WXXI AM News

civil rights

Carlotta Walls LaNier was 14 years old when she and eight other African American students walked through the doors of the formerly all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The year was 1957 and the move was a test of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education. Walls LaNier graduated from Central High after surviving verbal and physical attacks and a bombing of her home. 

She will be in Rochester next week as a guest of the YWCA for its Empowering Women Luncheon, but first, she joins us on Connections to discuss school desegregation and her place in history. Our guests:

What can we learn about the current state of race relations in this country by studying slavery and the Civil Rights movement? A group of 35 people connected with Spiritus Christi Church visited a number of historic sites in southern cities to learn about the impact of racism in the criminal justice system, the political system, and the economic system. They returned to Rochester with the goal of using this new knowledge to improve race relations in our community.

We discuss their trip, what they learned, and how they plan to work with city leaders. In studio:

  • Reverend Myra Brown, associate pastor at Spiritus Christi Church, and an anti-racism trainer
  • Lorinda Parks, physician at Jordan Health and member of Spiritus Christi Church
  • Steve Heveron-Smith, entrepreneur and business consultant, and a member of Spiritus Christi Church
  • Melissa Parrish, community educator and social worker, and a member of Spiritus Christi Church

In 1943, students of Mexican descent were required to enroll in separate schools from white children. In 1944, when Sylvia Mendez was in third grade, she and her brothers were denied access to 17th Street School, the “white school,” near their Orange County home. They were told they were “too dark.” Her lighter-skinned cousins were told they would be allowed to attend. Sylvia was thrust into the civil rights movement, and has become an iconic figure.

A new play called Separate Is Never Equal is based on the book that tells her story, and it will be performed in Rochester this weekend. We talk to Sylvia, as part of our panel:

  • Sylvia Mendez, civil rights activist
  • Annette Ramos, founder and executive director of the Rochester Latino Theatre Company, and co-writer of Separate Is Never Equal
  • Don Bartalo, director and co-writer of Separate Is Never Equal
  • Jose Cruz, member of the Rochester City School Board

Need To Know Rochester: Artist Johnnie Smith

Feb 8, 2013

Hélène Biandudi gives us a look at the art created by local artist Johnnie Smith, and discusses what influences his art including family and the civil rights movement.