478,000. That is the number of students, 90% black and Hispanic, forced to attend a failing school. On Wednesday (Oct.7), a crowd of over 18,000 New Yorkers gathered at Camden Plaza to call Major Bill DiBlazo to action to put an end to the unequal school system. The crowd was full of students, parents and teachers all donning red shirts that read “I Fight To End Inequality” and holding up an array of signs from “Separate and Unequal, Still” and “Great Schools For All”.
Producer and DJ, DJ Jazzy Jeff (side note: Black don’t crack) held the crowd down with tunes like “Happy” and “Empire State Of Mind” and of course, a crowd favorite, the Bel-Air theme song, in between performances and speeches by some of Success schools finest, including their dance team who got the whole crowd hype when they hit the Quan.
Grammy- nominated singer, song writer and activist, Aloe Blacc, took the stage to give his testimony on the unequal school systems in NYC, “For too many kids in this city, zip code determines destiny.” said Blacc. “There are 478,000 , mostly black and Hispanic students trapped in a system of schools that are failing them. In reality, this is not one system, but two—separate and unequal—and children of color are the ones who suffer”.
The highlight of the morning was Oscar and Grammy-award winning singer, actress and mom, Jennifer Hudson. Hudson blessed the crowd singing her hit from Empire “Whatever Makes You Happy”, “Spotlight”, “It’s Your World” and the song that proved her to be the powerhouse that we all know and love, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”. Hudson took to her Instagram to further spread her message in support of equal education. She posted a picture of her talking to school children with the caption, “ To quote my idol Whitney Houston herself! “ I believe the children are our future” little faces full of dreams and determination! #FES #dontstealpossible”.
Amongst the crowd was Richard Amponte, a father, who was there with his 7-year-old daughter, Embyra. His biggest concern was, of course, the children, “ Let’s stop the nonsense. All schools should be equal, it’s about the kids.” Said Amponte. “The school systems need to join forces and stop fighting each other”. Many people in the crowd shared the same sentiments including Zarida Teel, a single mother from Brooklyn, when she spoke of her time growing up in the system, she recalled being exposed to handcuffs and metal detectors, “Our kids are being exposed to the idea of prison when they should be exposed to the idea of college.”
Throughout the rally, a count was kept of how many postcards where sent to the Mayor to call him to action, by 10:30am, 18,000 postcards had already been sent. After the rally, some parents and teachers furthered the message by marching over the Brooklyn Bridge. While the event was very lively, upbeat and full of performances, the main focus—equal education—was undoubtedly heard.