Discuss race and Bibb County schools at Tuesday night forum

It’s a subject that isn’t always easy to talk or write about, but it’s one that hits close to home and across the nation. Over the past year, Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism, The Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcast have tackled a project on race and schools today.

So far, the “(Dis)integration” series has included several articles, public forums and video projects. The next community event is at at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday at the East Macon Community Center, 3326 Ocmulgee East Blvd., and The Telegraph will be running several articles leading up to it.

The first story in the series, published in January, focused on the changing demographics in Bibb County public schools. The number of white students has dropped by more than 40 percent over the last two decades, while the number of black students has changed little, according to state enrollment data. Last fall, five schools had a white student majority while 30 schools had a black student majority.

Another article recapped Bibb County’s long journey to school integration. It wasn’t until 1970 that the the district finally became an integrated system through court orders. Other stories looked at a change in law that could boost charter school diversity and how to help struggling schools.

Journalism students have been working on video projects and oral histories that capture people’s personal experiences with race in schools and their thoughts on what diversity means, CCJ interim director Debbie Blankenship said.

During three public forums, community members shared their thoughts on the state of schools today and what steps are needed for the future. More than 100 people came to hear Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist with New York Times Magazine, speak during another program.

She discussed how segregated schools across the country are creating an achievement gap between students. The event also included a panel discussion with education reporters and editors from across the country.

During Tuesday’s program, the “Frontline” documentary “Separate and Unequal,” will be screened, followed by small-group discussion. The film addresses the increasing racial divide in public schools in the United States and follows a group of white parents in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as they try to create a separate school district.

In the coming days, articles in the Telegraph will discuss the importance of diversity in the teacher workforce, how alumni teachers have helped one Bibb County school, the role parent involvement plays in student success and the struggles that parents of mixed-raced children face in deciding on schools. Accompanying videos will be posted online at macon.com.

Andrea Honaker: 478-744-4382, @TelegraphAndrea

Community event

When: Tuesday, doors open at 5:45 p.m., and the program starts at 6:15 p.m.

Where: East Macon Community Center, 3326 Ocmulgee East Blvd., Macon

Details: The “Frontline” documentary “Separate and Unequal,” will be screened, followed by small-group discussion. The event is free and open to the public. Pizza and drinks will be provided.

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