Bare Bones 1968 Style

While white boy was busy using his career connections to oust Elsa Lurie from her East Harlem principalship, here is a snapshot of what he and his cronies were supporting.

Really study this photo and deeply meditate on the dead boring destruction these kids had to endure every damn day. This is precisely what systemic racism looks like in action. It is a starvation diet and it is extremely deliberate. No one on God’s Green Earth ever thought this outrage was okay. The visitors should have removed everyone from that classroom and taken sledgehammers to those turn of the century desks bolted down to the creaking, decrepit wooden floors. This Fact Finding Committee must have seethed with righteous anger, mutating into action.

Because action finally did come their way in the form of Lillian Weber and the Open Corridors movement. Teachers and parents met, researched, thought, talked and watched films of schools where the learning life was NOT the equivalent of a Soviet Gulag. One fine day the desks were unbolted and in their place came this.

Nancy Nilson from “Parents In The Corridor” was a witness. Meaningfulness went as follows. Parents got busy bringing in the comfortable sofas and chairs. Rugs arrived as did lamps and bookcases. We all learned to walk the streets with an eye out for rubbish bins and to search friends’ apartments for likely discards. Parents helped make learning games and materials for use by students.

Parents built and painted storage units, painted classroom walls and provided pots, pans, measuring utensils, tools for workbenches, typewriters – all those many things never EVER found before in these schools.

Wardrobe trunks were fitted with casters and filled with colorful costumes. Incubators, sandboxes and indoor ponds were built. Animal cages and animal feed were donated. It is hard now to remember that an early parent victory had been to push the idea that the school’s textbook budget could also be used to purchase materials!

Teachers went south for Freedom Summer and Freedom Schools. They returned with fire in their bellies and many songs in their hearts. Most of them the songs taught and fought on the endless marches, pickets, boycotts, sit-ins and mass incarcerations. That unbridled energy devoured the opportunity offered by Open Corridors.