Education as a Civil Right

January 20, 2012

Image courtesy of the Red Hook Initiative 

Education as a Civil Right 

We hope you were part of the packed house for last Sunday’s WNYC MLK Day Celebration at the Brooklyn Museum. The annual event, for which we’re a proud community supporter, took on the very timely issue of education and equality, through passionate discussion and performances. If you missed it, you can stream highlights from the show here. 
Hosts Brian Lehrer and Jami Floyd led two extraordinary panels to debate current challenges in education through the lens of history. The first featured John Stokes, an original student plaintiff in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. “We didn’t go on strike for integration; we went on strike for equality,” he said. Equality measured in the fitness of the buildings that housed their class rooms, in the availability of transportation to get them to school, and the number of schools devoted to their education. 
The lawyers for the case, however, maintained that there was no such thing as “separate but equal” in education, and took that argument to the Supreme Court where Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned. 
But clearly the fight for equality in education has battled on ever since, with the heart of American cities as the battleground, where lower income, predominantly Black and Latino communities still have poor, overcrowded schools producing poor student performances.

In New York City, less than a quarter of Black and Latino males graduate from high school in four years. Even more troubling is the number of young people who’ve left the education system. In Bed-Stuy, 20% of 16- to 24-year-olds are not in school and not working. 
Last year, the City invested the staggering amount of $24 billion on our public school system—and yet when our Foundation sought to award college scholarships to young people growing up in a public housing project in Crown Heights, we could barely find one child who was actually graduating high school and going on to college. 
The debate on how to repair the broken education system rages on. We don’t know the answer, but we do know that when communities get focused on the education of their children, things can begin to get better despite what sometimes seem like overwhelming odds. 

Right now in Brooklyn—in Sunset Park, in Flatbush, and in Bed-Stuy—community and civic leaders are coming together to demand more and do more to make sure that all of the systems that affect young people are aligned and accountable.
The Brooklyn Community Foundation was created to be a force for good, and a force for change. And when it comes to education we are deeply interested and deeply invested.

Last year our Brooklyn donor community gave over $900,000 in grants through our Education and Youth Achievement Fund to nonprofit organizations working to provide young people with opportunities to better their academic success, instill leadership skills, and create pathways to higher education. 

We’ve got a long way to go, but working together, we know we can create an education turnaround particularly here in Brooklyn—where there’s so much passion and creativity.

Dr. King said,
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 

Let’s make sure that there is no silence in Brooklyn about the things that matter most.

What's Happening Across Brooklyn

Here are a few highlights of news and events we’ve shared with our followers this week. Don’t miss a thing! Like us at and follow us at

Central Brooklyn STEM Initiative Teams Win 11 Spots in Regional Robotics Challenge
Nearly 400 Brooklyn youngsters and their teachers gathered at the Brooklyn qualifying round of the FIRST® LEGO League on January 14 at NYU-Poly, to present months of research on food safety and the robots they built and programmed to demonstrate food safety issues. NYU-Poly administers the Brooklyn Community Foundation's Central Brooklyn STEM initiative at 22 Brooklyn elementary, middle, and high schools. More.


Special Day for Special Kids
We're thrilled to have connected Extreme Kids & Crew with our friends at the New York Transit Museum, and now they're partnering this Sunday to present a day at the museum for special needs families.

Build a Better Brooklyn
Please take a moment to cast your vote for Brooklyn Community Foundation in Bay Ridge Toyota's Build a Better Brooklyn Facebook contest. The dealership will give the winning charity a percentage of the proceeds from every car sold during the first quarter of this year. Vote here!