10/15/06 — NAACP leader links housing to segregation

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NAACP leader links housing to segregation

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 15, 2006 2:00 AM

School resegregation can be tied directly to housing discrimination, the chairman of the state's NAACP housing committee said Friday evening during a "Crisis in Education" conference at the 63rd annual state NAACP convention in Goldsboro.

The convention began Thursday and concluded Saturday evening. Sessions were held at the Goldsboro-Raleigh District Assembly on Hooks River Road.

Stella Adams, who chairs the state group's housing committee, is also executive director of the N.C. Fair Housing Center in Durham.

She shared how resegregation impacts education.

"One of the key conditions of how you will perform in school is where you live," she said. "It's the best predictor of performance because we live in a segregated society.

"When we say that we want community schools, if your neighbors are segregated then what will be the makeup of our schools?"

She said that white parents have talking about being discriminated against when the possibility of busing their children to other schools is mentioned.

"They're saying there's a natural segregation that has occurred and that they therefore should not be forced to be bused into another neighborhood when there's a perfectly good school right where they are," she said.

"I'm not confident that this argument will not win under this current Supreme Court. It means that I have to do a better job on my end fighting discrimination in housing."

Part of the problem can be traced to real estate agents, steering possible tenants away from certain areas of a city.

"When a school system is 99 percent black and the real estate agent goes around talking about where the good schools are, who's going to move into that neighborhood?" she said. "When the school is a low-performing school, who's going to move into that neighborhood and bring their children there? It reinforces the discriminatory housing pattern."

There is also another reason why education and housing are linked, Ms. Adams said.

"Students who stay in the same house, who have low mobility in terms of moving from place to place, perform better than kids who move because of eviction or foreclosures," she explained. "When your housing is stable, your community is stable, and your children have an environment in which they can learn."

Ms. Adams said she takes her role seriously and intends to do her part to ensure that children achieve.

"That means that we're going to be testing real estate brokers and agents to see if they're sending people for housing...testing apartment managers to see what they're doing, and we're going to be monitoring local government to see where they're putting their resources," she said.

"We're going to watch where they zone certain things, where they put water and sewer, where they put streets and sidewalks. We're going to assist in creating a stable environment so that our children have a safe place to go home to, where you can't escape by saying it's a 'natural segregation.'"

G.I. Allison, executive director of the N.C. Human Relations Commission in Raleigh, said that another problem across the state concerns educational bonds and new schools being built while achievement gaps remain.

"We're working with the NAACP and N.C. Justice Center to bring about a change to do some work in research as well as bring about some solutions to the problems," he said. "It's time for schools within schools and living uneducated to stop.

"Rest assured that in a few years -we're only talking about two or three years- we will be bringing about some differences in the achievement gap in the state."

The Rev. Dr. William Barber of Goldsboro, current state NAACP President, said the next generation deserves advocates who will fight for them and not allow the clock to be turned back.

"How many of you remember segregation? How many of you knew that it was wrong?" he asked the gathering. "We're the NAACP and we cannot turn around or turn back."

Barber said the children deserve a fair chance and have the right to every opportunity and the best start in life.

"We will go to our graves fighting and we'll not let anybody tell us that our children cannot learn," he said. "If not us, who. If not now, when?

"One of these days we're going to celebrate that justice has rolled up and righteousness has come like a mighty wind ... but until then, the fight is on."

Carolyn Coleman, first vice-president for the state NAACP conference, is also on the national executive board for the organization. From Greensboro, where she is now also chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, she said her affiliation with the NAACP began in high school.

"It's been a great convention," she said of this weekend's event. "I think we have dealt with issues that impact African Americans particularly, but all minorities across the state."