anniversaries and take this time to renew our commitment  to fulfill Brown’s and Morgan’s (and Robert’s and Plessy’s et al’s!) quest for justice.

Donna and Meghan

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