Rochester Community Schools Honors Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with Community Discussion

Honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rochester Community Schools (RCS) hosted keynote speaker Delma Jackson and Michigan Roundtable’s Dez Squire to examine the historical context of structural racism experienced in today’s communities.

All three pose for a photo

Robin Carter, Delma Jackson, and Rober Shaner

Jackson, a facilitator, writer, and lecturer on social justice topics, used storytelling to take the audience on a journey to learn about the cumulative impacts of race and Federal Housing Administration policies. He compared his grandfather’s story to political commentator Bill O’Reilly’s as a contrast in equity and opportunity.

Jackson shared how his African-American grandfather’s homecoming after serving in World War II was much different than returning white soldiers. Some got to experience the American Dream, Jackson said, but others, like his grandfather, did not. “Because of what he looked like, he could not access the GI bill. He could not access a mortgage. He could not access the wealth accumulation that came from home ownership,” Jackson said.

Jackson noted that although America is rooted in stories of meritocracy, there are some assumptions that need to be questioned. He presented this challenge for community attendees. “You don’t have to fix society today. Start with yourself. What story will you tell?”

The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion brought to RCS a traveling exhibit titled, “We Don’t Want Them: Race and Housing in Metropolitan Detroit, 1900-1968.” Dez Squire, suburban organizer for Michigan Roundtable, discussed the exhibit which outlines the structural racism and racial injustice experienced by minority groups through segregated communities and discriminatory policies that led to the Fair Housing Act.

The exhibit remains open for public viewing until January 25 in the RCS Administration Building’s Harrison Room.

“This community dialogue gives us important perspective,” said RCS Superintendent Robert Shaner, Ph.D. “To figure out the trajectory of our future, we need to be cognizant of our past. Rochester Community Schools is committed to developing cultural awareness. We are proud to offer these educational opportunities so we can continue to learn and grow as a community.”

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