In honor of Black History month, here's a post from LA Times by Sandy Banks, my favorite columnist, and published last Saturday, February 11. Banks in her recent column, tells about a slice of history that many people either have little idea or have forgotten, including myself. Her column was about desegregation and the student busing practice in the United States.
I remember our summer vacation in 1978. We were visiting Los Angeles from Iran, and there was a lot of talk and discussion on TV about the busing program and Proposition 1 (later in 1979 it was ratified by voters). However around that time when we were transplanted to Glendale, California because of the Islamic Revolution, I don't remember hearing much about the busing program. It was not practiced in Glendale, only in LA. Somehow the program faded from my memory until a week ago when I read the Banks' column.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to talk to her at LA Times' Book Fair at UCLA. She told us how she became a reporter and all about her life. It was delightful. I regret now that I didn't have a picture taken with her to share with my readers!
In this column, Banks writes about how the busing practice started 40 years ago in Los Angeles, and how "inner city" black students were transported to the "white" suburbs of Los Angeles. Enjoy!
They were known on campus as "the PWT kids" and the moniker has hung on. They grew up to be bankers, business owners, computer techs, teachers, artists, probation officers. Several are still friends with white classmates.
Yet three years later, that same teacher helped Figures get a full scholarship to Cal State Long Beach, which led her to a career in finance. "There were kids smarter than me, for sure. But she knew if she didn't go to bat for me, nobody else would."
There were complaints from the schools they left behind that the permit program siphoned off Watts' brightest minds. But the participants can now admit, without feeling like traitors, that they appreciated the more cerebral vibe at Birmingham High.
"You could win a battle with your mind, rather than fighting it out. People respected you for being smart and analytical and inquisitive," Figures said. "That was considered 'nosy' where we come from."
When Monise Kelly, class of '77, began researching schools for her two children, she remembered how, during the time she was bused, there had been "one black family" that lived in Encino and sent their kids to Birmingham High.
Their home became the bused-in students' refuge. "They kind of adopted us," she recalled. "It was the place you felt safe....I wanted to be that family."
So Kelly bought a home in Woodland Hills and sent her children to Taft High. She joined the booster club, ran the snack bar and became a fixture on the suburban campus — where buses still roll up every day carrying hundreds of inner-city transfers.
|Rudy Pittman was part of the first group of black students bused to the Valley's… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)|