Echoes of Brown:
Youth Documenting and Performing 
the Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education

Michelle Fine, Rosemarie Roberts and Maria Torre, with Janice Bloom, April Burns, Lori Chajet, Monique Guishard, and Yasser Payne

Over the last nine months, we have gathered a collective of 13 youth–drawn from wealthy and economically depressed communities in the suburbs surrounding New York City and within the city; representing the kind of wisdom born in Advanced Placement classes and the kind born in Special Education classrooms. We joined Christians. Jews, Muslims and youth with no religious affiliation; those of European, African, Caribbean, Palestinian, Latino and blended ancestries; young people headed for the Ivy League and some who have spent time in juvenile facilities; some who enjoy two homes, and some who have spent nights without a home. Together we created a Social Justice and Arts Institute where we immersed ourselves in the history of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. In lectures, readings, music and discussion, as well as the findings of our own research with nearly 10,000 youth nationwide.

Simultaneously we interviewed elders who worked for civil rights during the 1940s through to the present day. Doubly-clothed, then, in the history of struggle and the evidence of contemporary (in)justice, we dipped into the inviting waters of spoken word, and moved to the rhythms of dance. In a scholarly and aesthetic experiment that challenges the boundaries of time, geography, generation and discipline, we braided political history, personal experience, research and knowledge gathered from a generation living in the long shadow of Brown, with performance. Stretched like the tight and yet elastic leather that protects and re-sounds percussion, across the generations of our research collective, we have produced Echoes; The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education, Fifty Years Later.
-Michelle Fine

(from the Introduction to the book/DVD, published by Teachers’ College Press in 2004.)

• For more resources on the “Echoes” project, and the related “Opportunity Gap” project at the Graduate Center, you can visit the What Kids Can Do website. The feature story, “The Color of Learning: Youth Researchers Tackle the Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education,” provides background on these participatory action research projects. Also included are selections of poetry and spoken word performance, interviews with researchers, a report on research findings, and further materials for teaching about the Brown v. Board of Education decision.