Our Education Crisis: The Truth about “Blackness” in America

Published and modified on Peacevoice.info 

“Why are you reading so much?” “Why are you speaking so properly?”

On July 27, President Obama reiterated these questions—inquiries he often hears from youth in predominately black neighborhoods where some children are afraid to learn. Yes, afraid.  This fear Obama disclosed is brought on by the taunting many well-educated black individuals receive because their peers believe that being well read and articulate constitutes “acting white.”

Through covertly racist corporate media and hegemonic Caucasian opinion, dangerous implications are made that suggest minorities are both incapable and unwilling to learn. These implications only create innumerable obstacles and widen the achievement gap between whites and people of color in America.  In a perfect society in a perfect world, movies such as Dear White People would not be a primary way of generating understanding about racial divides. Knowledge is power, and our own ignorance of racial characteristics and the ludicrous expectations we make based on them must stop. That is the only way to create a “safe” enough society where everyone has equal access and ability to this nation’s greatest freedom: education.

What does “acting white” look like?  In mainstream America, this is going to a school and actually paying attention—being able to provide a well thought out answer when question by the teacher in class. This is seen as doing the homework assigned to you and holding an intelligent conversation with your peers based on the material outside of class. It is returning home to a family who cares enough to make sure you are on top of your homework and pressure you to get straight A’s.

What does “acting black” look ? On the other end of the spectrum, there is blackness: which is cutting classes whenever possible, looking like a fool when called upon by the teacher and consequently serving—and cutting detention—blowing off all homework assignments, failing and repeating your current grade over.

These low expectations lead not only to the fear of succeeding because it will be going against the “status quo,” but to the misallocation of resources in black communities. For a person of color, “acting white” may forever make you an outcast among your peers (not fitting in with either black or whites), but “acting black” leads to poor education, a minimum wage job, and the contempt of society’s dominant group.

The nature of our educational system and its racial divider has haunted this nation since before the landmark cases of Plessy v. Ferguson, where segregation cemented with the declaration that “separate was equal” and have continued long after Brown v. Board of Education, when it was unanimously decided that the results of Plessy v. Ferguson was a crock.

Well respected author and journalist Jonathan Kozol devoted himself to uncovering such awful truths about our country’s educational system. Kozol’s 2005 book, Shame of the Nation, provides an in-depth examination of the “restoration of apartheid schooling in America” through many heart breaking stories across the United States. His latest book, Fire in the Ashes, published in 2012, is no different. Kozol once again highlights the disadvantages black youth have compared to their white counterparts. “Why is nothing done about this?” is something I always ask when reading his works of nonfiction. It is always answered with the cruel reality: nothing is done because the expectations of achievement for these students is low, therefore they are seen as “inconsequential.”

Is it any wonder now why little “Billy” feels that as a young black boy, he is neither capable of nor supposed to sound intelligent? It is not entirely his fault. He is simply conforming to what American society expects. His parents experienced this, as well. Maybe he has no one to tell him to dream bigger – or maybe no one will—to look beyond what this society is handing out and reach for what his true intelligence and abilities may allow him to achieve. This includes reaching his full potential with access to quality education, encouragement to learn and a belief in the efficacy of doing so.

It is a vicious set of events: while the taunting of this oppression-induced mentality produces may deter many a well-educated black youth from reaching back and helping their fellow “minorities.” (Man, I hate using that word sometimes!) This is not acceptable, and it never will be.

So, how do we interrupt this cycle as well as the pervasive and damaging racial divide in our education system?

As we attempt to resolve this racial schism perpetuated by our own lack of understanding, it is easy to ask the questions, “What does it mean to ‘act black’?” or “What does it mean to ‘act white’?”

However, I encourage us all to cast aside any race-specific ideals that may arise in our answers. Let us discard the notion that “acting black” means one must be more interested in hip hop culture than literature. Let us renounce the misconception that “acting white” means growing up in middle class suburbia and being able to speak in an eloquent manner. By doing so, we are refusing to pander to the discriminatory foundations on which this society has been founded—the society that hated dark skin and ethnic features so much that a person with only “one drop” of African blood was forever labeled as a second-class citizen – or three-fifths of a person – in her own country.

Realizing that “race” really doesn’t exist would help as well. We are all human beings; the ideals of “race” in this country is little more than a socio-political structure to delineate between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ of society. Modern scholars such as Dr. Cornel West will agree that every society needs two groups of people to function—those that have the education and resources to attain more opportunity and those who don’t. The United States’ capitalistic system thrives on that. However, those that dislike certain human being based on features attained through the genetics of their immediate ancestry used the illusions of race to establish these two groups in America. It was simply more convenient. Coming to grips with that truth would certainly relieve our minds of the pressures of an outdated and quite frankly, tyrannical system.

We also must bear in mind that behaviors do not belong to any one race. Certain practices and idiosyncrasies may be more dominant in one particular group of people over all others, but to claim actions to be ours, and ours alone? It’s absurd to see it written down. Like Martin Luther King, jr.—I too, have a dream. My dream is that we as Americans (and as people) will one day move into a post-racial era where content of character is not predicated by “race.” This will in turn propel people of color to not be afraid to strive higher in their educational settings, and highly educated “minorities” will be the norm.

My dream is to see a world in which black youth do not purposely dumb themselves down in an effort to keep pace with what is expected of them. My dream is that white youth do not ostracize an intelligent youth simply because they do not look like them and therefore can’t be as smart as they are. One way this can be achieved is by encouraging young children—whether black, white, Latino, etc—not to self-segregate. Beverly Tatum’s book Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? examines the lack of understanding between ethnic groups based on the need to be with one’s “own kind.” I encourage us all to be inclusive with who we talk to, and we will realize that our similarities outweigh our differences. Who is to say I can’t be well versed in history and literature because of the color of my skin when I’m really no different than my white classmate who lives on the other side of town?



Global Justice for Our Girls: Hashtags and Selfies Still Aren’t Enough

(Originally published on peacevoice.info)

Thirty. Twenty. Fifteen.

She puts up a good fight: struggling, kicking, and biting are just par for the course. Not to mention, she’s used to it; it’s happened before. Ten. Five. She lets out an agonizing scream. Zero.

It’s too late. She’s gone. Thirty seconds is all it takes for a girl to be taken from her world and everything she knows. For the 276 Nigerian girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram in April 2014, life was forever changed in 30 seconds and they are not even aware of the barely consistent tweeting and micro-blogging that has been done on their behalf. Sixty-three of the girls escaped earlier this month, and there are Nigerian governmental attempts to provide reparations. But there is a lot more to be done for the women and girls remaining – in Nigeria and beyond – and hashtags and selfies just aren’t enough.

“Every year, at least another two million girls worldwide disappear because of gender discrimination.” Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wu Dunn found this distressing statistic on their quest to shed light on deadly sexism with their 2009 book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

The chilling reality of sexism in the developing world presented by Kristof and Wu Dunn is one that often keeps me awake at night. Perhaps the most troubling is the lack of meaningful action taken by my fellow Americans who, aside from the occasional hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, or a selfie with a poster, are not immune to apathetic attitudes in the face of blatant sexism – even in their own backyards.

Of course, hashtags and selfies by themselves are not inherently bad. Rather, the problem lies in what they represent. This form of citizen media is indicative of nothing more than a fad and when the trend fades away, so does the concern. Since when did it become okay for the lives of innocent young women to be viewed as “the next big thing?” All of a sudden, it was considered “hip” to care about the wellbeing of women and post a selfie with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls – as if that is actually going to transport the ladies to a safe home with their families.

The rising use of this hashtag occurred with First Lady Michelle Obama’s own influential selfie. While there can be no fault found in the Obama’s support for the delicate situation, sensationalism can often blind us to the issue at hand. We become infatuated with the idea of taking some immediate military action as opposed to actually acting on our ideals. Hashtags and bombs are not the only options.

I’m not suggesting that we have to get on the next plane heading to Nigeria and demand to meet with Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, but we can at least take the time to become educated about the true goings on of Boko Haram beyond Twitter and #BringBackOurGirls. Only then can we think logically about our collective role in the struggle.

There are many options we can take to help provide justice for girls and women in Nigeria and worldwide, and we should feel compelled to do so. Of most importance is to actively align ourselves with organizations and activists who are already working against global oppression of women. Such as She’s the First, which sponsors worldwide female education with the intention of “creating our next generation of global leaders.” Another example is Girl Up, which has been active in bringing awareness to ongoing gender discrimination by “uniting girls to change the world.” Then there is my personal favorite, Kristof and Wu Dunn’s Half the Sky Movement, which “turns oppression into opportunity for women worldwide.”

And, our fight against gendered violence can’t stop at man-made, national boundaries. As the release date of Kristof and Wu Dunn’s latest book, A Path Appears, approaches, we must realize a serious injustice: that geographic location is often the only difference between our suffering and their suffering. As a young American woman, I am no different than those of Nigerian descent. That could just as easily have been me – or you – had I been born of Nigerian parents as opposed to Americans ones. Remove the geographic, genetic lottery and an injustice to one looks a lot more like an injustice to all.

How do we make the world safer and eliminate the terror for those of us born without a Y chromosome? No, the answer is not:Let’s hashtag a selfie about it! As well, the answer is not: Let’s send over some advisors and weapons! Our fight against global sexism and gendered violence must remain resolute, but preventing and eliminating gendered injustices, at home and abroad, must center on active participation in and full support of civil society movements already engaged in the struggle.

— J. Marie

Uniondale ‘Takes back Community’ with Gun Buyback

By Jeanine Russaw

Published on Long Island Report

On Saturday at Grace Cathedral International, 75 guns were taken in only one hour into the three hour anonymous collection beginning at nine AM. Working in tandem with Nassau County police, District Attorney Kathleen Rice and County Executive Ed Mangano, the church on Jerusalem Avenue has just completed its fourth gun buyback.

“I don’t want individuals [perpetrators] to think that they can at random come into [our] community, just start shooting guns and there is no response from the righteous people,” said Robert Harris, Bishop of Grace Cathedral. “As a result, we will do marches and have programs in our community to let them know we don’t tolerate it.”

The formation of the Nassau County gun buyback program since Kathleen Rice assumed the role of District Attorney has eliminated 3,000—plus—firearms from the streets of Uniondale.

Using asset forfeiture money, the county is able to fund the program with zero cost to its taxpayers.

“We don’t use taxpayer money, we work together with the police department, and most importantly we work with faith-based leaders like Bishop Harris,” Rice said. “They give credibility to our program and ensure that we get as many weapons of the streets as possible.

The major concern for the gun-owning residents of Uniondale is the possibility of being the victim of a burglary. While Nassau County crime rates have diminished by 77 percent in recent years, local thieves are more interested in stealing weapons than anything else.

Detective Sergeant Pat Ryder of the Nassau County Police Department attributes break-ins to be one of the main causes in weapon related crimes and accidents.

“Not every gun becomes a crime gun. Those guns that are left in the home that becomes burglarized may then get taken and used again in a crime later on,” Ryder said.

photo 2

No questions were asked of individuals selling their firearms—from handguns to assault rifles—and the media was prohibited from approaching them. Those with weapons in the line around the block from the church took advantage of the right to conceal their identity.

“The number one priority is getting guns off our streets,” Rice said in regards to the lack of repercussions associated with the anonymity of the buyback. “If we allow for people to do this anonymously, we will get a larger group of people willing to bring their weapons in.”

The buyback is only part of the effort to reduce weaponry in the community, and is part of a much larger plan to educate the public on safety issues. The ‘shot spotter’ program exists in Roosevelt along with a number of youth gun safety programs. According to Rice, strict enforcement for violations involving weaponry is still at the top of the county’s agenda.

“The package of putting these programs together leads to a safer community,” said Ryder of the police enforcement program.

NSA monitoring directly impacts student internet activity

By Jeanine Russaw

The goal of the National Security Agency [NSA] appears to come at the expense of student freedom of expression on the internet. A cultural climate of intrusion may be the inevitable aftermath of its mission “to protect U.S. national security systems and to produce foreign signals intelligence information.”

Brian Ogilvie, Hampton University alum and writer of Today’s Transcendence, is an active follower of the news on NSA monitoring—including recent debate between NSA representatives and leaders of the New York Civil Liberties Union [NYCLU].

“It [NSA] affects college students more than any other single demographic,” Ogilvie said. “As students are the early-adopters of all things technology, whatever conclusions you draw about the issue you’d have to amplify further specifically for that age group.”

In previous weeks, the debate between NSA Personnel Stewart Baker and NYCLU representative Michael German led to skepticism among students about the validity of internet surveillance. German pointed out that ‘spying’ on the everyday citizen distracts the government from finding actual threats.

“The NSA is a huge violation of privacy and our rights. To me this extends far beyond just affecting college students, but all citizens,” said Alyssa Cole, a senior at Mankato State University.

Carol Fletcher, Department Chair of Journalism, Media Studies and Public Relations at Hofstra University, teaches a course on media literacy and the ethics of surveillance. The honors seminar “Growing up in Suburbia,” zeroes in on the digital realities students of the millennial generation are encountering.

“Excessive Monitoring is an unjust invasion of privacy, but it hasn’t changed the way I post since I always operate on the assumption everything I post or email is not private,” Fletcher said. “I hope people still have some privacy on the web but I wouldn’t depend on it.”

Students taking her class share differing views. As a journalism major, Hofstra University senior Beckett Mufson is confident that when it comes to new media and privacy, “generation y” has the home-court advantage.

“If we were to feel threatened by the government, our generation is astutely aware of open source privacy-protecting tools, such as TOR or VPNs,” Mufson said. “Especially after the Arab Spring and the current Silk Road incidents we feel confident that if we had something we really wanted to hide, there would be a way to hide it.”

Does it stop there? An article on the FOX website offers that the NSA garners approximately 5 billion cell phone location records daily. The knowledge of the average U.S. civilian’s whereabouts and intimate conversations can be traced with little to no effort.

For the college student whose life is only just beginning, all it takes are “hackers of all sorts who can find this information out and more,” said Rachael Durant, sophomore. Monitored information can affect aspects of students’ future, such as employment.

“The NSA proves that the government is too big and is overreaching its constitutional limits,” Cole said. “The government says that it’s to protect us, but who’s going to protect us from the government?”


Photo Credit: host.madison.com

A Tale of Two Suburbs: The Formation of ‘East Garden City’ and a Neglected Uniondale

Uniondale, New York— or the “corridor of color” as it has been dubbed over the years—is one out of a mere nine Long Island communities to host a public assistance population that is at least 70 percent of the community at large.

Its school district is currently 99 percent minority, and spans far beyond that of the area designated as “Uniondale” by the 2010 U.S. census.

‘East Garden City’ which was founded on “racist terms,” according to Jeannine Maynard, President of the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition [GUAAC], is a nonexistent place except for in the minds of the area’s dwellers.


Members of GUAAC meet to discuss community development on November 9, 2013.

“I don’t think it is a given that they [Nassau Coliseum and surrounding businesses] are deemed ‘East Garden City.’ As a community we are really fighting that there is any legitimacy there,” Maynard said. “There is no legitimacy to ‘East Garden City’ in terms of the local community.”

The gray area now faces pressures from two sides: the underfunded Uniondale whose tax base is at stake… and the privileged Garden City who wanted nothing to do with its eastern half in the first place.


The history of such a concept started with the racial segregation of Long Island in the 1950s.

Enter the inhabitants of Garden City, New York—founded by millionaire Alexander Turney Stewart— who did not want to be associated with the residents of the Mitchel Field Airbase and saw to it they were not associated with the town’s prosperity.

Because the zip code of the navy yard personnel could not be legally changed, it was decided that the name of their community would change. Thus everyone of ‘Garden City proper’ referred to everyone in that area [and those who were not like them] as residents of ‘East Garden City.’

In the meantime, Uniondale was willing to “step up and absorb the kids of families at the Mitchel Field Airbase,” Maynard said. “Garden City did not want them, but Uniondale was more than happy to have them in its school district.”


“I sometimes feel that we [as a multiethnic community] are under fire,” said Mary-Ellen Kreye, Vice President of Uniondale Community Council.

Fast forward to the present and all of the effects this decision with no legal bearing has on Uniondale at large. Various properties and spaces [such as the Nassau Coliseum] that generate decent tax revenue and funding for community programs is being cut and distributed to places such as Avalon Bay, and of course ‘East Garden City.’

“We feel beleaguered, because we are in the fortunate situation of being one of the very few [maybe the only] multiethnic communities that has a good tax base,” Kreye said of Uniondale. “That’s one of the reasons we keep fighting for it.”

In an effort to address the issue when it first arose approximately 30 years ago, Uniondale Community Council hosted its first summit at Hofstra University at the same time the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition was forming.

With the series of conversations generated from the summit, it was decided that such an organization was needed to unify areas beyond Uniondale incorporated into both the school district and taxation brackets. Included in the taxing district are six homes in Westberry, and all of Meadowbrook Point, South Hempstead, and North Baldwin.

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano claimed that resources of Uniondale (such as tax revenue and allocation of property) should be distributed among Nassau County.

The 2010 census states ‘East Garden City’ has a population of 19,302,448…but it doesn’t legally exist.

According to the 1980 census, this is far from the case.


The physical copy of the 1980 U.S. Census. Circled below are then-newly developed areas once a part of Uniondale and Hempstead; Now ‘East Garden City.’


This decision has effects on the Uniondale school district as well. Kids from poorer communities in the southern part of the district are ‘packed into Roosevelt, Westberry, Hempstead, and New Castle.’  Should the tax base of various business belong to ‘East Garden City,’ the school district of Uniondale will suffer a substantial loss to their program funding.

“The northern part of Uniondale has now been named ‘East Garden City.’ Very successful businesses such as the RXR Plaza, the Nassau Coliseum and Nassau Community College want to be called ‘East Garden City,” said Ciara Musson, a senior at Hofstra University.

As a former member of Hofstra’s Center for Civic Engagement, Musson has become very invested in the ongoing struggle between Uniondale and it “Garden City does not even want to be associated with ‘East Garden City’ because they don’t control anything in that area.”


“The most pressing issue in Uniondale is the designation of ‘East Garden City’ community—which we do not sanction,” said Pearl Jacobs, President of the Nostrand Gardens Civic Association.  

It has been said that even Uniondale was in fact called “East Hempstead” once upon a time. So just what is the importance of the name of these two areas and everything in between? What’s in a name, anyway? One word: stigma. That’s why. A name like “garden” provides a certain level of comfort as a suburban habitat compared with “union” on a surface level, but the issue goes deeper than a name when an area is neglected because of it.

For example, the stigma of crime disproportionately compacted in Uniondale/Hempstead is one that plagues the community. This however, is unfounded due to the simple fact that crime takes place everywhere [as is illustrated in the tweets below] and that if more resources were allocated into the Uniondale community, more preventative and safety measures could be taken.

As a board member of the Uniondale Community Land Trust and an Economics professor at Hofstra University, Dr. Martin Melkonian acknowledges the ‘long term agenda’ to stop Uniondale’s tax base from benefiting ‘East Garden City.’

However, he feels Uniondale’s overall development is even more pressing. He would like to see the “eye sore on the corner on the corner of Uniondale Avenue and Front Street” taken down as it is the ‘entrance into Uniondale.’

The need for such revitalization is evident in the appearance of Uniondale. An example is the fact that nobody is able to enjoy themselves in the MLK peace park without being hurt by the debris. It is only ever cleaned when a political event takes place in Uniondale and there seems to be zero accountability on the part of local officials to keep it that way.

“It is very cynical, I believe,” said Dr. Greg Maney, “to have a park named after Martin Luther King, Jr., used only for political promotion and agenda.”


Dr. Greg Maney leading the last meeting of the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition [GUAAC] on November 9 in the Uniondale High School Auditorium.

Student safety is at the heart of the matter, but the school’s concern for its liability raises a question—who is this good for? For the students perhaps, to some extent, but many question how this is helpful to the morale of the community they frequent.

As for GUAAC, who is continuing to hold monthly meetings, this issue is far from resolved.

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The first page of the signed petition being passed throughout Uniondale regarding the removing of the name ‘East Garden City’ on its property. “There is no such political entity.”

“The post office does not recognize East Garden City,” Maynard said. “Even if it did that does not legally bind an area to a particular name; the census has no legal value.”

The ‘political hockey puck’ Uniondale has become is unfortunately taking a toll on its residents. Hofstra University senior and Huntington resident Melaine Morgan is concerned for the citizens of her neighboring suburb.

“People that have grown up here [Uniondale] are used to it being called ‘Uniondale.’ They have their memories of it being that,” Morgan said. “To change it would be changing their memories for life. Why change something when it’s not broken?”

Long Island Filipino Community Responds to Typhoon Haiyan



Filipino civilians displaced by Typhoon Haiyan board a U.S. Marine Corps Air Craft.

Photo credit: Anne Henry; Tacloban Air Base

By Jeanine Russaw

Published and Modified by Long Island Press

Long Island has had its own run-ins with natural disaster—the effects of 2012 Super Storm Sandy are still visible on many parts of the island—but that has not kept its communities from reaching out to those left displaced by Typhoon Haiyan.

The Filipino-American Society of Long Island (Tanglaw) planned relief efforts in advance while monitoring developments of Typhoon Haiyan several days before it reached land and ravaged the Philippines.

Based in Holbrook, NY, this 35-year- old organization exists to “extend all feasible means of support to [our] native land, the Philippines, in an effort to build a more stable and prosperous country.”

Robert Zarate, president of Tanglaw, began Operation Tanglaw: a fundraising campaign for victims of Typhoon Yolanda [Haiyan]. Before moving to Long Island in search of opportunities for his family, Zarate worked at the Philippine Consulate in the late 1980’s and early ‘90s.

Operation Tanglaw is currently requesting nonperishable donations including canned goods and baby supplies in addition to monetary funds to help cover shipping costs. The organization has donation drop-off locations in Nassau and Suffolk counties and is hosting an event on Saturday, Nov. 23 at the Villa Lombardi in which all proceeds are being donated to the Philippines.

However, once things have calmed down and the Philippines have been restored once more, the work will not cease for this Filipino-American Society.

Typhoons are a natural disaster that is “not anything new to us on the island,” said Zarate, who has seen everything from earthquakes, typhoons, and the Philippines’ volcanic eruption of 1991.

Taking a different approach than that of Operation Tanglaw, the International Youth Fellowship (IYF) recently sponsored a winter concert at Mahanaim School in conjunction with the U.S. Fund to UNICEF.

The approximate 400 people who attended this free concert on Sunday, Nov. 17 had the opportunity to make tax-deductible contributions toward the purchase of food, water, medicine, and other basic supplies for typhoon victims.  Several musical selections of the evening were dedicated to the “undying spirit of the people of the Philippines.”

While originally scheduled several weeks ago to collect funding for student scholarships, the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan inspired IYF and the Mahanaim School to again become involved with UNICEF, like they had over the summer.

“People of Nassau and Suffolk are very supportive of good causes. They come to our school and are interested in the education of its students,” said Glen Heil, IYF Public Relations Personnel. “Since we have a very generous and supportive town, why not make this concert about more than our school?”

While this concert may have been the ideal way to aid the Philippines, it almost did not happen. News of the event had been spread at the last minute, primarily by “word of mouth,” according to Heil.

$3200 was collected by the end of the night with $2083 being allocated to UNICEF’s disaster relief efforts. The remaining funds are going toward the school’s student scholarship funds.

Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock Nine, still fighting for more inclusive America

ernest green and i

Jeanine Russaw interviews Ernest Green

Ernest Green—a man forced to walk through a barrage of physical harm, insults, and contemptuous glares to attend school – has lived to see two great moments in history.

“Growing up, there were two things I never thought I’d see,” Green said.  “One was a president who looked like Barack Obama in the White House, the other was a free South Africa led by a Nelson Mandela.”

Green, who addressed the students of Hofstra University on Tuesday, Nov. 5,  was one of nine students who integrated the formerly all-white Central High School of Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. He also became the first African-American to graduate from the school in 1958.

A living link to America’s civil rights history, Green called on his young audience to use social media to highlight the continuing problems with racism in the U.S. and spread his message of a more inclusive America for future generations.

“Whether it’s the overt activity of Jim Crow laws we had in the 50s or the possibly more subtle racism today, it still restricts people’s ability,” Green said in an interview. “What we need in this country is to develop talent wherever it is and provide a foundation the country will benefit from.”

Ernest Green speaks on his experiences as one of the Little Rock Nine

Ernest Green speaks on his experiences as one of the Little Rock Nine
LIR Photo Credit: Jeanine Russaw

During poignant pauses in Green’s presentation, words such as “leadership,” and “education” echoed among audience members; many realizing  their speaker’s struggle was not “excessive” homework, but  inadequate learning materials and violent confrontation.

Mark Atkinson, fourth year student and audio visual technician for the event said Green made him realize  “the value of [my] education.”

“Hearing his firsthand account of how he fought to have his education makes my own mean so much more,” he said.

For Green, 72, the work is never done. He currently lives in Washington D.C., serves on the Board of Directors for Fisk University and the Board of Trustees for both Clark Atlanta University and Quality Education for Minorities Network.

The lecture, “On the Front Lines with the Little Rock Nine: a Conversation with Ernest Green,”  was organized by the NAACP [Hofstra Chapter]  to mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Green says it was impossible to know the outcome when he took part in what became one of the most celebrated events in the Civil Rights Movement. As president of the Hofstra NAACP, Angelica Jackson wanted students to walk away from Green’s visit with “the realization that ‘hard’ wasn’t even the word for them [Little Rock Nine].”

“We worry about the boy who doesn’t like us because we have a pimple on our face,” Jackson said. “They had to be worried about people not liking them for the color of their skin.”

Written by: Jeanine Russaw on November 9, 2013.