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Brown sisters to speak April 16 at SU, commemorating Brown v. Board decision
Brown sisters to speak April 16 at SU,commemorating Brown v. Board decisionMarch 18, 2004Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
Other weekend events to include courtroom dramatization, community build project
Linda Brown Thompson and Cheryl Brown Henderson were young children when their father, the Rev. Oliver L. Brown, fought for freedom and desegregation of public schools in Topeka, Kan. The effects of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court on May 17, 1954, are still evident 50 years later.
The Brown sisters will reflect on the decision and their experiences as part of a two-day commemorative event sponsored by Syracuse University, April 16 and 17. A daylong conference on the decision and its lasting effects will feature the sisters’ keynote address, April 16 at 4 p.m., in SU’s Hendricks Chapel.
In a further demonstration of commitment to the principles underlying Brown, volunteers will engage in a community build project at the Southwest Community Center in Syracuse, April 17.
More information is online at http://hendricks.syr.edu/brownvboard. The April 16 conference is free and open to the public; advance registration is available by calling the Hendricks Chapel Dean’s Office at (315) 443-2901 or SU’s College of Law at (315) 443-9991. For information on the April 17 project, call the Southwest Community Center at (315) 474-6823.
“The Supreme Court’s decision on Brown v. Board of Education is a remarkable societal achievement when one considers the depth of racial hostility and inequality that preceded the decision,” says Paula C. Johnson, professor in SU’s College of Law and co-chair of the commemoration’s organizing committee.
Johnson says that while members of African American communities risked everything to obtain educational equality for their children-and dignity and equal citizenship for themselves-many whites refused to adhere to the order to desegregate public schools and generally open American society to all members.
“We continue to deal with this legacy of recalcitrance and racial bias today. Although not always expressed as violently as in the past, the effects of such hostility remain destructive and life-negating,” Johnson says. “Thus, as we stop to remember this landmark case 50 years after the decision, we are challenged-individually and collectively-to revitalize Brown from its moribund state and make real the promise of equal educational opportunity. Our nation’s future depends on it.”
Registration will begin at 8:15 a.m. on April 16. SU alumnus and former administrator Charles V. Willie, professor emeritus at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, will offer opening remarks at 9 a.m.
A panel discussion, beginning at 9:45 a.m., will offer historical and contemporary overviews of Brown v. Board from legal, social and educational perspectives. Panelists will include Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw, professor of sociology in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs; Paula C. Johnson, professor in SU’s College of Law; Rachael Gazdick, a graduate student in the Maxwell School; and Raydora Drummer, a DuBois Scholar and director of Multicultural Affairs at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
A dramatization of the announcement of the Supreme Court decision will take place from 11-11:30 a.m.
A 12:45 p.m. panel will present perspectives from diverse disciplinary areas, community involvement and lived experiences. Panelists include Norma Burgess, professor of child and family studies in the College of Human Services and Health Professions (HSHP); Alejandro Garcia, professor of social work in HSHP; Maryellen Hicks, a Texas jurist; and Sanjay Chhablani, professor in the College of Law.
Small group discussions on Brown v. Board’s impact on individuals, communities and institutions will be held from 2:15-3 p.m. Reports from the small groups will be offered to the whole assembly from 3-3:45 p.m. Details on the small group subjects can be found on the Web at http://hendricks.syr.edu/brownvboard.
The day will culminate with the keynote address by the Brown sisters at 4 p.m. A reception will follow at 5:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Heroy Geology Building.
Linda Brown Thompson and Cheryl Brown Henderson are two of the three children of Oliver Brown. Together with their mother and sister, they are dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Brown v. Board.
Thompson has been a Head Start teacher and music teacher. She is currently a program associate with the Brown Foundation.
Henderson has been a sixth-grade teacher, university guest lecturer, school guidance counselor and state educational administrator. She currently serves as executive director of the Brown Foundation. She has been honored and published extensively. She was one of four people named “Kansan of the Year” in 1994, and in 1996 became the first African American from Kansas to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, co-founded in 1988 by Henderson and a co-worker, is a living tribute to the attorneys and plaintiffs in the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision. Since its establishment, the organization has provided scholarships to minority students; presented awards to local, state and national leaders; and sponsored programs on multicultural understanding. The foundation also worked with Congress to establish the Brown v. Board of Education National Park in Topeka.