Just Us in Davis: Brown at 60, Davis at 10

By From page A12 | March 09, 2014

Learn more and participate

What: “Graffitied Walls,” presented by the DHS drama department (adult themes and language)

When: 7 p.m. March 13-15 and 2 p.m. March 16

Where: Brunelle Performance Hall at DHS, 315 W. 14th St.

Tickets: $14 general, $12 seniors and $10 students; free baby-sitting provided

What: “A Salute to Tony Fields,” presented by the DHS drama department, including a group dance on stage to “Thriller” on April 26 (mandatory rehearsal at noon that day)

When: 7 p.m. April 25-26

Where: Brunelle Performance Hall at DHS, 315 W. 14th St.

Tickets: $20

What: “Brown at 60; Davis at 10: The (Ongoing) Pursuit of Educational Equity In Davis,” a reunion and conference for Youth In Focus, Catalysts for Social Justice and Race and Social Justice students

When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Where: TBA

Something big or something small. Something. We are planning a celebration for Saturday, May 17, the size of which we cannot say at this point. It is tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Educators, parents, students, elected officials and community members, please set aside this date.

On May 17, the nation also will pause to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to desegregate schools across the nation with its decision, Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kan. Pausing and reflecting on how what we enjoy today is a result of what happened in the past is so very, very important to stoke an identity collectively held.

We aim to pause and remember what we have accomplished together for the cause of racial equality in Davis’ excellently reputed, high-performing school district. We are planning for May 17 to be a reunion of those students, educators and others who changed the world together here in Davis through Davis High School’s Youth In Focus (2003-04) and Catalysts for Social Justice Student Research Scholars Programs (2004-08).

Believe it or not, it has been 10 years since the original data generated by the Student Research Scholars were presented on the 50th anniversary of Brown on May 17, 2004.

Briefly, the 2003 school year in Davis featured racial taunting, the spray-painting of the N-word, memories of the 1983 murder of a Vietnamese student and data documenting marked racial disparities in achievement, class placement and discipline — yes, even in Davis’ highly regarded, “high-performing” schools. Then, school district officials did something truly amazing, truly courageous, truly transformative.

They commissioned the first of three diverse cohorts of student research scholars over five years to explore causes and solutions for the racial/ethnic achievement and discipline gaps and suboptimal race relations among students. The scholars’ data demonstrated that students believe teachers, administrators, classmates and others hold expectations for their achievement and behavior that are different by race. The data were not subtle. They were disturbing for members of this affluent, reputedly liberal university community.

The scholars went on to present their data, updated with each cohort, in more than 100 different venues, including conferences in Savannah, Ga.; New York City (the American Education Research Association) and Los Angeles (UCLA and the California Teachers Association). The students’ work also was presented in Vancouver, Canada, in 2010, and Beijing, China, in 2005 at the International Conference on Diversity in Nations, Communities and Organisations.

The students were called to give expert testimony to the California Legislature more than five times on issues of access to higher education and K-12 hate crimes education.

In 2007, one of the scholars’ original action items was achieved with the inauguration of a yearlong Davis High course that incorporated the youths’ experience in cross-cultural dialogue and relationship-building, in exploring their own racial identity development, and in action research training.  The course, “Race and Social Justice in U.S. History,” needed just 29 students to be funded. A total of 108 students signed up, necessitating three class periods.

This year, DHS offers eight Race and Social Justice class periods taught by three teachers, based on the number of students who signed up for the course. The course is an A-G approved course, making it a certified University of California/California State University prerequisite, and is not an elective, but meets the graduation requirement for U.S. history.

Each year since its inception, RSJ students have hosted a research poster and video presentation, highlighting their yearlong group research project, featuring the application of historical principles in race and social justice to how we live together today in Davis.

Almost weekly, I run into a young person who was a student research scholar, an equally important member of the Black Student Union or Latinos Unidos DHS clubs that supported their peers’ efforts and activism, or members of those first classes of RSJ. Most have no idea what they set in motion or were a part of in changing the world for their younger peers and, indeed, for the entire Davis community.

These young people need to know that what was often said of their faith, leadership and example has come to pass: that they weren’t just studying history; they were making it! Please set aside Saturday, May 17! In the meantime, you can view the award-winning, student-created and -directed documentary on this tremendously inspiring community story, “From The Community To the Classroom,” at www.communitytotheclassroom.com. Several of the student and community research reports are posted there as well.

Thrilling with drama
Drama at DHS has been an integral part of the individual and parallel community and institutional change processes described above. DHS drama is a community, a welcoming community of expression, difference and talent, sometimes exquisitely developed, sometimes as yet undifferentiated.

This weekend (see accompanying box), please come and enjoy the students’ original production of “Graffitied Walls.” Students explore, as only they can do, life as high school students. They touch on issues of drugs, sex, music, pressure and future. Free baby-sitting will be provided.

And then on April 25 and 26, the DHS drama department’s annual song-and-dance show honors perhaps Davis High’s most famous dancer and theatrical star, the late Tony Fields. Fields was one of the “Solid Gold” dancers of the 1980s and also appeared in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and “Thriller” videos.

For the first time, Davis community members can join the student dancers on stage and dance to “Thriller” at the performance on Saturday evening, April 26. In this fundraiser for the drama department ($20 per person), we will have one dance rehearsal at noon on the same day, and then you’ll get to fulfill your dreams, dress up and do that most amazing and popular of group dances you always wanted to do on stage with others.

We are indeed a unique community, changing and dancing and moving forward together!

— Jann Murray-García, M.D., M.P.H., is a Davis parent and pediatrician. She shares this monthly column with Jonathan London. Reach her at [email protected] 

Jann L. Murray-Garcia

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