Op: Ed How LAUSD successfully tackled the racial divide in 1969


In an op-ed to the Los Angeles Times daily newspaper, Paul Wallace and Joel Strom share their story of how two people, one black, one white, a dermatologist and a dentist are "products of the Los Angeles public schools, longtime residents of the city, and most importantly friends."

Their lifelong friendship began in 1969, as part of pilot program of voluntary integration at LAUSD: Project APEX which stood for Area Program for Enrichment Exchange. Their class - the class of 1972 - was the first one where 'white kids could go to black schools; black kids could go to white schools." When the integration started some white families pulled out. But the school administration persevered and a few days every year they held a "convocation" a sort of 'group therapy' where the kids were broken into multi-racial groups of 30 and forced to get to know each other. It worked. Fears dissipated and lifelong friendships were formed.

Wallace and Strom are candid about their current experiences: "We graduated into a world where racism was and still is real. We both give lectures in our respective specialties, usually addressing conferences of our fellow doctors. One of us, even now can have difficulty getting in to the conference venues to get his credentials; the other walks in without any credentials at all. One of us is frequently addressed as a member of the serving staff at conference receptions. This sort of litany could go on and on."

The conclusion:

"Is racial strife worse now than it was when we were growing up? There is no easy answer to this question, but one thing that was true then is still true today: Direct, personal interaction is the prescription for calming the strife.

Our leaders keep talking about the need for a “national conversation” on race. Let's start it here, with our children. We'd like to see LAUSD close down all its high schools for a few days this year (and every year), and use the time to hold convocations like the ones we experienced at Hamilton.

If we really want to bring people together, then we must do exactly that — bring them together. It worked for the two of us and the hundreds of others who attended Hamilton High with us. It can work again today."


Racial Justice


Paul Wallace
Joel Strom






Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times








United States -- California -- Los Angeles




Paul Wallace and Joel Strom, “Op: Ed How LAUSD successfully tackled the racial divide in 1969,” Antiracism Digital Library, accessed May 25, 2024, https://sacred.omeka.net/items/show/230.