Brooklyn Deep is the media arm of The Brooklyn Movement Center, a Black-led, membership-based organization of primarily low-to-moderate income Central Brooklyn residents. They work to build power and pursue self-determination in Bedford-Stuyvesant & Crown Heights by nurturing local leadership, waging campaigns and winning concrete improvements in people’s lives.

In 2019, Brooklyn Deep released an 8-part podcast documentary called School Colors.  Spanning 150 years of history, it looks at race, class and power through the schools of Bedford-Stuyvesant.  It features well researched history, compelling story telling, and provides a nuanced look at many of the educational debates happening in cities today (particular credit to Ep 6, Mo’ Charters, Mo’ Problems, for tackling one of the most heated topics with a nuance that is often lacking).  

Hosts Mark Winston Griffith and Max Freedman join us to discuss the project, and share an edit of Ep 7, New Kids on the Block.  We talk about gentrification, colonization, rallying, and impact versus intent.  If you’ve been listening to Nice White Parents, you’ll recognize many of the same themes.  

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Let us know what you think of this episode, suggest future topics, or share your story with us – @integratedschls on twitter, IntegratedSchools on Facebook, or email us [email protected].

The Integrated Schools Podcast was created by Courtney Mykytyn and Andrew Lefkowits.

This episode was produced by Andrew Lefkowits.

Audio editing and mixing by Andrew Lefkowits.

Music by Kevin Casey.

 

Transcript

Andrew: Welcome to the Integrated Schools podcast. I'm Andrew, a White dad from Denver. And this is, ICYMI: School Colors. Last year, Brooklyn Deep released an eight part documentary podcast series called School Colors. It's about race, class, and power in American cities, and it’s told through stories about the struggle for self-determination.  It spans 150 years and  focuses on the schools of central Brooklyn, particularly in Bedford-Stuyvesant or Bed-Stuy.  

And I'm thrilled to be joined today by the co-hosts and co-producers of the podcast. Uh, guys why don't you introduce yourselves.

Max: Hi, my name is Max Friedman and I'm the co-producer and co-host of School Colors.   

Mark: And I’m Mark Winston Griffith. And I'm the co-host and co-producer of School Colors as well, as well as the executive editor of Brooklyn Deep.

Andrew: Yeah, can you tell me a bit about what Brooklyn Deep is?

Mark: Brooklyn Deep is the digital journalism arm of an organization called the Brooklyn Movement Center. So the Brooklyn Movement Center is a community organizing group, Black-led, that works in central Brooklyn, builds power for people who live and work here across a lot of different issue areas. And the mission of Brooklyn Deep is to be a storytelling and citizen journalism platform that sort of deconstructs and looks at issues of community change and gentrification.

Andrew: Why Brooklyn? Why Bed-Stuy? Why tell the story of Bed-Stuy around education?

Mark: Education has always been a prism through which people have looked at and expressed self-determination in central Brooklyn. So, you know, central Brooklyn is the largest concentration of Black folks in the country, urban-wise. And so, what happens in central Brooklyn, I won't say it's a stand-in for everywhere else, but it's a good indication of what Black folks in urban areas are going through. 

Max: For me, it was really personal. Um, because I live here. When I came to live here as a gentrifier, I wanted to try to, it's a cliche, but to try to give something back to this community instead of just taking from it.

But I also, this isn't specific to Bed-Stuy, but to Northern cities, like New York and like Brooklyn, when we think about education as a civil rights issue, we think about the South. And it’s certainly not an original thought for me to say we can't just look at the South. So many people, Nikole Hannah-Jones and many others have been saying like, you know, we need to look not just in the present, but historically the struggles around education in the North. The Boston busing crisis, community control in Ocean Hill-Brownsville. There are various flashpoints around education in the North. It's really important to tell that story in places like this. 

Mark: I just want to add that on a personal note, I think it's important to kind of look backwards in my life in the sense that my parents and aunts and uncles were all teachers or worked in the public school system in one way or another. And so that's also been a part of my personal history. I've always had a high value on education, not just in terms of my own personal life, but just politically I've always felt as though education was an important part around the conversation of, you know, social justice and Black liberation.

 Andrew: So what led you to create the School Colors podcast?

Max: We started with a question, which was very much in the present tense: What is happening to enrollment in the schools of Community School District 16, which is here in the eastern half of Bedford-Stuyvesant, because we found right off the bat that the enrollment was declining dramatically.

Uh, at that point, just over half of students who live in the district were actually going to school in the district. It seemed really dramatic, especially if you looked back in history and saw that 50 years ago, students in this community were going to school in shifts because they didn't have enough seats.

Andrew: There were so many of them.

Max: There were so many kids. So we started off with that question and it just was, uh, you know, we, we pulled a thread and it was a question without an easy answer. It's this and this and this. And also, you can't understand this, this or this without looking at what was happening a hundred years ago, 50 years ago, it's all connected.

There's a lot of continuity here. The reason it was important to highlight that continuity is because part of the way that gentrification works and gentrification is a big part of the story that we're telling about Bed-Stuy in the present, gentrification thrives on the idea that there's nothing here or that what is here doesn't have value. And so telling the story of, of the struggle and the continuity is a really important intervention into this narrative about whether or not there is something here that has value, as opposed to just something here that needs replacing, or even that needs saving.

Andrew: Alright, so let's talk about Episode Seven: New Kids on the Block. And this episode really focuses on the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee. Maybe tell us just briefly what, who the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee is and how it came to be.

Max: So the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee is a group of families who are mostly new to Bed-Stuy, um, mostly, but not all White and pretty much all middle class, upper middle class.

Mark: Yeah. And I would say that the basic premise behind the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee is that, you know, We are parents, we're somewhat new to this neighborhood, and we recognize that a lot of, of our peers send their children outside of the district. And so we want to live in a neighborhood where we can send our own children to the schools here. And so let's, let's prepare the ground for that.

Andrew: Right. So they're a new group of parents. They recently arrived, led by Shaila who we will come to know well through this episode. They're looking to get involved and maybe bringing with them a sense that the schools in the neighborhood are failing. Uh, and they have that sense, you know, because our system says our schools are broken and they're also coming in, without a, an understanding of the history that you guys so artfully layout in the first episodes of School Colors.  

Max: Yeah. I mean, in their defense, I think actually Shaila, who started the group, she started hearing from parents that they just weren't sending their kids to local schools. And so she really just wanted to start by finding out what was actually going on in the local schools just by going in there and encouraging other parents to go in there too. 

Mark: Yeah. And I will also say that when you've been working inside the system for such a long time, there is a certain level of submission that I think occurs. And I think that as a new group of parents, they came in not feeling at all obligated to bow down to that system and so they wanted to make sure that they were going to be agents of progress and change in their children's lives.

Max: And I wouldn't necessarily say that I feel like these parents were too empowered. Everybody should feel the way that they do.

Andrew: Maybe disproportionately empowered because of the way the system works.

Max: Right.

Mark: And in fact I've always felt like more parent organizing needed to occur. You know, I just felt it was ironic that this was happening among newly arrived, mostly middle class, mostly White parents, but this is something that we encourage among everybody in, not only District 16, but just parents in general.

Andrew: Right. So you have this activated and empowered group of parents, which is potentially a good thing, but they're maybe heard by the system in ways that the existing activist parents have not been. And so there's some tension there. And the other challenge that seems to come up is something we talk at Integrated Schools a lot, eh, is this idea of rallying. You know, if I can just get enough people to come with me to the school, then it'll be, quote, Okay. Or then we can make it better or we can fix the school. And it's a, it's a potentially complicated topic because, particularly as we see gentrification moving through more and more cities, we see more areas with declining enrollment. And so, you know, on the one hand butts in seats is what keeps a school alive. But what can be ostensibly good intentions often end up with quite bad impacts and episode seven really captures both the good intentions and the negative impacts quite well.

Because I think that like Shaila comes across as very relatable and I find myself being like, Oh, I can totally see how I could end up in the exact same spot that she got herself into.

Mark: There is a ahistoric sense that I think that is pervasive, that in many ways sort of prompted us to do the podcast in the first place and why there are four episodes worth of history because you know, it's not just gentrifiers. I think newcomers in general tend to come in with a sense of their own power and a lack of curiosity about what has gone on before. I mean, it's not only just devaluing it, but just a failure to sort of do your due diligence, to get an understanding of what's the context you're coming into. Um, and so I think all of that is, is operating in the background here.

Andrew:  A sort of basic lack of respect for history maybe.

Mark: And, and I think that sort of the lack of patience and tolerance, if you will, that a lot of people have for gentrifiers is, it's almost willful. Sometimes that lack of history and lack of, of curiosity and this sort of assumption that's baked in that whatever happened before is worth papering over and fixing, and it's not good enough.

And so, it's incumbent upon us to get things right, because this is a neighborhood that clearly is, has been dysfunctional. And so we're going to come in and we're gonna, we're going to fix it. 

Andrew: We’ve got gentrification, saviorism, school integration - it’s all in here. But maybe we should take a listen to hear what actually happens

______________________

“School Colors Episode 7: New Kids on the Block” excerpt [transcript from School Colors website]

SHAILA DEWAN: So when I moved here I was pregnant. 

MARK WINSTON GRIFFITH: Shaila Dewan moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn in 2012.

SHAILA DEWAN: And I talked to everyone I met on the bus on the subway eventually on the playground about the schools here. Where do you send your kid to school. Where does your kid go to school and. 

MAX FREEDMAN: Shaila is a journalist who covers criminal justice. So she approached the schools in Bed-Stuy like the investigative reporter that she is.

SHAILA DEWAN: I was trying to educate myself about this huge system of options that we have in this city and no one I talked to ever answered that they sent their kid to school in this neighborhood. 

MARK: Instead, they were taking advantage of this huge system of options: going to public schools in other districts, charter schools, or even private schools. 

______

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: Middle class parents don’t choose to go to neighborhood schools, and I think the reasons for black middle class parents versus white middle class parents are very different.

MARK: Nikole Hannah-Jones writes about race and schools for the New York Times Magazine. She also happens to live in Bed-Stuy.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: For most black middle class parents they are just one foot into the middle class themselves and this is not something they can risk. And for most white middle class parents I think that they have a lot of fear about putting their kids in school with poor black kids.

MARK: And when middle class families do choose local schools, they cluster. 

MATT GONZALES: They don’t make rational choices based on like programming, they like do what their friends say, and we have segregated you know friend groups, and so. 

MAX: Matt Gonzales is the Director of the Integration and Innovation Initiative at the NYU Metro Center.

MATT GONZALES: When you have a neighborhood gentrifying, you know. Folks are gonna send their kids to a school, they’re gonna choose a school that gonna become this enclave or boutique school in a sea of Black and Latino students. 

MAX: Which is exactly the kind of thing the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee would be accused of doing — whether or not that was their intent.

____

MARK: Shaila is actually not white, although she’s well aware that she presents as white to most people: her mother is white and her father is from India. She grew up in Houston, Texas. 

SHAILA DEWAN: You know I went into this with no organizing experience whatsoever. And I I just followed my instincts. And so I was talking to all the parents that I knew of kids of a similar age and then I started accosting strangers who I didn't know if I saw somebody with a stroller basically like they were going to get a flyer from me or I was gonna tell them about our next event. 

MAX: Virginia Poundstone was one of those strangers. She has a very clear memory of being with her son in Fulton Park in Bed-Stuy for a toddlers-playing-soccer thing, when:

VIRGINIA POUNDSTONE: Shaila fully like ran up to me and was like hi I'm Shaila I want you to come to this meeting. And I was like whoa lady who are you. Geez Louise alright. 

SHAILA DEWAN: I thought everyone with a small child is gonna be interested in this. everybody wants to walk two blocks to school. Right? 

MAX: She put up flyers in laundromats and on telephone poles — 

SHAILA DEWAN: You know in the fancy cafes and the not fancy cafes and

MAX: She used Yahoo Groups and built an email list — 

SHAILA DEWAN: And I mean this was part of the problem right is that I was really good at talking to my own cohort. People were really excited. 

VIRGINIA POUNDSTONE: I do remember getting an e-mail from Shaila being like okay we need to name ourselves. Does anybody have any ideas. What should we call this. And then the next email I got was the logo with the name.

MARK: When she first heard about this new group, Felicia Alexander from the Community Education Council for District 16 was not pleased.

FELICIA ALEXANDER: You coulda called yourself anything else. But it really galls me that you decided that you're the Bed-Stuy parent committee. Like you're not born and raised here. You're not do or die. You just came here because it's the popular destination.

VIRGINIA POUNDSTONE: I have lived in New York City since 1995 since I graduated high school. I am no dummy. I am white but I am no dummy. I know what Bed-Stuy means and Bed-Stuy is a black neighborhood. You know to call it Bed-Stuy Parents Committee when the vision of the entire organization is about diversifying schools. That's not what Bed-Stuy is. You know. And so I was always very self-conscious about it But didn't have a better solution.

_______

NEQUAN MCLEAN: This is a historical Black community.

MAX: NeQuan McLean is the president of the Community Education Council, the official representative body for parents in the district.

NEQUAN MCLEAN: We are very tied to our beliefs. Our religions. So I use as a metaphor. What they’ve done is they went into a church started a choir. And did not speak to the pastor. There was already a parent group in the community.

MARK: If it’s not clear… the parent group he’s talking about is the CEC. Which makes him the pastor. I think.

MAX: In some ways this is the original sin for NeQuan: they did speak to the pastor, but not until after they had already started their own group. But at the first meeting of what eventually became the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee, they really didn’t know what the group was going to be about. Should they start a new school? Join an existing school? Pretty quickly they realized they needed to start by getting more information.

______

MAX: The Bed-Stuy Parents Committee held their first official gathering in June 2015. In November, they organized their first big public event: at which they invited NeQuan and the superintendent to speak. Shaila says they were just trying to figure out how the system works, what the schools’ needs were, and how they could help to meet those needs.

MARK: But they did not make a very positive first impression. 

NEQUAN MCLEAN: Got a little hostile because it was like a attack us situation but we we held our ground and we said what we needed to say and we. 

MARK: The people in the audience were very critical? 

NEQUAN MCLEAN: Very critical very you know of the system and the District and. 

MARK: And so he sat down with Shaila and another parent from the group a couple weeks later to set them straight.

NEQUAN MCLEAN: At the time is when I told them the whole church and the choir. I said the best way to deal with this community order is not to come with the attitude that you're coming to fix something because there's been people here fighting for years to make sure we have quality education to make sure that the DOE is providing everything that they're supposed to for our children. So when you come with that attitude you're gonna get resistance. Me as a parent and a parent leader. I don't know you. Why am I going to listen to you. 

SHAILA DEWAN: I mean these schools don't have a healthy level of enrollment. Right. You just you can't. You don't have money if you don't have kids. 

MAX: So Shaila felt like she and NeQuan had the same mission: to get families to at least consider District 16.

SHAILA DEWAN: I mean NeQuan. Told me when we first met you know the most important thing you could do is send your kid to a District 16 school. And that was our our biggest push you know educating people about why a test score is not the be all and end all measure of a school. And telling people you've got to go in the school and see how it feels to you.

MARK: So far so good… except that some of the schools in District 16 were not at all prepared to receive these parents. 

MAX: Some of them wouldn’t respond to emails. One parent told me that she called up a school and asked if they offered school tours. Whoever picked up the phone straight-up said no and hung up. 

MARK: So in addition to organizing parents, the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee tried to work directly with the schools to help them market themselves and organize school tours. 

SHAILA DEWAN: But there's also a very big sense of “we can do this ourselves. Thanks a lot.” And sometimes it's like people don't want what you have to offer which you may think is so great. 

_______________

MAX: Virginia thinks she understands why a parent like her wouldn’t necessarily be welcomed by a longtime principal in this district.

VIRGINIA POUNDSTONE: You're getting families that are working too hard and don't have any time or don't have an education themselves I mean I have a hard time understanding and deciphering the DOE and I have a graduate degree. they set up this system that is impossible to navigate if you don't have a lot of time and a lot of resources to figure it out. And so if if a principal sees someone like me walk in who has obviously already begun to figure it out and I don't even have a child in school that is like no thank you. I don't want to deal with you I know you're going to be like a lot of you're going to be a lot of work. 

MARK: Like Virginia, most of the parents involved with Bed-Stuy Parents Committee had children who were still too young for school. So word on the street was that the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee was exclusive: only for some Bed-Stuy Parents, not all.

SHAILA DEWAN: There was no policy. All of our meetings were public but we just sort of said like hey this is particularly aimed at you if you're the parent of a kid who's age 0 to 4 meaning you wouldn't be placed in the school yet. 

MAX: And Shaila says that messaging was strategic: their goal was to encourage families who would otherwise not choose local schools to choose local schools. So if they spent their limited energy and resources trying to talk to parents of older kids, those parents would already have gone outside the district — too little, too late.

MARK: That doesn’t hold water with NeQuan.

NEQUAN MCLEAN: Oh so they want to make sure the schools are good at the schools are right before their kids get there. No we want to make sure the schools are right. The schools are good because students are there already. We gonna do what's best for all students not just yours not just Johnny. Not just Samantha. But Shequana that lives in Brevoort. We gonna make sure she has a good education too.

_____________

MARK: The most polarizing decision they ever made: they chose two “focus schools”: two schools where the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee would encourage their members to enroll, and that the organization would then raise money for.

____________________

MAX: There was a process of “natural selection.” Bed-Stuy Parents Committee parents toured every school in the district, and there were two schools that rose to the top: Brighter Choice Community School, and P.S. 309. 

MARK: But Virginia had a bad feeling about this from the beginning.

VIRGINIA POUNDSTONE: Originally it was. The discussion was like OK let's announce that we're adopting these schools. And I was like Yo no no we are not adopting anybody. And then the term became focus schools and then I was like But why do we have to announce that. A different way would have been to never announce that and just enroll. You know whatever. I lost.

MARK: Even as the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee kept on trying to get people hyped up about the district — they even made t-shirts that said I Heart D16 — the local rumor mill went into overdrive. 

MAX: The most persistent and destructive rumor has been that parents from the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee requested an all-white kindergarten class. 

SHAILA DEWAN: If you even wanted that. Which we don't. Why would you go to a 97 percent people of color school district and ask for that. Like it just doesn't make sense right. But that's one of the that's one of the huge rumors that people people actually seem to think that it might be true.

______________________________

Andrew: So Shaila was pretty definitive that they never asked for an all White kindergarten class. And that does seem a bit of an odd request given the demographics. Where did that rumor come from? And also, why does that seem like something that would be believable?

Max: Well, in one of the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee focus schools, P.S. 309, the first year, I think there were six families and five of them got placed in the same kindergarten class. Just by accident apparently. Just, you know, were, they were sorting names in a hat, whatever, five out of the six ended up in the same kindergarten class. And actually, apparently the, those parents were very upset. They understood the optics of it and they went to try to do something about it. But they also, those five were in a class with the kindergarten teacher that everybody wanted. So the principal says, Well, you can switch to the other one if you want. And they were not actually willing to give up that teacher. So there you go. 

We haven't been able to kind of get anybody on record. But it seems clear that this story was propagated by people who are in positions of power and influence in the district, and so it seems clear to me that whether or not it's true, people in the district who had the opportunity to shut it down sometimes did the opposite.

Mark: Yeah. And we know how the game of telephone works, right? I mean, all it, it doesn't even require someone to even say anything. All it requires is the perception, something interpreted a certain way and someone saying something to someone else, and then that gets absorbed as fact, you know, and it makes its way around. And by the time it's made its way around, you have no idea where it started or how much of it is based in fact. So I, in an environment where there's so much mistrust already, I think it's like putting a match into a straw. It's just gonna, it's just going to go up really quickly.

Andrew: It makes a good story for sure. And so even if it just starts out as like, you know, I don't want to be the one White kid who's ,who's all alone. That becomes, Oh, what's then you want all the White kids to be in one class. And now pretty soon it's like, well, you want the whole class to be White. Then you want the whole school to be White. And what you're actually doing here is taking over and it's a slippery slope.

Mark: Yeah. Confirms all your worst suspicions.

Andrew: The Bed-Stuy Parents Committee has angered people. They've got rumors swirling and they haven't even shown up in the schools yet. 

Max: Right. So the episode picks back up at one of the two focus schools, which is P.S. 309.

__________________________

“School Colors Episode 7: New Kids on the Block” excerpt [transcript from School Colors website]

MARK: When the first cohort of six families from the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee arrived at P.S. 309 in the fall of 2016, the president of the PTA was Natasha Seaton, known by everybody in the school as Miss Tasha.

NATASHA SEATON: I lived in Brooklyn all my life. I was born here in Bed-Stuy but I moved to Staten Island like six years ago.

_______

I didn't feel comfortable in the schools in Staten Island actually stepping in there talking to a principal. I always felt at home in Brooklyn. So I was just like you know what. I'm gonna keep her in school in Brooklyn but for the cheaper living I'll be in Staten Island. 

MARK: It’s a two hour commute, each way, every day.

NATASHA SEATON: Shoot we get up at 5:00. We're on the 6:40 ferry. And we're here at 7:30.

MARK: But she loves 309 and she loves Brooklyn.

NATASHA SEATON: Something about Brooklyn. That just brings out just the life of me when I when I step off the train I'm smiling. 

MARK: Her daughter loves Brooklyn too.

NATASHA SEATON: You know just her being her with our friends dancing outside. You know not being looked at all strangely you could be in a park and you can just like have a good time. So that's why I like Bed-Stuy.

MAX: When the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee rolled into town, Natasha had been PTA president for three years. She basically spent all her time in the building.

NATASHA SEATON: If they needed help in the cafeteria, I was there. If they needed help in the classroom putting up a bulletin board, I was there. 

MAX: She was a chaperone on field trips. She made sure every kid in the school had some kind of birthday treat.

NATASHA SEATON: Not a lot of parents wanted to join the PTA. I knew the parents at that school I knew that parents counted on me to you know let them know what's going on.

MAX: Eventually she even got a job in the building, working for the nonprofit that runs the after-school program.

NATASHA SEATON: Long days. I was there from 8:00 in the morning till like 7 o'clock at night.

MARK: The principal, Tanya Bryant, quickly came to appreciate how hard Natasha was working — and how much trust she had from other parents.

TANYA BRYANT: She was the mayor of the community. Even when it came to me. I remember my first two months here if something would happen and parents would come up here and they would be upset no no no no no no no no Miss Bryant loves the children. I'm sure that's not what happened. Talk to her. Let me figure it out. She was the mayor. Gotta be careful with the mayor. You know.

MAX: One of the new parents at P.S. 309 was the founder of the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee, Shaila Dewan. 

SHAILA DEWAN: We really didn't want it to be this kind of like “we are going to pick one school and go in there and take it over.” I mean we were really trying to avoid that dynamic. We did not want that. 

_____________

MAX: But right away, there was conflict between the new parents in the school and Miss Tasha.

NATASHA SEATON: It's not the color I love white people like I love them, you know, it's the way that they came in trying to, like regulate everything. You know, I want this program for this. 

MAX: Shaila and the other new parents at 309 put their social capital to work: they held a book sale, they staged a mock election on Election Day, They even arranged for subsidized music lessons. 

______

MARK: But nothing came easy. 

TANYA BRYANT: Every minor change was an issue. For example. How about the PTA sell flowers. Oh we don't sell flowers here.

SHAILA DEWAN: Some people wanted to have committees. And I remember at one point the PTA president said we can't have committees. 

TANYA BRYANT: But I think it became almost like territorial right. We were here. My kid has been here since pre-school and we just don't do it that way. 

SHAILA DEWAN: The district person showed up at a PTA meeting and said You can have committees like you can't just not have committees if people want to have committees they can. 

MAX: So but somebody must have called the district people and said she's not letting us have committees. 

SHAILA DEWAN: Yeah that was probably me. That was probably me who did that. Yeah.

TANYA BRYANT: Newer families though had done their homework. It behooved them to research and find out how do public schools run. Oh let me read the Chancellor's regulations so they would come in and say but there's nothing wrong with selling flowers according to Chancellor's regulation you know stating policy and I think the older family don't come in here stating that policy like everything was like a challenge.

SHAILA DEWAN: I'm like the little like rule stickler who will be like you can't do that because the rules say blah blah blah. You know like let me call in the referee.

TANYA BRYANT: And I think it's hard it was harder for some of the other parents because they no longer could afford to live in the community right. So now I've moved out. I'm in a shelter or I've temporary housing or I've been forced to move to other areas of the city and I'm a native of Bed-Stuy and now here you are you're living in Bed-Stuy and now you want owner you took my home and now you want my school too.

MAX: Even these little things — starting committees, selling flowers — were signals to Natasha that these new parents were trying to turn P.S. 309 into a replica of one of the most highly prized schools in brownstone Brooklyn, P.S. 11: still a mostly Black school, but with a growing white minority.

NATASHA SEATON: You want it to be P.S. 11. Yes P.S. 11 can bring in twenty five thousand dollars. I know where their location is. Yes I know the parents. Remember where our school is. Remember what parents we're dealing with and the money that they have in their pocket. Relax. You're trying to quote unquote shit on them. And forget about the parents that have been in the school that are struggling. You think everybody's rich. No.

MAX: You say like they wanted to turn it into something else. If you had to. What did they want to turn it into.

NATASHA SEATON: For me to talk real their white school. They didn’t want no black kids in there.

MARK: Even Shaila could see that what was happening had a racial dimension. She says she tried to be proactive about addressing it. 

SHAILA DEWAN: People didn't want to have a conversation about race. So. Not at that point in time. You know. And it may be like. Why should we have a conversation about it. You go have a conversation about it. It's it's just really hard to know what the right forum is.

TANYA BRYANT: She kept wanting to push the issue. Let's talk about this race and gentrification and how it's affecting and I remember saying to her but you're not ready for the truth you know. And then yes I am yes I am.

NATASHA SEATON: Yes they work they have their nice prestigious jobs. Nobody's mad at that. I mean to stay in the school. You know so I don't feel like you know. You're talking to me any kind of way like oh like you're higher than me. You know I chose to do what I wanted to do. Yes I'm smart. I graduated from York college. I have my bachelors and so forth. I did psychology and social work. I just don't want to do that. I want to be in the school.

MARK: To hear Natasha tell it, the microaggressions were constant. 

NATASHA SEATON: How y'all come off like this like I thought we were all parents. And I didn't want it to be like your angry black person. Like you don't know how to be in a setting you know like. I shouldn't have to like get out of my character and be like oh like this Brooklyn chick is like getting all like crazy like no I can talk just like you all. They just did stuff differently.

SHAILA DEWAN: I remember there was a lot of frustration trying to deal with Natasha because you’d think you had agreed on some way of proceeding with something and then the next time you saw her the story would be different. We would say things like well you want to have a Thanksgiving raffle do you need parents to come at a certain time and help sell tickets to the raffle. Like what do you need. And it would just be like No no no we don't we don't need anything. Thanks.  

NATASHA SEATON: So oh well if you're mad at me oh well this is volunteer. Ha. So we don't get paid for this so you know what. Accept it and work with me. Or I know that you're not for the kids.

_________________________

Andrew: All right. So tensions are rising. You've got Shyla bringing this desire to help. And this tendency to focus on the rules and, uh, feeling like she should be asserting herself and advocating on behalf of the other parents that she's bringing with her. And then I guess there were PTA elections.

Max: Yeah. So Natasha had been the PTA president for two or three years at that point and on paper, they were supposed to be term limits, but they, you know, as with some of these other rules that hadn't necessarily been enforced like that. Natasha says that basically the new parents in this school conspired to make it so that these rules would be followed and Natasha couldn't run for PTA president again. So there were elections and, uh, they got a little heated.

Mark: Yeah. I mean, I think the idea was that Natasha felt, and I think this has been supported by other things too, that the new parents didn't want her in there. And so they had to go to a technicality, in essence to nudge her out. And then, so what Natasha did, or at least how people perceived it, is that she found some people who were riding and dying with her who were part of her camp, so to speak.

And they ran for co-presidents. And there were a couple of other candidates. Liz and Anika, one White, one Black, who were recruited to run as well. And those two, you know, in talking to them, they said that they just had no idea all this political intrigue and background was, was operating and they came into it rather naively and said, Sure, we will, we'll be down to be a part of this. And they got caught in the crosshairs of this racial feud, so to speak.

Andrew: Were they part of the, the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee?

Max: No, they weren't. Liz knew Shaila socially, but as she put it, was a non-participant in the activities of the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee. It was like, it was not, it was not her scene. 

Mark: And Bed-Stuy Parents Committee, I think to some extent, just became shorthand for people who were White or people who were middle class, or people who are newcomers. And so it all got sort of conflated in and painted with the same brush. 

Max: So, the PTA meetings maybe had five or six people at them on a monthly basis, weekly or monthly basis. When these elections came around with this, this rivalry between the two co-presidents and the one side and the two on the other, there were 40 or 50 people at those elections.

Mark: They had never seen, at least I don't think in recent times, anything like this. And so I think everyone recognized that the stakes were really high and that's what made this election that much more explosive. 

Andrew: Right. So the PTA vote happens. You've got 40 or 50 people showing up, but you also, I guess, had the current CEC president who we've heard from already NeQuan McLean there.

Max: Yeah, there had been a lot of drama leading up to the PTA elections and they had to rewrite the bylaws so they could have co-presidents and NeQuan had gotten involved in that stuff. So he, as he does a lot, he showed up at the PTA elections to kind of administer or oversee.

___________________

“School Colors Episode 7: New Kids on the Block” excerpt [transcript from School Colors website]

NEQUAN MCLEAN: It was basically really like the whites against the black. You have two rows of white people. You have two rows of black people in a black people sitting in the back and the white people sitting in the front. All kinds of crazy nonsense.

MAX: Principal Tanya Bryant.

TANYA BRYANT: Many of the families here were not actively involved and they were OK. They trust the school to kind of do what they do. If you need me call me I'll help you but I trust the school to kind of do what it does. But when it was time for a PTA election some of these people would come out of the woodwork. You've never seen so many people in your life you know just to make sure that certain people didn't get elected or so it's a very interesting dynamic. You know I don't necessarily want it but I don't want you to have it either because you're just getting here. I may not have all the time in the world um to dedicate to the school but I'm here too and I still want my voice heard. And I'm afraid that if you get the position that my voice I'm not going to be represented here. So.

MARK: Anika & Liz won by one vote.

LIZ DIPIPPO: It did not feel good. But at the end the room empties. And who's there but us. Yeah. And the other two women who ran against us and it was like they were so nice and they both were like We're here for you. We want to help you.

MAX: So the real problem was not the parents.

LIZ DIPIPPO: It became clear after we won that we would not be supported by the school.

MARK: But whatever happened next, Shaila Dewan wouldn’t be around to see it. Over the summer, she made a difficult decision.

SHAILA DEWAN: So PS 56 is in District 13 and my kid just got into a program that is not offered for kindergartners in District 16. So that was a big discussion in my family and um. 

MARK: I can imagine.

SHAILA DEWAN: Which I lost. And but he's going to the closest place to our neighborhood that offers it. So. 

MAX: What's the program. 

SHAILA DEWAN: Gifted and talented. 

____________

MARK: But just because Shaila had left, didn’t mean things would go smoothly at P.S. 309 the following year.

MAX: For one thing, Natasha Seaton was still on the PTA — as the secretary.

NATASHA SEATON: So I was just like all this work that I done. No I'm not going without a fight.

_______

LIZ DIPIPPO: All the hostility from the year before was now on me like I was representative of that new white group of parents and so it was like this relationship was irreparably damaged and I was now the new spokesperson for that relationship.

MARK: The hostility was particularly jarring for Anika as a Black woman born and raised in Bed-Stuy.

ANIKA GREENIDGE: I felt like I was caught in the middle. I felt like this is basically a predominantly black school and because I was more inviting and welcoming and I actually became friends with one of the new parents. 

MARK: Who was White.

ANIKA GREENIDGE: Who was white that they were like oh you know like we don't like her we're not gonna like her either.

LIZ DIPIPPO: Personally my interactions with the teachers were mostly very very good. Totally fine. The office staff horrible. Janitorial staff horrible. Security team horrible.

MAX: They interfered with Liz and Anika in lots of petty ways. 

LIZ DIPIPPO: Oh here you have to file for every permit for every PTA meeting you're gonna have for the rest of the school year. Awesome. That'll secure us a spot every month and then. Oh no no no no none of those permits that you filed are meaningful or valid.

LIZ DIPIPPO: We couldn’t do anything. We were absolutely paralyzed. 

ANIKA GREENIDGE: Had our door locked.

LIZ DIPIPPO: Yeah the door locked.

ANIKA GREENIDGE: Oh you can’t get into the PTA room. 

LIZ DIPIPPO: We couldn’t get a key can we get a key. Oh in October here’s the key. Stuff like this so it was like every single you know one giant leap was the.

ANIKA GREENIDGE: The door’s supposed to be closed when we’re not there. When we come. The door is already open. We’re like what who was in here.

_____________________

MAX: Liz and Anika say they felt like they were being bullied by Natasha and her allies. But what was even more demoralizing was that they felt like the school leadership didn’t have their back. 

MARK: The last straw was in November, when a rumor started to circulate that Liz had filed an official complaint against Ms. Bryant with the DOE. Anika heard it first.

ANIKA GREENIDGE: I called her immediately and I was like there's this rumor around that you filed a complaint about the principal and da da da da da. And she's like What. 

LIZ DIPIPPO: And you said I'm assuming. This is not true. I’m like yeah that's not true. I didn't file a complaint with the superintendent against anybody I would. That's insane.

ANIKA GREENIDGE: She was almost near tears and she was like You know I'm done. And she was like I tried I'm done.

MAX: They didn’t show up to the next PTA meeting, in December.

LIZ DIPIPPO: And then we both pulled our kids out of the school in January and we just like didn't show up and I never told anybody at the school I just just left. I just like yeah.

MAX: Liz says it felt like a really extreme decision. But it also felt like:

LIZ DIPIPPO: Everyone hates me here. Like I'm still his mom. How can I send my kid to school where he's around these people. So many hours a day and it's. People are going out of their way to start rumors about me that I'm like doing this stuff to mess with the principal like this is a bad scene. I gotta get out of here.

TANYA BRYANT: With every stage of change comes conflict. And a lot of the newer families the change didn't come quickly enough for them and the conflict became unnecessary to them because they felt like they had other options.

NATASHA SEATON: I see some of the parents now. And it's just like Oh hey yeah hey but we could have had a good time at 309 and you destroyed it. And for you to all just leave and then leave the kids like y’all left PTA crap. you know like y'all fought for the PTA and none of you are on the PTA so what was all this fight for.

MAX: That’s a good question: what was all this fight for?

MAX: In the three months that you were PTA president how much money did you raise.

LIZ DIPIPPO: How much money did we raise. Four hundred bucks. Yeah. Yeah.

MAX: And what was it spent on.

LIZ DIPIPPO: Oh who knows.

MARK: Even after Anika & Liz were gone, Natasha felt targeted by the other new parents in the school. She felt like they treated her like a problem. 

NATASHA SEATON: So it was like for my whole fifth grade I was stuck in the PTA room. I couldn't be with the kids. I couldn't help out. Couldn't do nothing.

NATASHA SEATON: It was like I was watched on. Don't let me come into the cafeteria say good morning to the kids because they've been watching me from the um. The windows in the yard. Is she in there.

NATASHA SEATON: I couldn't take the kids down the hallway anymore. Nothing. That stopped because they didn't want me touching their white kids. My brown hands on their white kids.

NATASHA SEATON: Oh this is racism. Damn. I never never living in Staten Island still. Never. Never had to feel the way I felt for them last two years.

_____

MARK: Maybe inevitably, there was a conflation between what happened at P.S. 309 and the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee as an organization. The Bed-Stuy Parents Committee didn’t control any PTA in the district, and the actions of individual parents didn’t necessarily reflect the mission and values of the group.

MAX: But their reputation was badly damaged. 

SHAILA DEWAN: I mean our confidence was just just obliterated. 

MAX: Shaila tried to clear the air with the CEC and other local stakeholders, but it was always like one step forward, two steps back. 

SHAILA DEWAN: As I understand it the CEC told the superintendent not to have any conversations with us. And then the CEC also told us that they would not have any conversations with us.

NEQUAN MCLEAN: Every time that we have opened our arms or try to work with them they have tried to do something undercut or go behind our backs and we don't have time to waste like that.

SHAILA DEWAN: It may be that you know like we just didn't CC the right person on the right email. There's no book that tells you who to CC. But when we make that mistake of not CCing the right person you know it just is a complete conflagration sized disaster. 

MAX: Shaila continued to believe the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee was doing really positive things. But they were clearly not being seen that way. 

MARK: And for Shaila, it felt very personal.

SHAILA DEWAN: It's it's been really. Hard. I mean I've gone to public meetings where people will not say hello to me. 

MARK: People who you know. 

SHAILA DEWAN: Yeah people who I've met. Yeah. People who I say hello to will not say hello to me. It's like I'm completely toxic in my own community and neighborhood.

SHAILA DEWAN: I am a pariah. And um. You know I resigned from the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee not because of that not because I didn't want to fight the hard fight but for other reasons. And I also just felt like gosh maybe this will help like. Maybe it will help the group to move on into a more productive relationship.

MARK: After Shaila resigned in the summer of 2017, Virginia Poundstone and Mica Vanterpool took over as co-presidents of the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee and decided to put things on pause. Here’s Virginia:

VIRGINIA POUNDSTONE: I think I had a gut feeling as a human being about what the the behaviors of my fellow white people being really negative. But I didn't have the skills to really articulate exactly why what they were doing was bad and why the way they were speaking was bad the way they were behaving was bad. Their internalized superiority you know like I didn't have those words at that time. I have those words now but I didn't at the time and that was absolutely playing out there. 

MAX: So they brought in anti-bias consultants. They re-assessed their mission, built a five-year plan. 

____

MAX: But it hasn’t been easy. 

VIRGINIA POUNDSTONE: It's difficult for us to continue organizing parents because we are constantly managing new drama to thwart us. We were a volunteer organization. No one is paid for this work. We all have other jobs that we're having to do  But because this whole neighborhood is under attack because of gentrification because of large systemic citywide nationwide policies. The level of attack is that everyone is on 10. And to do the work we need to be on like four in terms of our emotional maxed out ness. And when we're all at 10. No one can move forward. And I not harmed by that. And Mica is not harmed by that. And that's where it gets heartbreaking.

MARK: You say you’re not harmed by it but it you are obviously affected so when you say you're not harmed by it and other people are what do you mean by that. 

VIRGINIA POUNDSTONE: I have options. I am white. I am middle class. I can figure it out.

MARK: So my last question is. So this door over there it leads to the past. 

SHAILA DEWAN: Oh yeah. Cool.

MARK: And if you walk through it it takes you back right before you started Bed-Stuy Parents Committee. Would you still start Bed-Stuy Parents Committee. And if so what would you do differently. 

SHAILA DEWAN: It's such a good question because I've spent so many nights in tears. Just. Crying over this. How did I get to a place where I was trying to help. And I became public enemy number one. How did this happen. What did I do wrong. What are the things that I said wrong. 

SHAILA DEWAN: I mean one one of my personality traits is just like I can get up and keep going in a way that I think made me the right person to to try it but maybe not the right person to keep doing it. Like my force of personality which is you know maybe partly privilege it was partly just personality. It was like. Good for starting something and good for galvanizing and it. It was probably well. It was evidently not good. For building community relationships. 

SHAILA DEWAN: So would I have done it if I knew what. Know now. I mean that's not the way the world works right. You know you you just do what you do because because you don't know any better. 

_________________________

 Andrew: Well, if you want to know what happens next to the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee, you'll have to tune into the rest of the School Colors series. Uh, all eight episodes are awesome. You should definitely check them out. 

It seems like there, there are a few sort of themes that come out to me. I wonder what you guys think of this.

One of them seems to be impact versus intent, that Shaila intentionally showed up trying not to take over, but the impact of the way that she was perceived, the way that she came across in the community, definitely felt like a takeover and colonization.

Mark: I think that it's really hard to extricate these two from each other, there's impact and intent, because I do think that no one or very few people actually go into something like that, thinking of themselves as colonizers or wanting to be colonizers or wanting to be accused of being colonizer. Um, and yet, I think that we all do things unconsciously. And I think that, you know, the most insidious part of White supremacy is that it's not necessarily a ideology or philosophy that you follow. It's a way of being sometimes, it’s a way of thinking, that can be unconscious and really even go against what your stated principles and ideologies are.

So. Yes, I think that people were generally quote unquote good intentioned, but I think that those intentions were inherently a little problematic.

Andrew: Hmm. 

Mark: I will say that in the interviews that we did, I felt nothing but empathy for folks. I felt like they were good people. I felt like they had the intentions of their own children and of the district at heart. And so I don't come out of this like pointing fingers, but just sort of understanding this stuff is just really complicated. And you oftentimes carry baggage that you're not even aware of. 

Max: I think it's easy to listen to this episode and go, Wow, this is what happens when this kind of person goes and does this thing. Um, and I don't necessarily think that's true. I think  actually, maybe this is what happens when you get Shaila and Natasha, like when you get these two particular individuals.

Mark: Let's be honest though. I mean, Shaila without Natasha was still heading for a train wreck. You know what I'm saying? 

Max: Yeah. Yeah. Right, right. 

Mark: One of the reasons we did the entire series is because we wanted to make sure that this conversation was more than one dimensional. And as tempting as it is and as easy as it is to sort of point to people like Shaila and say, They're the problem, our intent was to add some more complexity to it without taking away any of her culpability or, or her, her agency or whatever she did. That's what made the story rich to us because it, it really painted a much more complicated story than, than the typical gentrification story. 

Max: And people are more than their identities, right? Some of this is White or White-presenting parents and Black parents. Some of this is Shailla and Natasha. 

Mark: I think what we really tried to do in this podcast was untease so many different things that just kind of get lumped together. So we’re talking about the bureaucracy and the system, and you're talking about history and all of this, you have people in their personalities, individuals, and it just makes for an unpredictable cocktail. I mean, there may be some common themes there, but I think if nothing else, that's what makes this all so human. That you understand that the individuals, as well as the systems, make a difference.

Andrew: Right. The system piece is that, if Shaila was not White-presenting and middle-class, she maybe doesn't have the same ability to drive change in the school system because of the way the school system responds to people with privilege.

Max: Right. And some of people's anger is, I wouldn't say anger that's misplaced, exactly. But when the system stands up and pays attention to somebody like Shaila, the system is showing its ass. Right?

Andrew: Right. And that's not Shaila’s fault, but it's easy to then be mad at her because of it. Is there something inevitable about this conflict or, or is there a way that it could work better? Is, you know, is there some lesson to be learned here about how to try to do this better?

Mark: That is, I think the reaction that most people have. It's like, okay, now that we have this podcast, how can we use this to do things in a little different way than we've done it in the past? And I'm not sure there's any nice, neat solution or game plan that you can extract from it. But, uh, I do think it just raises people's self awareness in a way that it did not exist before.

Max: And I, you know, we made this because we believed that it might be easier for people instead of asking people to come together, to just talk about race and diversity and you know, what's going on in Bed-Stuy that it might be easier for people to come together to talk about a podcast. 

Andrew: Right. 

Max: You know, it can be easier to, instead of talking about what's happening in the room in front of you, it can be easier to talk about a story…

Andrew: Yeah.

Max: ...that touches on some of the same issues.

Andrew: And maybe that is, is at least some first step is talking is, is having those conversations. ‘Cause it feels to me like  a lack of trust and, you know, again, to go back to where do people's actual identities play a role. But I think that I have certainly seen White and privileged people assume that they should be trusted, assume that they should get the benefit of the doubt, and assume that their good intent should, should mean enough. And I think the only answer to that, the only way through that is through building trust, through building relationships, through building community, through dialogue. And so maybe that's where, uh, you know, at least, at least a first step, there's no how to manual, but at least a first step is trying to have some of those conversations.

Max:  You know, what people in the community have said to us is like, as NeQuan put it, you don't need to start a choir. Just like come in and enroll your kid in the school. And over time,  if you start in pre-K, kindergarten, first grade, you build relationships, you build trust, you show, you know, you prove through your actions that you can be trusted. And then, then you work together. 

Mark: Yeah. I mean, I think the broadest takeaway is this: Like, know what you're getting into before you do it, you know, particularly if you're new to any environment, whether it's a neighborhood, whether it's a school, a church. You know, leadership is great but a leader who is going to be effective is someone who has a great deal of understanding and respect of the environment that they're working in. And I think that that was what was lacking in many of these situations.

Max: Well, but then again, they didn't have a podcast like School Colors unfolding all that history. I mean, I, I, I'm kidding a little bit, but also not really, yeah, I mean, it's not necessarily clear how to get all this information about what's happened here before. 

Andrew: If you want to talk about a sort of how-to guide, certainly one step is trying to build community and have conversations. And I think another step is learning the history of wherever you are and recognizing that whatever version of the history that is being presented, certainly in, in the media, but even, you know, in your social circles, is potentially undervaluing the things that exist in that space.

Mark: The Brooklyn Movement Center is, we're a Black-led organization, but we have a lot of White members, what we call solidarity members, and the trainings that we do when people come in, it's just like, Be conscious of the space that you're taking up, you know, step up and then step back and understand that you are not necessarily at the center. And I think it's, it's hard for people to grasp that.

Andrew: Particularly when we're thinking about our kids and, and...

Mark: Right. 

Andrew: So much societal pressure to get the quote unquote, best for your kid. 

Mark: That is, that's actually a really good point because one of the things I've learned as a parent is, you can't take too many things for granted. You can't assume that the things are gonna play out and you've got to be aggressive in every way possible to get what you need for your child. And so I think to that extent, you're right. I think parents were operating the way that we actually encourage parents to do, which is just to go into it and don't be discouraged and don't get brushed back because they're gonna be a lot of people telling you that you don't have any right to speak up.

Andrew: Is there a different obligation for parents with existing privilege, particularly White parents, when it comes to that?

Mark: I mean, I think, yeah, I think so, because what we're talking about here is social settings and, I think you can have an impact on your child's education without necessarily running the PTA, right? Or...

Andrew: Right.

Mark: ...telling the principal what to do all the time. So I think that we clearly want to do what's best for our children, but I think oftentimes we go far and beyond that and we're doing what's right for ourselves.

Andrew: Yeah, I think both the continuity, this sort of thread that you guys tie from the history 150 years ago all the way through today and the impacts that that's having is so fascinating, but I also sort of think it’s the cyclical nature of it. That we find ourselves having many of the same conversations and fighting the same issues and coming back around and around.

Was there anything in this whole project, eight, eight parts that gave you hope that left you feeling like maybe the cycle is slowly moving in a positive direction or, or that we’re, that maybe this time around we'll find better answers to some of these questions?

Mark: When you talk about gentrification, there's something about it, there's a sensibility around it that suggests that all of this is brand new and people have just arrived and there's a sort of almost Columbus kind of mentality to it. And as you listen to the podcast, there's fascination and some horror that many of the issues that we're dealing with today were dealt with back then. Uh, that is certainly true. 

But I think in listening to the history and living through some of this, I think what I experienced is that there's, you know, it's two steps backwards and then three steps forward. That although we're having some of the same conversations, the conversation has been advanced a little bit.

So for instance, we talk about Black-centered education, right? That's what your Afrocentric education is what people were talking about back then. And it's still being talked about a little bit today, but it's more in the context of culturally relevant education, which is broader, it's more inclusive of more people. And it's not just about whether Black people are receiving a good education, but it's really rooted in this idea that people have to find themselves in whatever they're learning. 

So I do find hope because, you know, there's always a big piece of the conversation that we've had many years before, but they're now innovations on it. And I see progress in it and advancement in the conversation. 

Max: I don't know if I agree with that assessment. I mean you're right, it does seem cyclical. There are, there are movements for liberation and then there's a backlash. Um, it's not that I'm not hopeful. It's that I do expect that for every good thing that happens, for every positive, exciting movement, there will be retrenchment In the opposite direction. 

What does give me hope, I think is, is a little bit more immediate, which is just in the scope of, of our working on this project,  I feel like when we started three or four years ago, the discourse in New York City around school integration and diversity was pretty stale.

And I no longer think that that's true. I give them credit a lot because they think they deserve it, the, there's something that these teenagers in New York City came up with called the “5 R’s of Real Integration” has really, I think, moved the conversation forward. 

There's a lot of historical trauma around what has gone by the name integration and diversity in this country. And yeah, we can't keep going around telling people that the only way for kids of color to have a good education is for there to be White kids there. And that if you just put the right bodies together in the same room, that everything will be hunky dory. There's all this stuff that needs to happen. And people need to feel like they have value regardless of whether or not there's magic White kids in the room. And I think the “5 R’s” is an important gesture in that direction. 

Mark: I agree with that. And, you know, sort of doubling down on what I was saying before, I think of it, particularly as a Black person living in central Brooklyn, I look at the conditions that existed 50 years ago and I think there've been material as well as political gains. And I say that not to necessarily give credit to, you know, the quote unquote system, but to really recognize the effectiveness of Black struggle during that time. 

Um, and you know, the, the reaction will always be strong and happen with brute force but,  I do think that because of what you've heard in School Colors, there is some advancement that's, that's happening. And I, I feel, I see it in my family. I don't ever want to lose sight of that as we recognize what's so screwed up about our condition.

Andrew: Yeah, and I think maybe it sort of ties into Nikole Hannah-Jones and The 1619 Project, but I think what you were saying, that, you know, the move from Afrocentric to culturally relevant is yet another way that the Black struggle for justice has never been solely for the benefit of Black people. That struggle has always brought along other people with it and made our country better for it. And I think I also see that as potentially hopeful as those issues generate more and more political power and, and build on the maybe momentum is not exactly the right word, but, you know, build on the continuing work of those communities that it, that it does sort of lift all boats.

Mark: Agreed.

Andrew: Well, uh, can't thank you guys enough for coming on the show, for sharing this episode with us and for the whole series. It's really fantastic. I encourage everyone to go and take a listen to the whole thing start to finish.

Max: Thanks. 

Mark: Thank you. 

Andrew: Before we go, just a friendly reminder to join our Patreon. Support this work, patreon.com/Integrated Schools. Check us out on social media at Integrated Schools, send us an email, let us know what you thought, [email protected] Schools. And we'll go out with the credits from the School Colors podcast so you can hear about all the amazing people who worked on this great podcast. There's a link in the show notes, and as always, I'm grateful to be in this with you as we try to know better and do better. See you next time.

-School Colors credits

Max: But look, you know, there’s a little boutique down the street from the Brooklyn Movement Center and I was walking by a few weeks ago and they had a throw pillow in the window that said, “Do Or Die” on it. So, Bed-Stuy “Do or Die”...

Andrew: A pillow with “Do Or Die” on it?! 

Max:  … it's not what it used to be. Yes. I’m not kidding.

Andrew:  That's, uh, that’s… wow… yeah.