How unjust it is, that they who have but little should be always adding something to the wealth of the rich! – Terence (Publius Terentius Afer)
Last Tuesday, Toledo Board of Education member Brenda Hill, with support from Board President Bob Vasquez and Lisa Sobecki, voted to close Libbey High School meeting almost 56 years and a week following the momentous Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and in the building bearing the name of Brown attorney Thurgood Marshall.
The motion, following an epiphany by Hill, was prompted by voter rejection of Toledo Public Schools’ tax levy and the need to save $1.3 million of the district’s now estimated $39 million budget deficit. Board members Larry Sykes and Jack Ford opposed the measure.
I have fond memories of Libbey, having attended nearly every football, basketball or track event held there in the 60s and early 1970s. I met my wife at the school and all of my neighborhood homies were Cowboys, although I did not attend the institution myself. Yet the rollercoaster vote/re-vote and the emotional and polarizing experience of Libbey’s closing goes far beyond sentimentality to reveal sobering realities and insights that exceed what is attainable in any classroom.
Having advocated to keep the school open, I realize more than ever that the fight for justice and equity does not consist of “one pitched battle that brings matters to a decisive outcome.” It is rather, a prolonged campaign of trench warfare with occasional small victories or setbacks but largely disappointing drudgery with little discernible change effected. If our commitment to community struggle is to ever last longer than two weeks, this needs to be fully understood.
But also, there remains a need to “fight through our discomfort with open and honest public discussion on race” so that legitimate grievances can be addressed rather than being trivialized or dismissed as “playing the race card.” Ford, in his dissenting remarks, indicated that the outcomes of past levies always fall to the advantage of the adults and schools in the more privileged neighborhoods despite the unfailing support of the black community and that the poorer schools bear the brunt of the budget cuts when levies do not pass. As a result, he was severely criticized in the media for bringing up the subject of race.
Male, Afra-feminist, Liberationist, Doctor of Ministry (DMin), Pastor/Social Activist of an urban, inner-city church offering a theological perspective on the day to day issues faced by a marginalized people.