We began our journey together at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School (CHHIRJ).
In 2007, a divided Supreme Court, in cases from Louisville and Seattle had re-affirmed the achievement of diversity and elimination of segregation as compelling interests, but limited the means by which school districts could reach these goals. Soon after this ruling (commonly referred to as the PICS decision) we convened leading thinkers and litigators to begin talking about ways to best assist educators who still wanted to pursue racial diversity in their schools. Gina served as the principal coordinator of these efforts, with her position at CHHIRJ initially funded by several collaborating civil rights organizations. After the organizations reached consensus on a far-reaching agenda to support school diversity, we continued to organize, to write policy briefs and “talking points” and make public presentations. During all this activity, we found allies kept voicing the same concern. Whenever the obligatory “Next Steps” portion of a convening or meeting commenced, people lamented the fact that real-life stories about people trying to create and sustain integration were simply “not out there” in the public discourse. Audience members nodded in agreement. We recognized that this gap limited our ability to effectively communicate with people beyond the academy. More seriously, though, the many educators, elected leaders and ordinary citizens out there inclined to pursue integration, either in schools, neighborhoods or other social institutions, had few clear, contemporary models to which they could aspire.
So we began compiling a list of people who were consciously working to create equitable, sustainable racially, economically and linguistically integrated schools, communities and social institutions. It turned out there were more people and places out there than we’d imagined there might be. We listened to people’s stories and found inspiration in the many and varied efforts to achieve racial, cultural and linguistic diversity and expand opportunities and break down racial and cultural barriers in every facet of life. We were inspired not only to tell their stories, but to support the work by connecting people striving for integration to each other and to national experts.
Finally, in 2011, after several years of researching, talking and strategizing and fundraising, we set out across the country to visit, and to give voice to the people helping America live up to its vision of itself as one nation indivisible.
Click here for a listing of Susan and Gina’s past work products.