School Colors is a narrative podcast from Brooklyn Deep about how race, class, and power shape American cities and schools. Season 2 premieres May 4, 2022: only on NPR's Code Switch.
S2 E1: "There Is No Plan"
Queens, New York is often called “the most diverse place on the planet.” So why would a school district in Queens need a diversity plan? And why would so many Queens parents be so fiercely opposed?
Welcome back to School Colors — Season 2.
S2 E2: Tales from the Southside
District 28 is both diverse and segregated. There’s a Northside and a Southside. To put it simply: the Southside is Black, and the further north you go, the fewer Black people you see. But it wasn't always like this.
Once upon a time, Black parents in South Jamaica staged an epic school boycott that led to the first statewide law against school segregation in New York. The Southside hosted two revolutionary experiments in racially integrated housing. So what happened between then and now?
S2 E3: The Battle of Forest Hills
In the early 1970s, Forest Hills, Queens, became a national symbol of white, middle class resistance to integration. Instead of public schools, this fight was over public housing. It was a fight that got so intense the press called it "The Battle of Forest Hills."
How did a famously liberal neighborhood become a hotbed of reaction and backlash? And how did a small group of angry homeowners change housing policy for the entire country?
S2 E4: The Mason-Dixon Line
So much of the present day conversation about District 28 hinges on the dynamic between the Northside and the Southside. But why were the north and the south wedged into the same school district to begin with? When we asked around, no one seemed to know.
What we do know are the consequences. As soon as the district was created, white and Black folks looked over the Mason-Dixon line and saw each other not as neighbors, but as competitors for scarce resources. And the Southside always seemed to get the short end of the stick.
On this episode: how the first three decades of District 28 baked in many of the conflicts and disparities that persist to this day.
S2 E5: The Melting Pot
Until recently, District 28 was characterized by a white Northside, and a Black Southside. For more than a hundred years, we've seen how conflicts around housing, schools, and resources have played out mostly along this racial divide. So how did District 28 go from being defined by this racial binary, to a place where people brag about its diversity?
In this episode, we take a deep dive into two immigrant communities — Indo-Caribbeans and Bukharian Jews — that have settled in Queens: how they got here, what they brought with them, and what they make of their new home's old problems.
S2 E6: Below Liberty
Queens has changed a lot in the last few decades — and so has District 28. New immigrant communities have taken root and the district is, on the whole, pretty diverse. But most Black folks still live on the Southside, and the schools below Liberty Avenue continue to struggle.
A lot of parents and educators agree that there needs to be some change in District 28. But the question remains: what kind of change? When we asked around, more diversity wasn't necessarily at the top of everybody's list. In fact, from the north and south, we heard a lot of the same kind of thing: "leave our kids where they are and give all the schools what they need."
So what do the schools on the Southside really need? And what’s at stake for Southside families when we "leave those kids where they are" and fail to meet their needs for generations?
I’m looking forward to hearing a series dedicated to the history of the school system in The Bronx New York. We now know that the reading programs that teachers were trained to teach to students how to read with are not effective. Our black and brown and immigrant children have suffered generations of poor teaching practices in reading according to recent research. I’m looking forward to hearing about education in Bronx public schools and what the outcome has been for so many families. How’d we get here and what is our next step? You guys are doing a wonderful job.
I agree with Venus
This is an awesome podcast, a great way to introduce the history and the problem of segregation and the impacts on students and families. However, I already knew this and that’s why I was interested in the first place. It’s a good way to share the issue with loved ones who are interested or new people coming up in the field of education. It renewed my spirit and drive to strive towards policy change. Bottom line, we need to change the way schools are funded. It’s basically blatant neglect at this point.
Side note, I’m someone who benefited from the system and working to change it. #itwilltakeallofus
Every teacher, every parent, everyone should know the stories in this podcast! This is a thoughtful, important, fascinating show.