Some black students at an Arkansas high school were called Wednesday morning to an anti-gang assembly — which officials say was called to comply with a court order to desegregate.
Black freshman students at Maumelle High School were told by an intercom announcement to attend the presentation by a local pastor Dante Shelton, who shared his personal story experience with gang violence and drugs, reported KATV-TV.
Parents and students questioned why the event was aimed only at black students.
“When I talked to (my sister) about it, she felt that it was very racist,” said Arron Perkins. “Someone in the group asked, why are there no other kids except for African-American kids here?”
But officials insist the “inspirational” blacks-only assembly was intended to complywith a court order to desegregate Pulaski County Special School District.
“Freshmen students were identified by the school because it is a time of transition when they are more easily influenced,” said Deborah Roush, a spokeswoman for the school district. “Black students were selected with the intent that the assembly would be an extension of the district’s court-ordered desegregation efforts, which encourage programs and opportunities tailored to minority students.”
School officials said students were permitted to opt out if they wished, but they did not say how many chose to skip the assembly — which they insisted was met by a positive response.
Perkins, who said his sister was called out of math class to attend, said the information provided at the assembly should have been shared with all students.
He said singling students out by race presented other problems — because many students come from a multiracial background.
“What does that leave kids that are mixed?” said Perkins, who is biracial. “‘Oh, you know, that’s my other side that’s calling, let me go learn about gang-banging.’ To me it’s just wrong on every level.”
From the “Are you kidding me?” department, a Michigan YMCA caught heat for their “Underground Railroad” program, meant to teach campers about slavery through a simulation. What was meant to be an educational experience turned into a traumatic nightmare for black children who were forced to portray slaves on an auction block while instructors played masters, chasing the kids on actual horses, according to complaints.
Tiffany Birchett, mother of one of the campers, told The Detroit Newsthat her 10-year-old daughter was disturbed by the program at the YMCA Storer Camps in Jackson, with instructors dancing and acting happy before participating in the activity where they held certificates that allowed them to buy slaves. The enslaved children then had to hold the certificates once they were bought or sold.
Birchett worked with the ACLU of Michigan to put a stop to this, and called her daughter’s school principal, William Murphy, to let him know what was going on at the camp. Murphy reached out to Nancy Burger, the director of Outdoor Environmental Education for the YMCA Storer Camps, who denied the allegations of what went on during the event which had existed for 20 years.
Mark Fancher, staff attorney for the Michigan ACLU Racial Justice Project, then wrote a letter to Kevin Washington, president and CEO of YMCA USA, demanding an end to the program. That same day, Brad Toft, president of the YMCA of Greater Toledo, which operates the Storer Camps, called Fancher to let him know they were ending the program.