The community is split down the middle, with the Black community and its allies up in arms, demanding justice. The White power structure refusing to budge. Unprecedented demonstrations and sit-ins by members of the Black community and their supporters. The police criticized for using rough tactics against the demonstrators.

Some American city in 2020? No, Cleveland, Ohio, in 1963. The issue then was school segregation, which had gotten much worse in the Cleveland schools in the decade since the U.S. Supreme Court had declared it unconstitutional. Not just de facto segregation, i.e., because of where folks lived, but, as later ruled by a federal court, de jure, i.e., intentional.

All-White schools with empty classrooms, while in the same geographical area, children in Black schools put on half-days because of overcrowding. And when the School Board finally relented and agreed to transport Black children to some of those White schools, they were kept in separate classes, not allowed to eat in the school cafeteria or take part in school-wide activities; it was just as segregated as when they were in separate buildings.

In time, change did take place in Cleveland, thanks mainly to the ability of the Black community to come together and work in unity. But there were times when activity lagged and internal dissension threatened to tear the activists apart.

Can real change happen today regarding police brutality, particularly as it impacts on people of color? Indeed it can, but it will take a strong commitment to work together on that issue over the long haul. And the country will be better for it in the end.

Will there still be other issues that give lie to our image as a just society? Yes, and so again and again people will mobilize to bring about change.

-Will Richan
Chester