[Captain Charles Price addressing the “What makes us, US? Conflict and Community” forum (2012)]
February 27, 2013
In the last few days, Rochesterians have been reading about the riots of 1964, including a front page story, “Decades after the 1964 riots, what has changed?” The article was a prelude to a forum hosted by the Rochester chapter of the League of Woman Voters: Facing Race, Embracing Equity (FR=EE). Following a screening of the documentary, July ’64 (2004), the forum encouraged a discussion of the current state of racial inequalities — topics ranging from housing to education — and how these disparities can be diminished.
The history teacher in me relishes such public dialogues, especially by examining how past events continue (or not) to influence present conditions.
The history teacher in me is also prompted to ask the ever-ongoing question: how can contemporary students become engaged with the kinds of issues raised in such forums? Let’s face it, to today’s generation, 1964 seems as far away as 1764.
Actually, such projects are taking place throughout city schools. A prime example comes from the World of Inquiry High School that uses an Expeditionary Learning model in which students investigate topics throughout history that changed and affected communities in both positive and negative ways. In Spring 2012, within the context, “What makes us, US? Conflict and Community,” the 8th grade worked with local community members to learn about Rochester during the Great Migration, the Great Depression, WWII, the Civil Rights movement, and in one powerful segment, the 1964 riots themselves as told through the eyes of participants.
You will see a classroom of interested 8th graders (not yet fully fledged jaded teenagers, 8th graders can still be captivated), interviewing one Rochester leader after another: Captain Charlie Price, Rochester’s first African-American police officer, Constance Mitchell, Dr. Walter Cooper Darryl Porter, and former Mayor William Johnson.
Hopefully you will have seen the leaders of tomorrow. To some of the students, the project was probably just another school exercise. To others, making the documentary may well have sparked a lifetime interest. So, when it is their turn to host and attend League of Women Voter’s forums, they’ll be ready, willing and able.