The NBC Learn Town Hall series "Finishing the Dream" continues in Detroit, Michigan where community and religious leaders discuss how the lessons learned in the struggle for equality during the civil rights movement are still relevant today.
Finishing the Dream Detroit Town Hall (Full Episode)
CARMEN HARLAN, Moderator:
I’m Carmen Harlan from NBC’s WDIV here in Detroit and welcome to our Town Hall, Finishing the Dream: Learning from the Civil Rights Era. Its sponsored by NBC Learn and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
I’m here at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn and the bus I just stepped off is the very bus that Rosa Parks boarded in Montgomery Alabama back in 1955. She was simply trying to go home from her job as a seamstress. Her refusal to give up her seat to a white man on this very bus is what sparked a new quest for freedom and equality for African Americans. Some say that struggle continues even today. In a moment we’ll discuss six topics starting each with a short historical piece. We’ll open it up to a panel of community leaders for discussion and take questions from the audience. So let’s get things started. An overview of the civil rights movement, highlighting the key events.
ANCHORMAN: [IN CLIP] Emmett Till is buried near Chicago, his hometown. While Emmett was visiting a great uncle in the Mississippi Delta in August 1955, he whistled at a white woman. That whistle cost him his life.
MAMIE MOBLEY, EMMETT TILL’S MOTHER: [IN CLIP] I hope that his death will certainly start a movement in the United States.
CHET HUNTLEY, NBC NEWS: [IN CLIP] Most Negroes in Montgomery, Alabama, are boycotting the city buses because a woman who refused to take a segregated seat was fined in police court.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: [IN CLIP] I said, “I’m sorry, our management does not allow us to serve niggers in here.”
FRANK MCGEE, NBC NEWS: [IN CLIP] A multitude of Negroes and whites moved on Washington today in what is easily the most massive demonstration ever seen in the capital or in the nation.
FRED HAMPTON: [IN CLIP] If you dare to struggle, you dare to win, if you dare not to struggle, then you don’t deserve to win…you don’t deserve to win. We’re saying that you’ve got to get out here and got to involve yourself in the struggle.
MALCOLM X: [IN CLIP] Be a man. Earn what you need for your own family. Then your family respects you. They’re proud to say, “that’s my father.”
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: [IN CLIP] I have no moral conflict. I want to live in my own as anybody in this building, and sometimes I begin to doubt that I’m going to make it through. ‘Cause I don’t march because I like it. I march because I must, and because I’m a man, and because I’m a child of God.
HARLAN: That certainly brought back a-- a lot memories. Let’s meet our panelists I’m going to start to my right-- immediate right, Carol Goss is the President and CEO of The Skillman Foundation as well as a native Detroiter. Good evening and thank you for being with us. Kary Moss is a civil rights attorney and has been the executive director of the ACLU of Michigan since 1998, welcome. Senior Pastor Robert Smith of New Bethel Baptist Church of Detroit, welcome thank you for joining us. Shirley Stancato is the President and CEO of New Detroit, a non-profit group formed after the 1967 riots to deal with racial issues, welcome. Hassan Jaber is the Executive Director of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services or ACCESS. He’s also taught Arabic language and culture at the University of Michigan Dearborn, welcome. And Doctor Daniel Krichbaum, director of Michigan’s Department of Civil Rights. Before that he was Governor Granholm's Chief Operating Officer. And this is our panel tonight welcome all of you. All right, our question for all of you is how do we put this part of our history into prospective for our youth today so that they don’t mired in the emotions of the past and can be inspired to finish the dream. Carol Goss lets start with you.
CAROL GOSS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, SKILLMAN FOUNDATION: Well, thank you very much Carmen for allowing me to be apart of this panel. That was a very moving video that we just looked at. It brought back a lot of memories for me. I grew-up in Detroit here in the 50’s and 60’s. And I think about the challenges of that time period in what it certainly meant for us as young people and all that we fought for and all that earned caused us to be successful in the way that we are today. And young people who perhaps weren’t a part of those challenges can learn from those experiences. And I think young people should look back on what the-- the those leaders of the time went through, what they accomplished and say ‘we can do those things too.’
HARLAN: Kary, do you agree?
KARY MOSS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ACLU MICHIGAN: Yeah absolutely, you know, somebody once said that those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it and while so much was accomplished through so many hard won sacrifices and painful--painful battles. We’re not done yet and, you know, Doctor King’s life ended much too soon and he foresaw that much of the battles in the future, our struggle for equality, was going to play itself out around economic inequality. And you know, for the ACLU we really take that seriously and try to look at the ways in which economic equality affects different races and different communities. And that’s where we need your young people to put their energy and their passion.
HARLAN: Pastor Smith, I know you-- you came here today with a group of students and you hear their concerns, their voices. Do they know their history, do they know this history?
REVEREND ROBERT SMITH, PASTOR NEW BETHEL BAPTIST CHURCH: I’m afraid that not enough of our stories are told by the right people. The answers in the clip we just saw and heard, it said that Emmett Till whistled at a white woman. Others tell the story he was accused of whistling at a white woman. And so, it’s who’s telling the story, because certainly if I’m telling the story I’m saying that Emmett Till was a slow person as I’d been told, that he did not whistle, he made his normal noise or sound to signal his cousins and it was said by others that he whistled. The other thing that moved me in the piece was seeing Doctor King-- the first time I saw my father cry because men used to didn’t show emotion. It always troubled my father that I was the one who would show emotion. But he actually believed that we could have that world where you could be judged not by the color of your skin but by the content of your character. He believed that, most did not believe that.
HARLAN: And certainly those tears are not gone unnoticed and I can tell even from the-- from the audience here. Shirley Stancato, New Detroit. How do you inspire the young people that you see here today to finish the dream?
SHIRLEY STANCATO, PRESIDENT & CEO NEW DETROIT, INC.: The Civil Rights Movement really could not have occurred if it was not for young people. Young people in college and high school, they were the ones that really started the movement and continued the movement and sat at the lunch counters and they were the ones that were being, you know, the dogs were jumping on etcetera. And so, young people have a place, a very important and significant place in making change. Change has never really occurred unless young people were a part of it. So, look at the history, study it for yourself and then figure out what place you can have in making a difference and making a change.
HARLAN: Hassan Jaber, just your thoughts watching that overview of the civil rights movement.
HASSAN JABER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACCESS: Let me say regarding the emotion, we need to be emotional. Young people need to be emotional about this issue. This is not a marginal issue, this is a real issue. It continues to be a real issue for all of us.
HARLAN: Doctor Krichbaum, let’s hear from you.
DR. DANIEL KRICHBAUM, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL RIGHTS: Well it’s important to know our history, but um, I think Shirley says it very well, during the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties and the seventies, young people were very much a part of it. So it’s important to know what’s going on right now.
KRICHBAUM: I mean frankly, I was horrified with what happened last week regarding East Point. I consider what happened in East Point a hate crime where some people try to terrify; I think it was twelve African-American families that live in East Point.
HARLAN: To get them to move out of the neighborhood--
HARLAN: --and they sent them threatening letters--
KRICHBAUM: That is a hate message. So I think that bringing the history to us now and seeing the parallels is-- is really important.
HARLAN: We got students from all over the metro area tonight, and we’re going hear from one of them now. Can you step up to the mic, tell us who you are. And what’s your question tonight?
MIKE LEVIS: Hello, my name is Mike Levis from New Bethel Baptist Church. When I look at the panel members, when I look at Pastors Smith Jr. showing his emotion, when I look at Mister Jaber emphasizing on the emotion of the civil rights movement, and when we look at our young people, we see that they have become desensitized to the current crimes in today’s society. Why is that and how do we deal with our young people being sensitized?
HARLAN: What a question. Who wants to-- who wants to tackle that one first? You go ahead.
KRICHBAUM: I see us living in such a materialistic culture and I think the media is a big part of it, not the news media--
HARLAN: I’m just the moderator tonight. That’s another discussion.
KRICHBAUM: The media is a big part of it. And, you know young people are a target of this materialism trying to get them to focus on what they want, what they need, what it takes to get that. And so, it’s not all young people I understand that.
HARLAN: But when you see it on television constantly does that create a-- a-- you know numbness or a barrier so that you don’t react emotionally, do you think?
SMITH: I’ll show you how numbed we are. Ronald Reagan started the mean, selfishness, the stupidity that we live with today when he asked the question ‘are you better off now?’ And that became all of our questions. Because it has never been the Christian question, the Christian question has always been to do for others and make the world a better place as the salt of the earth and the light of the world
HARLAN: Okay, well, you know-- well, you guys look like you’ve got a whole lot to say. We got a whole lot of territory to cover. Pastor Smith, I’ll talk to you later. Anyway just ahead a look back at Rosa Parks’ legacy and how her impact still resounds today. We’ll be right back.
CARMEN HARLAN, Moderator:
A spontaneous and simple refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus pushed Rosa Parks to the forefront of a growing Civil Rights Movement in 1955. She said when she made the decision she knew had the strength of her ancestors behind her.
CARMEN HARLAN [IN CLIP]: Rosa and Raymond Parks married in 1932. Raymond was an active member of the NAACP. His wife joined the battle for civil rights. The couple lived in Montgomery, Alabama. Population one hundred twenty thousand, fifty thousand were black.
Segregation was the law of the day, separate bathrooms, drinking fountains, and buses with seats for blacks and other seats for whites. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was heading home; contrary to common belief, Mrs. Parks said she was not physically tired that day.
PARKS [IN CLIP]: I was-- felt that this was the opportunity for me to let them know that I did not want to be treated in the manner in which I was treated.
HARLAN [IN CLIP]: As the bus filled up, the driver asked Mrs. Parks to give up her seat to a white man, that didn’t make sense to Mrs. Parks.
PARKS [IN CLIP]: First of all, I didn’t see how I should have to stand up after getting on the bus because I have paid the fare just like the other person did.
HARLAN [IN CLIP]: The police were called. Mrs. Parks was arrested and would be fined ten dollars plus four dollars for court cost. This seemingly routine case quickly became a turning point.
ANDREW YOUNG [IN CLIP]: When she was thrown in jail, then everybody said that-- if Rosa Parks can’t be treated right on the bus, nobody can be treated right on the bus.
HARLAN [IN CLIP]: Black churches and activists rallied around Mrs. Parks over the weekend. The next Monday the bus boycott was under way, as blacks carpooled, Mrs. Parks appeal worked its way up to the United States Supreme Court.
One year and fifteen days after Rosa Parks decided not to give up her seat, the Supreme Court orders were handed down. Desegregated busing came to an end in Montgomery. The entire county would never be the same.
HARLAN: Well, here’s a woman quiet and reserved, strong in her beliefs, yet she had the courage to stand up against a law she knew was wrong, a simple act that changed the course of history in our country.
My question to the young people here today. Sometimes doing the right thing isn’t always easy. What are some of the things that you are facing today? We’ve got--
AMANDA SOWDERS, Student: Hi.
HARLAN: --someone who wants to share that. If you could tell me your name and--
AMANDA: I’m Amanda Sowders and I’m from University of Detroit Mercy.
AMANDA: I feel that we need to work together and not focus so much on differences between groups of people and things that we have in common to make things better.
HARLAN: Okay. That’s-- I think that’s fair. Let-- let’s turn this over to our panel and most of you remember the story of Rosa Parks I’m sure a lot more than some of the young people here today. And reliving it again, brought back what kind of feelings, thoughts.
HASSAN JABER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACCESS: I think this-- we need to understand that the struggle for Civil Rights is-- is more than a struggle for Civil Rights. It’s a struggle for our democracy. It’s a struggle for social justice. Rosa has embodied all the struggles when we have now the poverty rate among African-Americans three times greater than white, we’re not done. The struggle needs-- this is also about democracy. This is about our choice of what society. We need to be--
CARMEN HARLAN: It’s also about being willing to stand up for change. And that takes a lot of courage. It does--
CAROL GOSS, PRESIDENT & CEO THE SKILLMAN FOUNDATION: But it does take courage and leadership and young people across this city are-- are doing that. They are standing up for things going on in their neighborhoods that-- that aren’t right, that they want to change. And so, young people have to find their passion. In one neighborhood in northeast in Osborn, young people are marching against violence in their community, trying to change violence. And I agree with the young lady that it could be so much more powerful if young people could come together around a common agenda.
HARLAN: But you’re hearing it and you heard it tonight. They want to get past the differences. They want to coexist, Shirley.
SHIRLEY STANCATO, PRESIDENT & CEO NEW DETROIT, INC.: I think, you know, when I hear that I-- I-- I-- I have to say that differences are okay because when you say different, it’s different from what. I mean when you get to know each other you have to know the whole person. So, when people see you, they see the whole person. And part of being able to do anything is to develop relationships first.
So you get to know a person, know about their background, their experiences, and know they’re passionate about. That-- then, you can sort of join together and then move forward. One person can make a difference but it’s okay to focus on the differences. Because in those differences, you’ll find something, believe it or not, that really, really, really you have in common and I always tell young people that again one person can make a difference.
You can do something, and you will find that if you sometimes take that one step you will find others who will follow. So, think about doing that. Think about again focusing on the differences because-- because it’s-- that’s okay and that’s how you really know get to know a person.
HARLAN: How can we as the adults in the situation create that kind of atmosphere so that they can finish this dream?
DAN KRICHBAUM, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL RIGHTS: What I think one thing is-- is that it takes a lot of different types of contributions to actually accomplish something. I mean Mrs. Parks contribution was a real act of courage but the boycott itself was well organized, took a lot of different kinds of people working on that and-- and then living that out, not just for, you know, twenty-four hours but for over and over every day for a long period of time until they won something. So, there’s a lot of different roles to be played.
STANCATO: And I think patience is important. If it-- again if you read history, you know, that Rosa Parks was not the first person who didn’t get up. There were others who did it before her. The timing just was right when she did it.
The role that she had in NAACP was important and so people had to do it again and again and again, and sometimes we get tired. But it’s important to know that you are one step and somebody else will make another step and perhaps others will make another step to make the change. But that one step that you make whether it’s first or whether you’re the thirtieth person does make a difference and you are involved in-- in making change. And I just want young people to know that it’s important that you do it and you can do it and those of us who’re up here are-- are excited to move over to let you sit next to us so we can learn from you really and you can learn from us.
HARLAN: Kary, I see what’s going through your mind.
KARY MOSS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACLU MICHIGAN: Oh, I just wanted to just remind everybody that we had this remarkable moment in November of 2008 when we elected this country’s first black President. And I think so much of that was the result of young people’s act-- activity.
And what I wanted to, I guess, emphasize it’s all about leadership opportunities. It’s all about learning how to be a leader. And if you put yourself in the space where you take risks and you try to do things that make a difference you find a mentor, you look for the best people you can hit yourself to, and you learn about what is it take to make change, that’s really where those differences don’t matter so much because it’s about building the bridges that come from being a leader.
HARLAN: All right Kary, just ahead, Detroit’s Berlin Wall in white flight, a look back at the path of segregation in the Motor City.
CARMEN HARLAN, Moderator:
In 2000, census results showed Metro Detroit has the most segregated black and white living patterns in the nation. The separation between black and white in Southeast Michigan is wide and runs deeper than statistics can possibly reveal. Here’s WDIV’s Roger Weber from 2002 with a look at its history.
ROGER WEBER, reporter [IN CLIP]: Graduation photos line a hallway at Cass Tech and silently tell a story of segregation. Decades of relentless change from a city overwhelmingly white to a city overwhelmingly black. University of Michigan sociologist Reynolds Farley wrote a book called “Detroit Divided.” He says the tensions began in the decade of World War I when the city’s black population surged from five thousand to forty thousand.
REYNOLDS FARLEY, Sociologist [IN CLIP]: They were largely concentrated into the Paradise Valley or black modern area on the east side of Detroit where a number of blacks were trying to move out of that area into larger white areas, they met great—a great deal of hostility.
WEBER [IN CLIP]: Developers reacting to the white's anxiety came to an agreement with the federal government in 1940 to build a wall, separating white developments from black housing.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [IN CLIP]: I told my mom about it. She said, “Oh that’s just to separate the white people from the black people.” That’s the only way she just said it, that was it. And I also wondered why?
ROGER WEBER [IN CLIP]: Auto plants continued to lure black workers from the South. Over seventy-five thousand lived in Detroit in 1943. That year, racial tensions exploded. A riot left thirty-four people dead. By 1950, Detroit’s population peaked at 1.8 million, but whites had started a rush to the suburbs. Northland Mall opened. So did the GM Tech Center, and the Lodge Freeway. Housing outside the city was relatively cheap.
FARLEY [IN CLIP]: Many suburbs made it extremely clear that black residents were not welcome.
WEBER [IN CLIP]: Dearborn Mayor Orville Hubbard often said, “Keep Dearborn clean.” Many believed he meant, “Keep blacks out.” Three years after the 1967 riot, Detroit was forty-three percent black, white flight intensified, amid rising crime, plummeting property values, and the election of Coleman Young.
FARLEY [IN CLIP]: Coleman Young didn't generate the exodus of whites from the city. That process was well under way when he was in office.
CARMEN HARLAN: According to 2000 census data, Metro Detroit has the highest level of neighborhood segregation between blacks and whites in the country. And after all these years, I guess the question is fair to ask, “Why haven’t we made more progress?”
SHIRLEY STANCATO, PRESIDENT & CEO NEW DETROIT, INC.: You know, I—the state of Michigan is the most segregated state in the United States because five of the six most segregated cities in the country are in the State of Michigan and so the state is that way. I think one of the things we have to do is ask the tough questions and ask people why they move. I mean, from that perspective, if that's it-- if that's the core--
HARLAN: But the first thing that you hear when we talk about people moving back into the city, they want to know what kind of school system is in place.
STANCATO: Yes. Right.
HARLAN: And, if they can't use the school system then that's why they can't move back into the city. Is that a legitimate excuse or reason?
DR. DANIEL KRICHBAUM, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL RIGHTS: Well, what is not a legitimate excuse is looking at your own life and seeing, you know, where you put yourself or where do you go to church? Is it an all-white church or is it one of the few integrated churches. Where-- who are your social friends? Do you-- if you live in the suburbs, do you visit Detroit, do you take your friends with you that live in your neighborhood or your school? So, we're not going to accomplish the big things if we can't accomplish things that we all can do if we had the will to do it.
STANCATO: I-- I just want to say-- I agree with Dan. Whenever I'm in a social setting, I always look around to see who is there. We really-- I think, we really will know that we have made it in terms of developing relationships if our social settings are-- are multiracial settings. That's-- that's one of the pieces of the puzzle I think that's going to make a difference.
REVEREND ROBERT SMITH, PASTOR NEW BETHEL BAPTIST CHURCH:
I think that's all right because government involvement such as forced busing, forced immigration has never brought hearts together and the law can never bring hearts together. You know, nobody wants to be forced to--
HARLAN: To do.
SMITH: --live anywhere or to accept anybody. But Dan so aptly pointed out that all of us got little things that we can do and if we start as individuals doing those little things not mandated by the government if we seek opportunities for integration and socialization.
HARLAN: Pastor Smith, let's get-- let's get Carol in here before we head to break.
CAROL GOSS, PRESIDENT & CEO THE SKILLMAN FOUNDATION: Yeah, I just want to quickly answer in-- in relationship to the schools. So, absolutely, the schools have to get better but if people would choose to live in Detroit, a diverse population, the schools would get better. They would cause the schools to get better. So, I don't think that it's just “fix those schools and they'll come back.”
HARLAN: All right. Well, hold that thought because we'll touch on that, too. Just ahead, Detroit's racial divide splits open as the battle for and against segregation reaches a violent climax. We'll be right back.
CARMEN HARLAN, Moderator:
A culmination of many factors, including a fear of police brutality, poor housing, economic inequality and black militancy added to the racial tension that finally erupted in 1967 in five days of rioting. This piece done in 1987 -- twenty years after the riots shows the efforts to rebuild a heart-broken city.
JIM CUMMINS, reporter [IN CLIP]:
It was one of the worst big city riots of the sixties. In only five day forty-three people were killed, seven hundred fires were set; twenty-five hundreds stores were looted. Seven thousand people were arrested. Then Governor George Romney called out the National Guard.
George Romney, former Governor of Michigan [IN CLIP]: When I flew over Detroit Sunday afternoon I saw the massive fire that was like a battlefield.
CUMMINS [IN CLIP]: The riot was sparked by tension between black residents and white cops. It was bred by poverty, hopelessness and despair. Today, there are glittering new buildings along the riverfront. City leaders say a renaissance is underway.
But many of the places of when the rioting occurred twenty- years ago are still run-down and abandoned. Among big cites last year Detroit had the highest murder rate and the highest unemployment rate. White people have left this city in record numbers. Experts say many of the black people who remain are worse off now then they were before the riots in 1967 and yet nobody expects a repeat of those uprisings. Because now the city has black mayor, black policemen are patrolling the neighborhoods, and people like Michael Patterson, a successful lawyer, are buying homes in Detroit and planning to stay here.
Michael Patterson [IN CLIP]: Detroit can handle the white exodus and it can handle, to a degree, the loss of businesses going out to the suburbs. But once the black middle class goes, that’s it.
CUMMINS [IN CLIP]: John Nash and Mike Pruitt, a couple of young college graduates, have returned to their neighborhood that was destroyed by fire twenty years ago to open a clothing store. Pruitt and Nash were helped by the Reverend Robert Smith and members of his New Bethel Baptist Church congregation who are buying real estate in the neighborhood. So far they’ve torn down two dozen abandoned buildings that were havens for dope dealers and prostitutes. Now they are urging other legitimate businesses to move back in.
PASTOR ROBERT SMITH [IN CLIP]: If we can believe that things are going to get better, if we can believe there’s a brighter day that’s--that’s a cause for not rioting, that’s a cause for not going to the extreme. We can believe in the system.
HARLAN: Pastor Smith I’m not going to ask you where you got the red outfit from. But we heard you. That piece was done twenty year ago. And here we are more than forty years after the riots. The city is still trying to rebuild. You said it then, do you still believe that the brighter days are ahead for the city of Detroit?
REVEREND ROBERT SMITH, PASTOR NEW BETHEL BAPTIST CHURCH: There’s a famous saying “keep hope alive,” but it’s actually hope that keeps you alive. I think if I didn’t believe that I too would have abandoned the city. But I believe because I have friends like the friends on the panel, Dan has been my church matter of fact sat in my pulpit. So, with that kind of reaction with that kind of interaction I think that there’s still hope and there’s going to be a better Detroit in the very near future.
HARLAN: I’m curious, I heard one of the people in the piece say that Detroit can handle everything. It can handle Whites moving out of the city, it can handle businesses moving out of the city, what it can’t handle is the black middle class moving out of the city. And I believe that many members of the black middle-class have actually moved out of the city of Detroit.
CAROL GOSS, PRESIDENT & CEO THE SKILLMAN FOUNDATION: Well I--I agree I--I mean I live in the city and I love living in this city, I love living downtown but I think that a-- a healthy city does need a robust middle class that lives, works, shops and does everything in the city as well. So Detroit has to-- to really have the things that attract young people back and the middle-class population. So we need restaurants, we need lofts, we need the clubs, we need all those things that people like to do and I think before the economic meltdown of two years ago I actually believe that we were on a trajectory to-- to really create some change. And I also believe that we are a resilient city we--we cannot not ever give up hope.
HASSAN JABER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACCESS: We also have to change this saying of we can handle this group leaving the city and that group leaving the city. I think we need to say that everyone needs to come back to the city. We need Detroit; we need a buyable strong core city. We are going to have to change the thinking into “let’s get back here.”
KARY MOSS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACLU MICHIGAN: I was just going to say there are two things that haven’t been mentioned yet that I just wanted to throw out. One is the need for regional transportation. We have to make our city bigger and easier. We-- we need to make it easy for—and as is true in every other suburban-urban area, just to move around come and use the clubs and, you know, the stores and all of the--the great businesses that I think have been emerging in Detroit in just the last five years. The other thing I want to emphasize is the important of voting and getting out and making sure that the people who run the city are really good, are the best, at doing what they do. And I think too long people have been willing to settle for mediocrity.
DR. DANIEL KRICHBAUM, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL RIGHTS: And I think we shouldn’t forget that not everybody is moving out. I mean we definitely need a strong African-American middle class but I bet that new census will show that we have more Latinos in Detroit. I bet it shows that we have more Arab-Americans. They are looking at their self-interest or they wouldn’t be coming and moving into Detroit. And if we market it right and, you know, change the way we frame things I think Detroit will survive.
SHIRLEY STANCATO, PRESIDENT & CEO NEW DETROIT, INC: I--I--I think that we need--we need businesses, we need young people, we need people of all races and-- and backgrounds to be in Detroit so I agree with Dan and-- and what others have said up here. One of the reasons I think people don’t get involved--there really two reasons, that’s fear and trust. We don’t know each other so we fear each other and we don’t trust each other. We have to be open to new ideas, that comes from young people and open to doing-- to doing new things and that means all kinds of folks we got coming to the city.
HARLAN: Where are those ideas going to come from? I mean, certainly a conversation dialogue like this gets it started but in a couple of weeks if we don’t keep it going--how do you keep this momentum going so that we can break down some of these barriers?
STANCATO: One person can do it. Young people you can do it at--at the university at lunch. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. It could be, you know, as I said let’s go to lunch with somebody who doesn’t look like you.
HARLAN: All right Shirley thank you for that. Ahead, Detroit’s unique role as the capital of Arab America. Will be back after this.
CARMEN HARLAN, Moderator:
The greater Detroit area is home to one of the largest, oldest and most diverse Arab-American communities in the United States. A community vastly diverse in its own ethnic and religious makeup.
CARMEN HARLAN [IN CLIP]: In 2000, 403,000 Arab-Americans lived in the Detroit area making it the Mideast capital of the Midwest and nowhere else in the U.S. have international events like the Iraq war and 9/11 been felt more acutely or more personally.
Woman [IN CLIP]: You adopt the country and it’s laws and you turn around, and people-- even though you’re a good citizen, people question that loyalty.
HARLAN [IN CLIP]: During the Iranian hostage crisis, Arab-Americans in Metro Detroit were the target of vandalism and discrimination. It didn’t matter whether they were Iraqis or Saudis or Palestinians or Lebanese.
Man [IN CLIP]: Their views are not important just because they happened to be an Arab, and they’re targeted.
HARLAN [IN CLIP]: And during the Persian Gulf War, the night of the Allied attack a Saudi business was vandalized, even though U.S. troops were in Saudi Arabia to save it from Iraq. An Arab store was firebombed the next night. But at no time was the tension between Arab-Americans and their neighborhoods of different races more tangible than post 9/11.
Man #2 [IN CLIP]: People are not comfortable and frankly speaking, they are-- they feel that they are not welcome.
Man #3 [IN CLIP]: September 11th is me no like this day, this day no like it. Me is not happy right now.
HARLAN [IN CLIP]: Many in the Arab community felt the government’s efforts to uncover terrorist connections stepped on their civil rights.
Man #4 [IN CLIP]: What happened on September 11 hurt us as much as anyone. Arab-Americans died in the towers, Arab-Americans helped out when-- when people were injured and needed blood and-- and-- and support.
HARLAN: And just a footnote to that: In 2004, sixty percent of Muslim Arabs in Detroit, who were interviewed in a University of Michigan study, said they were worried more about their family’s future after the attacks. Nine years after 9/11 and six years after the study was done, the question, where are we now? And I’m going to start with Hassan Jaber.
HASSAN JABER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACCESS: The stereotypes of Arab-Americans was started way before September 11. After September 11, Arab-Americans have been really the target of profiling at airports. The target of being-- civil rights being violated due process sometimes when it comes to Arab-Americans. An amazing violation of-- of the Constitution. It’s something that Arab-Americans were-- were a target and continues to be a target.
HARLAN: What can you learn from the-- what you’ve seen of the civil rights movement that we’ve talked about today and certainly what you know.
JABER: I think what we really need to understand that civil rights is everyone. Any violation of anyone’s right is-- is a violation of our rights as a people and the violation of our constitution and our way of life. It’s about all of us.
HARLAN: Let’s hear from our students. We’ve got two students. Yes, let’s hear from you.
BEAVERS, student: Hi, my name is--
HARLAN: Your name is?
BEAVERS: Hi, my name is Jason Beavers and--
CARMEN HARLAN: Uh-huh.
JASON BEAVERS: --I’m going to be a senior at Henry Ford Academy next year. I just want to say that I think that it’s a generational effect occurring at the moment with the younger generation, with so many different and new emerging artists in the media like, for instance, Lady Gaga which you know is someone who’s far out there and maybe like a rapper like Drake. It’s really bringing the younger generation together and I feel that those cultural differences are coming more out there and are more, you know, not so much as the big elephant in the room is more okay to talk about and people are becoming comfortable with it.
But when you think about such things like Arabic Americans and any race for that matter, I think that the media is in some way implementing that fear into the generation.
HARLAN: Okay. So--
JASON BEAVERS: So, I want to know how you feel about media breaking up, you know, those conversations and the media also brining back those conversations.
HARLAN: Okay, that’s interesting. You’re not blaming the media but your point--
JASON BEAVERS: No.
HARLAN: --You’re saying some of the responsibility lies with the media. Do you find that?
SHIRLEY STANCATO, PRESIDENT & CEO NEW DETROIT, INC: Always get your information from more than one source. I mean, that’s important. The media is broad. I mean its television, newspaper, and a lot of things. But I also think it’s important that as an individual, I keep going back to that, you have the ability to-- to make change. I’m happy to hear you say that music is bringing-- bringing you together. Hassan and I have been doing for years a Concert of Colors ACCESS, New Detroit and other organizations because we believe that music is a universal language and everybody can-- can-- can learn from that and come together around that.
So from the one perspective, culture is important. But again, the media from your perspective, perhaps, separates but I always say, get your information from more than one source and-- and-- and again learn for yourself and come to your own conclusions after you’ve done-- after you got new information from a lot of different places.
HARLAN: And where do we-- we get most of our information first, from our families, from our-- from our parents, so they set the stage of what is right, what is-- what’s not right, what’s accepted, what’s not accepted. Anybody else?
STANCATO: I think though in the younger generation; they get information from other places too. Not just their parents.
CARMEN HARLAN: Well, they’ve got the Internet, too.
HARLAN: All right. Let’s hear from another member of our audience.
ALEX PARCELL, Student: Hi, my name is Alex Parcell. I’m from St. Clair Shores, Michigan. I go to-- I'm going to be a senior at Lakeview High School next year. And I wanted to talk a little bit more about xenophobia as the result of the 9/11 attacks and perhaps a little deeper in general.
I’ve heard-- I’ve heard the media-- even the mainstream news media asking almost rhetorical questions to their audiences about how the population feels about mosques being built in their communities. And one in particular, the major story about the multimillion-dollar facility that was planned to be built in New York City and other communities all over the nation. And I-- I almost feel like it’s-- it’s a poor commentary that such a rhetorical question would be asked. And I was wondering what you feel that says about our society that the mainstream media would even consider that a legitimate question.
DR. DANIEL KRICHBAUM, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL RIGHTS: I think that religious leaders in the metropolitan area can do a much better job of working with the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There are so many more similarities than differences to those religions.
But, I think many of our religious leaders are doing not a very good job in terms of helping their congregants understand people from the other faith communities. This is something that we have, that probably no other community in America has.
JABER: We have-- you know, these three Abrahamic faiths in large numbers and-- and we’re not using that as -- as a way to bring people across the metropolitan area together.
STANCATO: Just want to say that in the civil rights movement, the one thing that we didn’t talk about, it was a multi-racial movement, a multi-religious movement. The Jewish community, very involved in the civil rights movement, white, black, Latino, all kinds of folks came together during that movement to-- to make a difference that they could change.
STANCATO: And so that’s something that we didn’t talk about tonight. But know that all of us-- really we need all of us to-- to make a change and to finish a dream in terms of what we’re talking about tonight.
HARLAN: All right.
ALEX PARCELL: Thank you very much.
HARLAN: Well, just ahead thank you so much for that. We’re going to talk about students, students struggling to graduate in Detroit and one school seems to have found its own path to success.
CARMEN HARLAN, Moderator:
Detroit’s graduation rates, some of the lowest in the nation. But as this piece from 2009 shows teachers, students, and advisors at University Prep High School have found a way to defy the odds.
MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO, reporter:
Samantha Cole is just starting high school in a city where most students won't finish. According to Michigan State University, Detroit high schools have a graduation rate of thirty-two percent, the lowest in the country but at Samantha's school the odds are much better.
SAMANTHA COLE [IN CLIP]: My educators and my advisors here have really pushed me to do great.
MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO [IN CLIP]: This is University Prep High School, a public charter school with five hundred twelve students and a remarkable success rate.
DOUG ROSS [IN CLIP]: We graduated a hundred percent of our students and we sent ninety-four percent on to college. No excuses, not for us, not for them. If a child fails, it’s our fault.
SCHIAVOCAMPO [IN CLIP]: Seventeen-year-old Senior Antonio Williams is on track to graduate and plans to go to college. He says if not for U-Prep his life might be very different.
Antonio Williams, student [IN CLIP]: In my neighborhood, I can easily go sit in a drug house and sell drugs all day if I wanted to.
SCHIAVOCAMPO[IN CLIP]: Antonio says the school's high expectations motivate him. Students are told dropping out is not an option.
Williams [IN CLIP]: When I’m at school, I know that I have to be on top of my game, complete all my work, do all my homework, turn in all my assignment on time.
SCHIAVOCAMPO [IN CLIP]:: Expectations and accountability. U-Prep pairs each student with an advisor who’s responsible for them, no matter what.
ESOHE OSAI, University Prep Advisor [IN CLIP]: It makes a big difference to know that your teacher is going to call your home, your parent’s job, maybe your grandmother’s house, maybe your uncle's house to find you when you’re not in school.
Antonio’s Mother [IN CLIP]: So Antonio who was school today?
SCHIAVOCAMPO [IN CLIP]: --another partner, the family.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: The school demands that the parents are involved.
U-Prep has no admission requirements, accepting students to a blind lottery. Proponents say this proves that with the right system, any child can succeed.
AMBER ARELLANO, Detroit News: It shows that minority children and low-income children can do just as well as other children, right? I mean, that’s-- it’s not really them that’s the problem. It’s the schools and the quality of the education that’s the problem.
HARLAN: Well, that ought to give you something to think about, huh. Why is this school the exception? It angers me when I think that this should be for everybody. This should be the standard, why is it not?
DR. DANIEL KRICHBAUM, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL RIGHTS: One reason, which the-- the scene mentioned, there’s no connections between the school, the home, and the neighborhood. Being a student is a twenty-four hour a day job for someone. It’s a twenty-four hour job.
HARLAN: Do we have to educate the parents as well as the children?
CAROL GOSS, PRESIDENT & CEO THE SKILLMAN FOUNDATION: Well, parents are a big part of it. But really and truly, we know how to educate kids well so we have to have the will to invest in the right thing so that we are educating kids well. So we know that smaller schools work better. That we know that strong principal leadership really interested invested teachers, a rigorous curriculum. We know what works. What we don’t have is the will to make that happen for every single child.
HARLAN: How can we do that?
SHIRLEY STANCATO, PRESIDENT & CEO NEW DETROIT, INC: It goes back to the issue of courage and being focused on the children.
STANCATO: We are focused on too many of the adult issues instead of the issues with the kids. And if we stay focused on the kids we’ll make the right decisions. That has not been the case. But as Carol said the community has to demand it.
I have always said that-- that I will know that we’ve come a long way in Detroit, particularly as it relates to the school system, if when the MEAP [Michigan Educational Assessment Program] scores come out and they’re particularly low, people are marching around the buildings where the administration is saying this is not good enough as opposed to at other times so--
HARLAN: We’re going to ask you to hold that thought because we’ve got students here from the University of the Prep High School with us tonight. Tell me why it works in your opinion.
TAREA WILLIAMS, student: Well, first my name is Tarea Williams.
HARLAN: Speak up a little bit louder, please.
WILLIAMS: My name is Tarea Williams, proud graduate of University of Prep, aspiring journalist and freshmen at Grand Valley State University in the fall. I believe University Prep works because from the start, they instill in you that you will be successful. College is an option always. The next step from that is figuring out where you going to go and what you’re going to do. So it’s always there and you have that support system, you have those opportunities presented to you and it’s—it’s wonderful.
HARLAN: That’s got to make you feel good when you hear a student who’s experienced that school, talk about her experience that way.
GOSS: Do you know Carmen-- one of the greatest civil rights issues of our time is the lack of access to quality education for every single child. Young people need the same opportunities that their suburban counterparts, young people in Detroit, that their suburban counterparts have and we are not as a community, we should be outraged. We should be marching down Woodward Avenue.
HASSAN JABER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACCESS: The other thing is that education is in crisis not only in Detroit. It’s statewide and it’s nationwide. In fact, we are as a nation behind many other countries in terms of education--
HARLAN: Absolutely. Yeah.
JABER: And I agree that this is not a political issue, this is an education issue. We have to stop the politics of this and focus on what make it successful and have the support system-- the community support system behind the schools.
HARLAN: Sounds like they agree with you?
TAREA WILLIAMS: I do wholeheartedly because I interact with kids my age who didn’t graduate from University Prep and didn’t have the experience that I had. And it’s kind of alarming to me that people-- some kids my age don’t consider college or they don’t know what college is all about. They haven’t actually been on a campus, they haven’t had a tour. They haven’t talked to admission’s counselors. Things like that make a difference in the child’s life.
GOSS: I do think one of the most important things at U-Prep is that they all have advisors.
GOSS: There is a single adult in that high school who is responsible for every child. So it’s someone that they can go to, they can talk to about their problems, their curriculum, going to college, anything they want that there is someone that’s available to them.
STANCATO: And the research demonstrates and New Detroit has done a lot of research over this that having a single adult responsible for a young person whomever that person may be, that is one of the pieces of the puzzle that it takes to change-- turn education around and ensure that young people get the kind of-- kind of education that-- that they deserve.
REVEREND ROBERT SMITH, PASTOR NEW BETHEL BAPTIST CHURCH: Let me just say something about facilities. My sisters went to a biology class where they had one microscope in all six classes, had that one microscope and the teacher prepared the slide and you got to peep at it. I went seven and a half miles away to what we called the white school first day in biology class, I got my own microscope individual to keep in my locker, like the facility you are in. So part of the inspiration she received was from the facilities that she was in because I’m at a school where the ceilings falling out, has no toilet tissue.
HARLAN: So you felt better about yourself.
HARLAN: You can see it.
SMITH: The grass is not cut.
HARLAN: You can see it here.
HARLAN: Why aren’t we outraged about the quality of education of our schools in Detroit?
MOSS: You know, I-- I think that’s a really good question. I just want to say Nelson Mandela once said that “There’s no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.” It’s not just in the city of Detroit.
In Grand Rapids, they’re talking about virtually almost an entirely online curriculum for kids, unacceptable. So it is an issue that should outrage people and we have an election coming in November.
If you don’t know the position of the Republican and Democratic candidates on education, please find out, ask them, ask them what’s their position on education.
STANCATO: And young people you know what goes on in your schools. Go home and talk to your parents, your ministers, other adults that are part of your life. Let them know that you are not satisfied.
Your voice is really, really, really important. Your voice is one of the voices that we need to hear to help us understand what’s going on in the schools. And also to encourage us and get us moving in the direction, say, this is not acceptable.
I recently got an e-mail from a young woman who said-- “I want to sue everybody, I want to sue the governor, the mayor, the school, I want to sue everybody because I am not being given the education that’s the constitutional right for me.” Came to New Detroit. I was blown away by this young woman. She is just so—she’s so passionate. In the ninth grade and she’s able to say I need someone to help me. So you have a voice, ask for help and make it as loud as you can make it. But we need to hear from you, that you are not satisfied with-- with what’s going on.
HARLAN: Well I do want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy, busy schedules and joining us today. Let’s give a hand to the panelists, please.
KRICHBAUM: Thank you.
HARLAN: And certainly --and certainly thank all of you whether you had a chance to ask a question or you did not.
You know, looking back is helpful. It’s often said that history can provide a roadmap for the future. There’s really nothing you can do about what’s happened in the past except learn from it and we’ve heard it here tonight, nothing can replace a quality education.
So let us not be afraid to be the best we can be. Let us find the courage of Rosa Parks and demand the best from ourselves and maybe then we stand a chance of finishing the dream.
For more stories about the Civil Rights era, please visit nbculearn.com and we want to thank the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for supporting this event. I’m Carmen Harlan and thank you for joining me.
Two years ago, Hamissi Mamba was living in Burundi. He came to Detroit, Michigan, as a refugee and joined his wife and young twin daughters who were already living in the United States — moving to a new country, navigating a new culture, mastering a new language.
Civil rights Movement, Detroit, Michigan, Henry Ford Museum, WDIV, Carmen Harlan, Carol Goss, Kary Moss, Robert Smith, Shirley Stancato, Hassan Jaber, Dr. Daniel Krichbaum, Leadership, Rosa Parks, Montgomery, Alabama, Emmett Till, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., African American, Black Panthers, Youth, Race, Racism