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Key to Effective Protesting: Put a Name on the Sign

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When I taught psychology to prospective teachers at Brooklyn College, my courses had a field component in public and private schools. I placed many of my students in an elementary school in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Brooklyn, which was among the poorest communities in NYC. One Friday afternoon the Board of Education pay checks for the paraprofessionals, the classroom aids, didn't arrive. These workers, mostly African-American and Hispanic single mothers from the neighborhood, depended on those checks to feed their families. No wonder they anxiously complained to the principal, whom I will call Mr. Dave to protect his privacy. I was in the room when he called the Board of Education to inquire about the checks. I can only imagine the responses of the Board of Education agent from Mr. Dave's side of the conversation, which went like this:

Mr. Dave: The checks for the paraprofessionals haven't arrived. When will they be here?
Board of Ed. agent: We were tied up at meetings and will not be able to get the checks out until next week--Monday or Tuesday.

Mr. Dave: That's too late. They need the money to live on for the weekend.
Board of Ed. agent: Sorry, but there's no way we can get the checks out today.

Mr. Dave: These paraprofessionals are upset and angry about this and are saying they will go down to the Board headquarters to protest.
Board of Ed. agent: This is America and they can to do that, but it's late in the afternoon on Friday. Some people have already left and we can't do anything about the checks today.

Mr. Dave. They are making up signs right now and intend to protest in front of the Board of Education building.
Board of Ed. agent: Well, again, they are free to do that.

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Bernard Starr, PhD, is author of The Crucifixion of Truth, a drama set in 16th century Italy and Spain. Starr is a psychologist, journalist, and professor emeritus at CUNY, Brooklyn College. At Brooklyn College Starr taught developmental (more...)

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