NYC schools: still separate and unequal

NYC schools: still separate and unequal

Student activists Coco Rhum and Hebh Jamal describe what real integration of NYC schools would look like and how to achieve it. Bringing sharp analysis and insight from their experiences as leaders in IntegrateNYC and Teens Take Charge, they were interviewed by Lev Moscow on our sister podcast,

*Overview and transcript below. 

NYC schools: still separate and unequal

00:00 / 00:35:54


0:00-2:27 Episode intro and intro of Coco Rhum

2:28-6:21 Critique of Mayor de Blasio’s and Chancellor Carranza’s integration policies

6:22-6:41 Key integration initiatives—removing school screens

6:42-11:13 Screening, school choice, race and class

11:14-13:05 Funding, Parents Association contributions

13:06-16:38 Ed opt programs, mixed academic levels within classrooms

16:39-20:25 Impact of inequalities in the larger society; community schools

20:26-22:40 Intro of Hebh Jamal

22:41-25:45 Becoming involved in IntegrateNYC

25:46-28:37 IntegrateNYC’s 5 R’s: Race and Enrollment; Resource Allocation; Relationships; Representation; Restorative Justice

28:38-29:41 Integration in Community  School District 15 (Brooklyn)

29:42-33:30 Racism and breaking racial barriers down

33:31-end Being Palestinian, commonality of “othering” in Mideast and NYC

Transcription of the episode

Jon M: 00:00 Hi, I’m Jon Moscow. Welcome to Ethical Schools, where we discuss strategies for creating inclusive and equitable schools and youth programs that help students to develop both commitment and capacity to build ethical institutions. We’re delighted today to post an interview from our sister podcast, hosted by Lev Moscow. Lev talks with two student activists, Coco Rhum and Hebh Jamal, about campaigns to integrate the New York City school system. We think you’ll enjoy it. And to make it easier to use audio clips from our podcasts as jumping off points in classes and workshops, we’re now providing transcripts and overviews on our website, Good listening and Happy New Year.

Lev M: 01:11 So we have a very exciting show today. We’ve got two guests. I think this is the first time that we’ve done this before. Our first guest is Coco Rhum and the second guest is Hebh Jamal. I think you will all enjoy the show very much today. So Coco, let me do this. Let me just, let me introduce you to the audience and we can get started now. Does that sound good?

Coco R: 01:36 Yeah, that’s great.

Lev M: 01:36 We are here with Coco Rhum, who is a college freshman at Williams and has been working around integration, school integration, in New York City since at least you were a sophomore, is that right, Coco?

Coco R: 01:51 Yeah, actually like late 2016.

Lev M: 01:54 You were a policy leader for Integrate New York City and Teens Take Charge. Do you want to add anything?

Coco R: 02:00 So through Teens Take Charge, I was a pretty active member of the Department of Education’s Teen Voice working group and also was, starting in December of or November, late November of 2018 was a representative for Teens Take Charge on the Mayor’s School Diversity Advisory Group. And yeah, I was the, in my senior year of high school, I was the director of policy for both organizations, which was an interesting place to be.

Lev M: 02:28 What do you make of Carranza and the de Blasio administration. Have they been good around school integration?

Coco R: 02:35 Well, I think that like de Blasio has been a disaster around integration. He has not done anything to make actual policy change. He has an equity and excellence agenda, which is all nice to hear about, but when it comes to tangible policy change, it has been really lackluster, in my opinion. I mean equity is good, but fundamentally we have a really segregated system, and just as not [inaudible] no matter how much equity you introduce. And so he’s been lacking. And Carranza has done a good job of bringing the word segregation into the public sphere. I think he knows that he’s done that in a way that brings us in, but when again, when it comes to real policy change, I am consistently disappointed with the lack and the, the whole, all the people who are important that work at the DOE or who are, you know, consistently given a seat at the table who aren’t from the DOE but doing important policy work might be well intentioned or might really believe that integration is important. But as a student, it seems like there’s absolutely no follow through and commitment. So I would say that they’re doing a pretty bad job.

Lev M: 03:52 Why do you think that is? Why do you think it’s been so difficult for them to take steps with integration policies?

Coco R: 03:57 I mean I think there’s a few reasons. So if we take the like specialized high school debate, the parents who have voice and who have power and who are being listened to are those who are opposing integration. They tend to be either like wealthier white people or low income Asian people and they are making a fuss about it. They’re being loud about it. And when policy changes are proposed, they’re saying no. And so it’s, I think the mayor especially, who was running for president earlier this year, cares about the public opinion a great deal and wants to be electable. And integration is contentious and it means, to really integrate the schools means to fundamentally redistribute power and resources and change how our schools have operated from being a real dual system to being one where all students are getting a more equal education with each other and in schools that are more reflective of the city’s diversity. And I think that is scary for people who have been benefiting from the inequality and the segregation of the system. And those are the people who are loudest. And when I, and I, when I’ve met with the mayor and the chancellor, they say, you know, we need a majority. We need to build a movement. Um, and that’s just not happening right now. Or you know, students are speaking out and saying something, but no one really wants to do something that is gonna make the people who are going to donate to your campaign unhappy.

Lev M: 05:30 But Coco at this point, he’s not running for anything. So what’s holding him back now?

Coco R: 05:36 Quite frankly, like I think that, yeah, it’s so hard for me to know. It really actually blows my mind that we are not able to maintain. But I think honestly like he’s been a benefactor of that system too. His daughter went to Beacon. His son went to Brooklyn Tech. Yeah. He’s not running for president anymore. He can’t be the mayor again. But he’s still, even if he doesn’t have as much, I think he still is hyper aware that to actually do it means to really stir the pot up and to [inaudible] how power and resources have been allocated in the system. And that’s never popular.

Lev M: 06:14 Let’s say he said okay, like tell me, tell me some policy initiatives to implement. What would your say your big three initiatives be?

Coco R: 06:22 I would say remove all screening, so schools like Beacon have students do variety of things. So that could be like submitting a portfolio or taking a special test that a given school is designed or going in for an interview, things like that. Having certain grades and test scores. So I would remove the screen.

Lev M: 06:42 Wait, I have a question though. Say you were going to design a school, what did you want? So I went to, I went to Central Park East when I was a kid, and Central Park East was by all measures a very diverse school. But one of the things that Debbie Meier was looking for, she was the founder, and she was looking for kids, for families who wanted to be there, who knew what Central Park East was doing and they were doing really kind of imaginative things in the classroom 20 years before everyone else was. But they wanted to make sure that there was buy in from the parents. So in that sense, there was a screen. Do you think that that kind of screen also has to go?

Coco R: 07:22 Well, I mean, I might be misunderstanding this question, but I think what that’s about is the idea of school choice and the idea that, you know, there’s like 450 or so public high schools and students can pick up to 12 to rank on a list that they get to have choice in the system. And I think that that’s complicated. Quite frankly, I think that no one’s really talking about whether or not we should have school choice. The conversation is like how do we make the playing field for choice more or less equal? And I mean, that’s something, the idea of whether or not we should have choice is, is a complicated one and something that I’m still wrestling with. Because I think that just removing barriers to access to certain school doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to integrate the school system or have equitable outcomes. And I mean, I think that choice can be valuable because not all schools, you know, one school might focus on science more or one school focus on dance more. And certain students might want to focus on science or dance more and that can potentially be valuable. But I think that by and large, the function of choice is to lead to inequity or at least how it’s existed thus far. I’m not quite sure. But I think we certainly can’t just remove barriers to access and say, you know, and call it a day and say, well now the schools are going to be integrated. There have to be intentional policies that will work to direct students to go to certain schools in a way that integrates those schools and integrates the students.

Lev M: 08:58 So a school that has barriers. Would you say that that kind of school just shouldn’t exist? Because I guess if you got rid of the barriers, it wouldn’t be what it is. Right?

Coco R: 09:07 Well, I mean that’s also another tricky question and something I’ve thought a lot about is like what does it mean for Beacon to be Beacon and I think that some of the associations we have as you know, or as a student at Beacon, something I’ve noticed about the community there (or former student, I guess) I guess is that the ideas that people have about what makes Beacon unique are very much tied to [inaudible] of race and class as opposed to certain educational merit or values. Like Beacon, I would say in large part because we don’t take the Regents, on that lesson more towards, you know, things that are interesting and that could still say the same. Yeah. Or I think that’s one example of something that makes Beacon Beacon, but I don’t think that really students, when they talk about what makes Beacon Beacon or like what a Beacon student is when they’re saying, you know, like I’m a Beacon student. I am so heavily involved with a bajillion extracurriculars and take taxis to school or I get my Lenny’s ice coffee every single day for $3. Those ideas of like who a Beacon student is have much more to do with race and class than they do like the intellectual values of the school.

Lev M: 10:40 So when we say Beacon’s a good school, you’re saying that’s what we’re actually saying. We’re really saying it’s a wealthy school.

Coco R: 10:46 Yeah. And I think that Beacon is a good school for reasons that aren’t associated to its wealth. Like I think that there’s a lot of value to like not taking standardized tests or to having a robust art program. But I don’t think that necessarily, that’s really what people are talking about when they’re talking about what makes a good school good. And I think that’s also really complicated by the idea of resources and funding, which is heavily tied to race.

Lev M: 11:14 Wait, but don’t all school, don’t all students get the same amount of money in New York City or is that not true?

Coco R: 11:20 Well, so I mean actually I think that there are certain schools that got more money that are predominantly black and not, and actually cause I’m going to say the wrong title right now, but they’re, they receive federal funding, but we have a PTA that raises, last year (the New York Times just reported this yesterday) like 600 and something thousand dollars, which is a ridiculous amount of money and totally supersedes the amount of money that we would be allocated if you were just, you know, relying on our per pupil funding from the state or from the city.

Lev M: 11:53 So would that be the second policy that you would tell de Blasio? Like you have to put a limit on how much parents can contribute into the PA?

Coco R: 12:01 I would say that we need more of like a pooling and reallocating of resources because if you just limit it and say, well, you know, Beacon, you can only have $100,000 a year. I mean our schools are just underfunded in general. So I don’t think if people want to donate, though I would say that if you said let’s integrate this school, all the white parents would be less, you know, willing to chip in or they might just not stay in the school system, which is another complication. But I think that the, the idea is that we need to pull all the money and reallocate it cause that’s how you, I would say like maximize the good. So I guess that would be one of the things. But I would also say in addition to removing the screens, we need to have some sort of mechanisms for integrating students. What I’ve worked with or what I’ve worked on with Teens Take Charge is kind of this idea of a universal op ed program. Um, Oh my God. I said op ed. Ed opt. And that has killed me for years and years. Um, universal ed opt program.

Lev M: 13:07 What, for people who are not familiar with New York City or how the admissions process works, what is that?

Coco R: 13:14 So an ed opt program basically functions to take, if you have a given applicant pool, you want a representative population coming out of the applicant pool where 25% are kind of like the bottom of the applicant pool depending on what metrics you’re using using. Usually that’s like state test scores or kind of GPA. 50% are from the middle group of applicants and then 25% are from the top group of applicants. So there are ed opt schools currently. An example of that is Murrow. Murrow is, I would say more representative than a school like Beacon. Though I also think that we don’t really have ed opt schools and the idea of implementing universal ed opt system would have to be about not the applicant pool but about matching city demographics because there are also behavioral changes that need to happen to get schools to match city demographics. And so if you’re looking at a school where you know like 99% of the applicants are Black and Latinx and you do ed opt within that pool, you’re not actually going to integrate the school. So kind of the idea of moving towards the universal ed opt system would certainly be up there. I think that would do a lot to make our schools more representative of the city’s demographics.

Lev M: 14:34 You know, I know that some of the argument against ed opt is that is that it actually doesn’t serve anyone well. So it doesn’t serve the students who are at the bottom because the work is too challenging for them in the class and it doesn’t serve the students who are ready for rigorous work because you have to slow everything down. What do you think about that argument?

Coco R: 14:54 Well, I think that it’s wrong. I actually, yesterday was reading an article about how Estonia ranked quite high on worldwide tasks, above the UK because it was an article on the BBC. And one of the things that Estonia does is it puts all students, regardless of their skill level or their proficiency as determined by whatever testing metrics they’re using in Estonia, in the same classroom. And there are studies that show that for college students that need kind of remedial classes, the best thing for them is to be in or for just for students to be in classes that are at their grade level or where they should be. And then outside of class be getting extra help as they need. It doesn’t really help the assignment of students who are performing what we think is kind of below where they should be. I think according to the studies that I’ve read, I haven’t seen evidence that there’s any harm and putting students in more challenging classrooms as long as they’re getting adequate attention. I think for like high achieving students, one, there’s value in like being in a classroom where you’re challenged, not just because everyone else is performing at necessarily the same level as you, but like people are thinking differently. And I think that a really important piece of making this worthwhile is teaching or training teachers to teach like in a diversified classroom and so that there’s a way to make the content more challenging for certain students if it seems like they’re not being challenged in the classroom. But I think that it can completely be done and done effectively and done in a way that actually leads to better outcomes.

Lev M: 16:39 I’ve been looking at the literature from Integrate NYC and one of the things that you’ve been saying that they make really clear is that some schools have a lot more resources than others. Part of me feels like that’s, well that’s absolutely true. Even if we had a redistribution of resources from wealthier schools to poor schools, and again, you can tell me if you think I’m wrong here, that loan wouldn’t do anything to change outcomes if you don’t also give people good places to live and universal healthcare and fundamentally give people some kind of stability outside of the school. So, and this would be my criticism of if say, Integrate’s platform and then you could tell me why, you know, you could tell me what you think about it. But in some ways it almost doesn’t seem to be talking about the elephant in the room, which is the kind of the inequities that exist in the larger society. What’s the strategy of Integrate? Why don’t they do that? Is it a conversation they don’t want to have? Is a conversation like it’s just too big. What do you think?

Coco R: 17:43 Well, I mean, and I also don’t want to, because I’m no longer an employee of Integrate NYC, I want to be careful about …

Lev M: 17:51 Okay, so then don’t speak for Integrate What do, what do you think about it?

Coco R: 17:56 Okay, well I think a few things. I think you’re right. Like I think that, to certain extent, you’re correct, but I think that once again, like not all hope is lost. I think two things. So one, the community school model is a really great, I would say answer to that and I don’t really know the extent, even though I was involved in a policy capacity, there’s no formal policy about that at Integrate NYC. I know there is a team at Take Charge because at least there I hadn’t, I don’t know, I personally had more agency in shaping that policy, had done that. But I would say that the community school model is a really valuable way of thinking about what schools can be and how they can kind of help deal with that and making school at the center of the community. So if it’s a community where students like might not have enough money to go to the laundromat, then the school could have a washer and dryer or like someone to test eyesight, you know, kind of doctors and nurses that can like be there and staff that works with the family and the parents and not just the students, but also, you know, also the students and having enough guidance counselors and free breakfast, lunch and you know, potentially dinner. Um, and really making the school a center of the community to help provide stability in places where there might not be. I think that’s a really valuable way of imagining schools and thinking about schools and it’s being done in some places in the city that I think helps deal with that in part. But I also think that schools have the power to transform and not to say that we can solve, you know, systemic racism and wealth inequality through schools, but I think that schools are incredibly important and certainly as it stands now, they’re producing unequal outcomes, unequal outcomes. And so while resource redistribution might not solve the problem, not solving resource distribution exacerbates the problems that we see. I think it’s true that we have to be too careful about saying that integrating schools and allocating resources right is going to fix the world, but I think that is going to help. I think that data and research shows that it’s going to help and that it’s powerful and I think that we can imagine schools that can do even more than just reallocating resources and integrating students, but also becoming, you know, centers of the community where they can introduce stability.

Lev M: 20:26 We’re here with Hebh Jamal, who at the age of 15 became a well known advocate in education reform, known for her impact towards tackling injustice and vision for the possibility of a transformed society. Hebh was featured in The New York Times in “Young Muslim Americans Are Feeling the Strain of Suspicion” for her perspective on the impact of Islamophobia on young Muslims and her vision for more conscious, educated, harmonious society. Since then, she’s continued to be a voice for integrated equitable schools for New York City and co-created the first ever citywide youth council on school integration run by Integrate NYC For Me. She also works for American Muslims for Palestine and is a youth policy fellow for Appleseed New York. She is a junior at City College. Is that all right? Tell me, yeah, go ahead. Tell me what’s wrong.

Hebh J: 21:13 Yeah, I’m a junior at City College, but I also, I was formerly a youth policy fellow. That bio is a little old, but yeah.

Lev M: 21:24 Wait, what does that mean? It means you’re no longer at Appleseed?

Hebh J: 21:27 Yeah, no, no. I’m no longer at Appleseed.

Lev M: 21:30 All right. Right now you’re just focusing on your studies at City College.

Hebh J: 21:36 Yeah. So just kind of like focusing on studying, trying to do activism when I can. But yeah, I mostly focus on schoolwork right now.

Lev M: 21:43 Okay. And I, and I should say while you say you’re like you’re mostly focusing on schoolwork, you’re probably doing a million things and you are still doing activism work. So, but Hebh, it’s a real pleasure to have you on. I wanted to have you on now for a long time, so it’s great, but it’s also just great to get to talk to you. Full disclosure, I taught Hebh in 10th grade and in 12th grade, but I think what was most fun was talking to you in 11th grade when I wasn’t your history teacher, but about books like we were, we were exchanging novels on a weekly basis and that was, that was a real highlight of the year. We were also talking a lot about school integration and I think it was your 11th grade year that you really started to do activism work around that topic. And today’s show is all about school integration. So Hebh, can I, let’s start there. What made you get involved in this work?

Hebh J: 22:35 Well, this is a very, this is a story I feel like I tell often.

Lev M: 22:41 Yeah. But our audience probably hasn’t heard it, so don’t say that.

Hebh J: 22:43 Yeah. Well I say that only because even although it’s, I, I’ve told, I’ve told it often, I still think it’s important. It’s something like that totally transformed how I look at activism in general. And it actually all started. So I was featured on the cover of The New York Times. It was just kind of like a, um, a piece on Islamophobia and you know, highlighting specific youth. And after that I was invited to speak at some high schools, totally unrelated to school integration. And I spoke at one particular high school where I totally felt like diversity, inclusion and feeling of, you know, a diverse environment was very present and something that I lacked when I was at Beacon. And I realize like the concept of diversity inclusion was very abnormal to me and I didn’t understand why until it was a conversation I actually had with you, which was understanding like understanding that New York city has one of the most segregated schools, school systems in the country. So all of this honestly like stemmed from me asking the question of like, why is this happening and the following months and years we’re just responding to that initial like curiosity, um, you know, once you like find an injustice, like you kind of tackle it. And so I found the organization Integrate New York City. At first I was really talking about integration as much as I could, you know, talking about school segregation. I was honestly talking to the wall, though. Like I, I did not, you know, students at Beacon, they understood and they empathized, but it was something that they couldn’t really grasp at the time. So I really didn’t feel like I was making any progress when I was doing, you know, student activism at Beacon. There were, you know, murmurs here and there, but nothing really substantial. It was when I found the organization Integrate New York City. I didn’t have found it. Like I, I stumbled upon it. No, no, I stumbled upon it. And it was a very small organization at first. It was honestly just like, you know, an advisory group where they were passionate about school integration but no real policy platforms or advocacy that was taking place. And you know, I met the former executive director Sarah Camiscoli and she really just kind of took me in and had me come up with a lot of different ideas and one of them was establishing a youth diversity council and you know, I had the idea of like, you know, why don’t we have a youth diversity council where we, you know, students meet every month and really talk about the issues that are affecting us. And it was through that where we came up with like, you know, a lot of different educational policies that are actually, you know, being implemented across the city, whether it’s district 15 or now even district nine, that’s like trying to implement our concepts of like racial inclusion and, you know, diversity, diversity platform.

Lev M: 25:46 Just wait for a sec. Can I stop you there? Your platform is built around the five Rs, right? So maybe you could talk a little bit about what those five Rs are.

Hebh J: 25:56 Yeah, sure. So the five Rs as we like to call and they actually started with only three, right, but we understood that integration is much more complicated and in order to do it right, there had to be a more, there had to be, there had to be a more like inclusive concept of what it should be. And so the first R was a Race and Enrollment. We always understood the idea that like there is something specifically wrong about how we admit students into our schools, whether we saw it at Beacon, like the interview process, if it has racial bias and if there’s things that that favor a certain type of student over another. Or even like if we look at like specialized high school tests, how the merit of the test itself can actually further and deepen racial disparities and segregation. The second one is Resource Allocation. So understanding that it’s not just the, you know, it’s not just who gets admitted to the school, but it’s also the resources that are allocated within every school. Every school should have the same amount of resources and opportunities. You know, it’s not just, it shouldn’t just be the elite schools that have those. The third R is Relationships. So having culturally responsive curriculums, building bridges between different identity groups throughout the school, you know, understanding that there is such a thing as self segregation. And at the end of the day, the whole point of this is to try to build bridges between students’ identities and cultural backgrounds. The fourth R is Representation, so focusing also not just on the diversity of students, but also on faculty and staff. Oftentimes students can’t really connect or understand sometimes the experiences of their teacher and if they had teachers with similar backgrounds, similar experiences. it’s proven that students learn better. And the last one is Restorative Justice, so understanding that there is a hyper militarization of our schools where you have so many security guards, metal detectors, like you know, students feel like they’re in a prison, and that’s where the idea of a school to prison pipeline even comes from. That if you’re treated like you’re a prisoner and you’re treated like you’re a criminal, that cycle is really hard to break after high school. So understanding that all of this stuff is really systemic and if this, all of this has to be tackled simultaneously, it can’t be, you know, one or the other. All of this should be happening at the same time in order for a sustainable integrated high school to form.

Lev M: 28:38 So maybe you can talk a little about what is happening in district 15 here in New York.

Hebh J: 28:43 A lot of really dedicated teachers, parents, students even, came together to try to create an honest effort at integration. I’m specifically tackling middle schools, though, like trying to remove screens from middle schools, having the intention of diversity. And there was actually a report done like cause this, this happened over like a year and a half ago and there was, there’s been a lot of different news articles that actually showed that white students didn’t leave when more diversity came in. Like that was the major argument, like if you had more diverse students, there will be white flight, like this major thing that gets thrown around often, but that wasn’t the case, so it’s showing like a real success of having different people together and not affecting, those were already in the school.

Lev M: 29:36 So the sky hasn’t, hasn’t fallen basically.

Hebh J: 29:42 Yeah. Basically.

Lev M: 29:42 Do you think that it was basically that lots of white families just have these unfounded fears that they think that if you allow students of color in this school or if you allow students who are lower income in the school that suddenly there’ll be chaos in the stairways? I mean, what is going on here? What’s behind this resistance?

Hebh J: 30:03 I may have part of it. You just kind of have to call her for what it is. What it really is, is racism. Honestly, like I, you know, a lot of people do tend to throw around the word, but I do think that beneath all of the excuses and all of the fears, it really is having a strong, uncomfortable feeling towards people that are different from you. They’ll just give you an example. Like I had a family member who went to a very under-resourced, segregated high school and it was mostly, it was majority black high school and she didn’t even have science classes. No Spanish clauses, nothing substantial. And she got it, too. She didn’t get into any good colleges in America. Right. It’s crazy to actually, what she did was not only did she like pass a lot of expectations that people had of her, she went to Europe, applied to medical school in Poland, and is actually doing a phenomenal job in medical school right now at 19 years old. So people underestimate students of color, people from low income communities. It’s, it’s ridiculous. Like it’s just not, it’s, yeah.

Lev M: 31:15 Do you find that when you talk about this stuff publicly that you shy away from saying it’s racism or do you feel like it’s helpful to call it what it is? Or do you feel like saying it’s racism, it makes, makes white people feel super uncomfortable?

Hebh J: 31:28 Well, I mean, my role honestly isn’t to make white people feel comfortable. It’s mostly to advocate policies to powerful people that can make it happen, right? So I always had this concept that like, you know, segregation that it happened naturally. It happened by force. Right? And so I honestly felt I own it sometimes, you know, and, and a lot of people don’t necessarily agree with this tactic, but sometimes they feel like integration should also happen by force. Like why should we have the permission of white parents for black kids to have good, you know, equitable opportunities on for education, right? Like I, I don’t know, I find that notion of just like almost asking them for permission is ridiculous to me, but at the same time, I know that’s not how the world works, right? Like I know that there has to be a level of convincing as well and breaking down barriers in order for some sort of, you know, sustainable method of integration to occur. And also there is a really negative interpretation of integration in this country because of the busing crisis and the history that that played when it was, when desegregation was happening. A lot of, a lot of families, a lot of families are not really, you know, at first they don’t, they don’t buy integration. They don’t buy that they have to have…,

Lev M: 32:45 Are you talking about white families, or are you talking about everybody?

Hebh J: 32:45 No, I mean like, I mean I’m actually talking about, I like at first I’m just giving you like experience. Like at first a lot of minority communities felt almost offended at the idea of why should we have, you know, integration with white schools in order for children to have a good education? So that’s the idea. Like that’s why our, our integration platform at integrate New York city to not just tackle racial, you know, racial enrollment, right. It tackles more than that and it’s, and that’s has to be a more comprehensive look at integration that people before us just didn’t understand and did it like terribly wrong. So making it like learning from the mistakes of the past and making sure we don’t repeat them.

Lev M: 33:31 You’re also a committed activist around the issues of Palestinian justice, Palestinian independence. Do you see any connection between the work you do around school integration and the work you’ve done and continue to do around Palestinian rights?

Hebh J: 33:49 Yeah, I just came back from a rally actually at school and yeah, I think about it a lot and the connection that, like for me, I always look at the similarities between why I’m passionate. I mean I am Palestinian, that’s why I’m passionate. But more than that, it’s this idea of the separation of people, right? So when you separate people, you, there’s oppression, there’s injustice that occurs. Similarly in Palestine, you have apartheid, occupation and the physical separation of different types of people. And honestly it’s, it’s the same idea. Like you, there is an othering that’s occurring in the New York city public education system and that in itself is unjust and oppressive. So I like to tie in a lot of my activism with this idea that like if you separate people and if you participate in like the othering of people who aren’t as I like to, I like to think of it as power. Like people that aren’t as powerful as you, they’re again, like there’s injustice and oppression. I try to dedicate a lot of my time to combating those. Like that same logic.