Friday, June 29, 2007

Desegregation Decision

In all of the commentary I've seen on the Supreme Court's desegregation decision yesterday, Jan Crawford-Greenburg (as is often the case) picked up on a neglected aspect of the story:
White, single mom Crystal Meredith and African-American matriarch Mattie Jones come from different worlds and opposite sides of Louisville, Ky., but both hailed today's 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Meredith v. Jefferson County Public Schools, which threw out the city's school assignment plan because it was based, in part, on a child's race.

Meredith is 34 years old, juggling graduate school, trying to launch a career as a "success coach" for corporate executives and manage child care for her 10-year-old son, Josh.

Mattie Jones, widowed after half a century of marriage, has raised nine children on the city's predominantly black West Side, and now watches over 31 grandchildren. A lifelong civil rights activist during the volatile decades of the '50s, '60s and '70s, she was arrested 28 times at marches, sit-ins and protests.

Today she serves as president of the city's Justice Resource Center, a storefront office run by her pastor that advocates for the poor and dispossessed.

Both women believe in the same thing: Their children should be able to get a good education at a neighborhood school and not have to ride buses crisscrossing the city to find equality in educational opportunity.

* * *
Jones said her decades of experience with Louisville's school integration efforts have convinced her the solution is better schools in the neighborhoods.

"We don't have to sit next to a white person -- our kids don't -- to be educated," said Jones.

* * *
Mattie Jones believes the decision was right and hopes it will mean that the schools in her own West side neighborhood will get some of the money and resources they need.

"I used to sit on my porch to hear the laughter and the chatter" of the children as they went to the corner elementary school," she said.

But that building is now a fire station. As for the sounds of schoolchildren, she said, "all we hear now is the noise of the buses."



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